At last, just when you thought the beast would never come along ... there it was! A novel that is at one moment an adventure, a romance, exciting, colorful, up-beat, well-written, well-researched, long enough to be a satisfying read, and ... gay!
Alyson Publications put out this volume in 1989, and I do not know why a raft of others answering the same description didn't follow it. They didn't all have to be historicals, like M.S. Hunter's The Buccaneer. They didn't have to be "gay pirate novels," like this one. So long as they delivered the goods according to the short list above, I'd have been happy to keep buying books as long as Alyson kept putting them out!
An exciting gay adventure romance that's well researched and written, at least 250pp long, and fun. What was so hard about that? Apparently it wasn't just hard, it was completely impossible. There's a handful of gay novels that I'd group in the same part of the bookshelf as The Buccaneer ... and I think most of them have been penned by Mel Keegan! I'm thinking about Fortunes of War, Dangerous Moonlight, The Swordsman, The Deceivers ...! They're all Keegans, and shelved with Keegan.
Now, MK didn't start publishing with GMP, and (you're going to shriek when you hear this) I missed the first few books entirely, they just blew by me. I used to get my books out of the Bulldog Books mailorder catalog in those days and my brain must have been out for pizza, because the first Mel Keegan book I saw, bought, read and fell in love with, was Fortunes of War -- which is a tale of gay buccaneers in the Elizabethan era, same time and location as the Errol Flynn movie, The Seahawk. (Oh ... joy of joys! Because Fortunes of War could easily have been a project written for Errol Flynn who would be playing Dermot Channon, and I still have endless fun trying to "cast the part" of Robin Armagh.)
But -- enough about Aricia and Mel and Errol Flynn.
Suffice to say, M.S. Hunter's The Buccaneer came along like a life-saver. I got this one when it was hot off the press and just arrived in Australia, late '89 or early '90 ... I remember it being hot weather, which to us means Christmas plus or minus a couple of months. It was love at first sight. First, I was enthralled by the fact that one of the characters in the main romantic pair was African.
(Do you want to "cast the part?" You couldn't go past Will Smith ... and I'm being wicked here; and I admit it; but with Ewan McGregor and Jim Carrey on the big screen in a gay movie right now, I can't resist "seeing" movie versions of the really great gay novels!)
The romantic aspect is between Ozei (known as Ozzie) and Tommy Cutler (known as The Cutlass), and there are some steamy scenes as well as the romantic. The supporting cast in the novel is huge, and most of the characters are very well drawn, which is unusual in many adventure books. The novel is long, at 316pp of smallish type, and M.S. Hunter wrote extremely well.
Sadly, you'll notice the past tense there. M.S. Hunter is another loss to the art form of gay literature. He passed away some time ago, after having written only a little gay fiction ... and after a lot of digging to try to find some info on him, much less an obituary, I came up empty handed.
The Buccaneer is therefore his legacy to this art form, and I can only recommend it. The story is huge, and a bit rambling. It centers on Tommy and is told in the first person with Tommy as the narrator. It's a tough act, but Hunter makes it work superbly. You like the characters in this book, and the story of ambition, desire, derring-do, hazard and sensuality will keep you turning pages. Sometimes the plotline is a little bit easy to predict, but when you've read upwards of five hundred books, very little is going to take you totally by surprise, and that's not the writer's fault! What should amaze you is the research that went into this.
Does the novel have a downside? Well ... a little one, maybe. The author keeps butting in with short "documentary" segments, which you might find make it hard for you to keep your disbelief suspended. The first time I read this, I just skipped over them, didn't read them at all. The second time, the same -- but when I was done I went back and read the documentary parts separately. Nothing wrong with this, and you actually get two reads for the price of one here. The doco segments are set off into arial or some plain font, and are ostensibly about Hunter's personal experiences while researching the book. In fact, they're very interesting, it was just the interruption to the flow of the fiction that didn't quite work for me the first time through.
Highly recommended! AG's rating, 5 out of 5 stars. The Buccaneer is long out of print (god knows why) but you can get it from Amazon, and ... please do!
If you're into gay pitate novels don't miss Fortunes of War by Mel Keegan, and also have a look at this article: Were the Pirates Gay? by W. A. Hoffman, who's written a gay pirate novel called Raised by Wolves. I haven't read the novel, but I was impressed by the article, and will get to the novel in due course.