About “The Bloody Black Flag”

I passed out business cards and talked to people today about my forthcoming novel, “The Bloody Black Flag,” and so I might see some new faces here on the blog. So … let me tell you a little more about my book.

But first, I will let someone else tell you about it:

“A fast-paced mash-up of a rip-roaring pirate yarn mixed with a suspect-rich whodunit story. Gritty in detail, fanciful in conception, the novel is, above all else, a lot of fun.” — Gordon McAlpine, author of Hammett Unwritten and the Edgar Award–nominated Woman with a Blue Pencil

That sounds like fun, doesn’t it? That blurb sums up exactly what I was going for.

Coming in September from Seventh Street Books, The Bloody Black Flag is a murder mystery set on a pirate ship in 1722. If you can imagine tossing books by Arthur Conan Doyle and Robert Louis Stevenson into a blender (please, don’t do that), that might give you an idea of what I wrote.

I grew up chain-reading murder mysteries, and always wanted to write one. I also love “Mutiny on the Bounty,” “Treasure Island” and nautical adventures in that vein. Then I got diverted by a journalism career.  I wrote numerous short stories of fantasy and horror, published in numerous small press publications that are mostly gone now, but the mystery novel idea went on the back burner.

Somewhere along the line, I started thinking of ways to meld my love of stories involving swords and adventure with a good old-fashioned whodunit.  Surely, there had to be a way. Then it hit me. Pirates! 

Pirates carry swords and guns. They swear a lot. They wander in dangerous places. They fight all the time. And they live lives of crime.

So, I reckoned, a murder mystery involving pirates might work. I just had to come up with a sleuth who could investigate a crime involving pirates. I considered the idea of an English Navy officer going undercover as a pirate, but I was not sure I could pull that off. I considered a merchant captain, perhaps tracking down pirates who had killed someone close to him, but that sounded like it would involve more sailing and searching than actual sleuthing. I wanted an amateur detective who could mingle with pirates, sniff about for clues, put a puzzle together and do some real Sherlocking.

But who hangs out with pirates, except pirates? Wait a minute …

What if my amateur sleuth was a pirate himself? Investigating a crime on a pirate ship? Would that work?

Before long, I had taken a pirate fantasy character I had written before and transformed him into a real-world pirate named Spider John Rush. 

Spider never wanted to be a criminal; he is by nature a decent sort.  But a whaler he served on was attacked by pirates, and they let him live because he was a carpenter and they needed one. He learned to survive in the world of cut and thrust, fight or die, while always looking for a way to leave piracy behind. That never seems to work out for him, though.

 “The Bloody Black Flag” begins a series of novels, each a standalone book, but with an overall Odyssey theme; Spider seeks to get home to a woman and child he can scarcely remember, while piratical crimes get in the way. He will spend the next several books solving one murder after another while trying to stay alive and avoid the law. Readers will be able to follow the whole series, or pick up just one book at any point; you’ll get a complete story in each book. This ain’t no trilogy.

I think the first book is a fun read, and reaction from the handful of people who have read it has been good. I think the second book, “The Devil’s Wind,” is better. I am still writing that one, but the first draft is done.  I have a couple more Spider John plots rolling around in my head and in my notes.

I hope you’ll come sail with Spider and me. It promises to be a hell of a ride. 

If you are interested, you can order from several sites through this link. The book hits stores on Sept. 12. Ahoy!


6 thoughts on “About “The Bloody Black Flag”

  1. Hi Steve, I met you at Oddmall a few weeks ago. It was great talking pirates and writing with you! I love your site, and your books sound even more awesome after viewing them here on your site. 🙂

    Please keep in touch. I look forward to checking out your first book when it comes out! Best regards,

    ~fellow author, & creator of Legend: A Game of Maps (the hand-crafted, tabletop treasure hunts I showed you at Oddmall!)


  2. Hey, thanks, Ron! I enjoyed talking to you about your game, too. It sounds like a real winner, and something any mystery fan should enjoy!


  3. Hi Steve! I hope your writing is going swimmingly. 🙂

    I have a question regarding our discussion at Oddmall about querying agents, how you got yours, etc. Is there a way to message you directly with my question, instead of posting it here?



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