Playing the literary detective, Zacks takes us through the sordid tale. We know that "Over the centuries, novelists, relentless treasure hunters, and even historians have stoked [Captain Kidd's] pirate legend." Now, with this book, we not only get the story from the people who were there, but also from great writers of the 17th century. Zacks covers every angle to give us new insight into the man behind the legend: Captain Kidd.
The Mission at Sea
The mission itself seems rather straightforward. Captain Kidd was commissioned to capture pirate ships for a group of investors, who provided him with the finest cannon-fitted ship (the "Adventure Galley"), a crew, supplies, and a deadline. His job was to capture the ships, then bring the cargo back for his investors to divvy up. They would keep the greater share of the proceeds for themselves, and leave a portion for Kidd and his crew.
In accepting the mission, Captain Kidd had quite a lot to gain (his share of the proceeds), but he also had quite a lot to loose. When he left on his mission in 1696, he was already one of the wealthiest men in New York, and his investors had forced him to sign a bond.
Legend has it that Captain Kidd was a bloody murderer, thief, and scoundrel. Zacks doesn't dispute the fact that Kidd murdered a man. He killed his gunner the first time his crew mutinied, which stopped their revolt for a time. Beyond that act, and some errors in judgment, Zacks maintains that much of Kidd's career has been blown way out of proportion.
Zacks says, "Captain Kidd has gone down in history as America's most ruthless buccaneer, fabulously rich, burying treasure up and down the eastern seaboard." As a boy, Zacks says that he too dreamed of Kidd as "fierce, mustachioed, downing rums, slicing the air with his cutlass." Other writers have helped to add a flare to the legend as well.
But, how can we not imagine such wonderfully awful things about the pirate. It's such a good story, when you think about it. And, what writer wouldn't pick up on the drama of the tale, even if it's not based on anything resembling fact. We want to find our treasure map, even though Zacks says that no such thing has ever been discovered by scholars. Perhaps our imaginations are enough. Not all treasures are gold.