Perdido Star

A Seafaring Novel By Gene Hackman and Daniel Lenihan
Reviewed by Charles Johnson
February 25, 2020

Published by William Morrow Publishing
384 pages
ISBN 1-55704-398-1
Copyright 1999

As a young lad of 16 in the year 1805, Jack O’Reilly experiences his family being forced out of one country, only to settle in another where he watches the murder of his parents. He stows away aboard the ship that brought him to the new country and finds himself a member of a crew that is sailing around the world. His hunger for revenge against his parent’s killer is fertilized over time, and opportunities arise during his seafaring time to develop a plan that satisfies that deep hunger for revenge.

In addition to witnessing those horrible murders, Jack sails on the PERDIDO STAR, where he meets his seaworthy crewmen, including a man who was to become a lifelong friend, a blustery bloke, headstrong characters, and a captain who makes the work “inept” seem an easy title to earn. There are storms at sea, battles among the crewmen and between other sailing vessels, hand-to-hand combat, and struggles of varying degrees of life-threatening depth. There are also the islanders and their chief who become allies when the PERDIDO STAR is run aground. As the nemesis, in addition to the murder of Jack’s parents, there are the other marauding pirates who wish to see the end of Jack and his entourage.

Hackman and Lenihan offer great detail in sailing ships of the day. The nomenclature of all the rigs and sails abound throughout the book, especially when an engineering feat that defies the landlubber’s sense of logic (but nonetheless works out) must come to pass. So much of this engineering feat requires some aquatic skills that aren’t standard knowledge back then – but our innovative characters figure out how to bring about such endeavors – and more than once these skills come in handy.

It is up to the reader to discover the answer to Jack’s revenge – but it can be said that the answer comes in a book of great description and character, with rousing action in a theatre of the oceangoing sailing ships of the time.