• Joe Pace

Favorite Non-Fiction Books, #10: The Bounty


Not about the 2009-2011 New Orleans Saints

The most famous of all maritime mutinies is a true story, though we've become accustomed to the fictionalizations of the event. Nordhoff and Hall's famous trilogy, the Brando film version and the less well-known but absolutely riveting cinematic treatment with Anthony Hopkins, Mel Gibson, Liam Neeson, and a very young Daniel Day-Lewis. The story is one of my favorites, replete with the entire spectrum of the human condition: ambition, greed, love, resentment, courage, deprivation, heroism, class resentment. Nordhoff and Hall's telling broke the story into three parts - the Bounty mutiny itself, when Fletcher Christian and his co-conspirators seized the British naval vessel from Captain Bligh; the Unbroken-esque saga of Bligh and his officers surviving the greatest open-boat voyage in recorded history; and the voyeuristic tale of eroding civilization on Pitcairn's Island where the mutineers and their Tahitian friends fled to escape justice.

It really is the whole package. It's such a great narrative that I have spent much of the last several years adapting the story as a science fiction trilogy (a work in progress). During that project I've relied heavily on the three books described above, and on my own repeated readings of Forester's Hornblower and O'Brien's Aubrey/Maturin series and their companion reference books. Invaluable too has been the comprehensive historic examination of the mutiny and surrounding events by Caroline Alexander. Alexander brings a professional historian's rigor and analysis to the proceedings, and her careful inspection has been a true gem to read, both for pleasure and for purpose. I suggest it to anyone who enjoys the Bounty story, nautical history, or just a great yarn well told.

Oh, and she's from New Hampshire, too. So there.

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