Goodreads ~ The year is 1664, and Benny Wand, a young thief and board game hustler, is arrested in London for illegal gaming. Deported to the city of Port Royal, Jamaica, known as “the wickedest city on earth,” Wand is forced by his depleted circumstances to join a raid on the Spanish city of Villahermosa. The mission is a perilous success and Wand attracts the attention of the mission’s leader, an up-and-coming Welsh seaman, Captain Henry Morgan, whose raids on Spanish strongholds are funded by the British government.
While embarking on a campaign in the Caribbean, Wand and Morgan develop an unlikely friendship through a shared love of chess. As Morgan is corrupted by his increasingly sordid attacks on Spanish cities, he slowly becomes Wand’s greatest enemy. To defeat his former ally, Wand embarks on a strategic battle of wits and must help Morgan in the most savage and unexpected way possible. This is blistering and bawdy storytelling at its best.
This book is the story of Benny Wand, a young chess player in London, England, who is doing what he can to survive. He is given the choice of either going to prison or getting shipped off to Port Royal, Jamaica, the "wickedest city on earth". He figures he has a better chance in Jamaica so off he goes. Needless to say, his voyage isn't on luxury liner.
When he arrives in Jamaica, he finds there are many like himself with no money, living on a beach, eating turtles, and waiting for Henry Morgan to gather together some men to raid Spanish cities in the area (at this time, England and Spain were at war).
Sir Henry Morgan (ca. 1635 – 25 August 1688) was a Welsh privateer, pirate and admiral of the Royal Navy who made a name for himself during activities in the Caribbean, primarily raiding Spanish settlements. He earned a reputation as one of the most notorious and successful privateers in history, and one of the most ruthless among those active along the Spanish Main.
After the raids, the men are extremely wealthy but then they blow their money on booze, guns and hookers ... and then wait 'til the next time Morgan needs them and the cycle begins again.
Because of Benny's expertise in chess, he and Morgan become friends because Morgan wants Benny to teach him how to play chess. Morgan soon looks to Benny for strategic advice in his attacks also. At first Benny has much admiration for Morgan but this changes as Morgan becomes corrupt with power and wealth.
This is not the kind of story I usually read but I enjoyed it. It caught my eye because I like Captain Morgan rum, which is named after Henry Morgan, plus the book is written by a Canadian.
The book is written in first person perspective, from Benny's point of view. Despite being a bit of a lowlife, I found Benny likable. I liked the writing style and found the pace was good. I thought the story was interesting. As a head's up, there is swearing, violence and adult activity.
I'd recommend this book.