Shiny Shelf


The Pirates! in an Adventure with Whaling

By Mark Clapham on 13 September 2005

This is Gideon Defoe’s second little book about pirates, and the joke doesn’t seem to be fading just yet. In fact, Defoe has developed as a writer since ‘The Pirates! in an Adventure with Scientists’; ‘in an Adventure with Whaling’ is even funnier and more charming than its predecessor.

Defoe’s books are (as the titles gently suggest) about a crew of pirates, all of whom are described by their role or traits (the Pirate Captain, the pirate with the scarf, the albino pirate) apart from Jennifer, who is a girl. The books are short, in a delightful cut-down format, and are written in a faux-na?ve style reminiscent of children’s books. These pirates are innocent idiots, and the narrator colludes in their idiocy, recounting their activities almost completely straight rather than drawing attention to how daft it all is. The swashbuckling tone is set by the chapter titles, all of which are grandiose, speak of exotic adventures, and have absolutely nothing to do with the actual contents.

It’s this innocence, and the essential funniness of pirate mythology, that gives these books their considerable charm. After all, everyone loves pirates, especially the clich?d fictional kind. Combining those clich?s with modern behaviour and outright stupidity is comic gold.

In ‘with Scientists’, the pirates met Darwin. In this second book they attempt to raise cash to pay for their new boat by first putting on a show in Vegas and other such schemes, then inevitably trying to catch the white whale and claim the reward offered by Ahab. Yes, it’s a ‘Moby Dick’ crossover. That such respected material should be used for such low purposes makes it the book even funnier.

While unlikely to attain the same hallowed status as ‘Moby Dick’, ‘The Pirates! in an Adventure with Whaling’ is considerably shorter than Melville’s book, and has far more jokes about ham. Who is to say, in the end, which is the greater literary achievement?

Buy ‘The Pirates! in an Adventure with Whaling’ from Amazon. Or alternatively you could buy some other book, if you must.


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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named markclapham.com.




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