In ‘Pirate Alley,’ Stephen Coonts builds tension on the seas

(From book cover)

(From book cover)

You may have seen my story here about taking the big boat from Baltimore to Bermuda and back.

My dear wife Karen has made a cruise ship regular out of me.

And yet I just finished reading “Pirate Alley,” the latest novel by Stephen Coonts. If the title isn’t self-explanatory enough for you, take a good look at the accompanying cover art taken from the copy I checked out of the Onondaga County Public Library here in Syracuse, N.Y. Yup, that is an illustration of a cruise ship surrounded by pirate skiffs.

It is very realistic fiction.

I chose to ignore the possibilities of bad dreams and scary thoughts to come. You the karma. It’s the reason I speculate that they’d never, ever show the movie “The Titanic” in the onboard ship movie theater.

I read on because I am a fan of Coonts’ long and exciting series that features the military minds of Jake Grafton, Toad Tarkington and Tommy Carmellini.

“Pirate Alley” is Coonts’ 17th solo novel. I’ve indeed started with his premiere, “Flight of the Intruder,” and continued through the rich line.

Coonts paints the three characters above as men you can believe in. Grafton is a leader quick of thought and cool in decision. Tarkington is one rung below in the military order, unafraid to carry out the plan. Carmellini is the guy on the ground, accepting of the CIA dirty work but smart enough to question what he does and wonder about his place in the world order.

In “Pirate Alley,” the U.S. gets involved after Somalian pirates hijack the cruise ship “Sultan of the Seas” in the Gulf of Aden.

Coonts creates a scary and totally believeable scene as British captain Arch Penney attempts to save his ship, and the lives of his 850 passengers and crew.

The pirates bring them to a dirty place in a hostile world, and the tale unfolds with plenty of suspense, mystery, twists and turns.

I couldn’t put it down.

This, just months after watching Tom Hanks so realistic with the burden and atrociity as the captain of a freighter highjacked in the same area of the world in “Captain Phillips.”

And yet we will cruise again. This novel and its story within will not come to my lips on the high seas.

If you were a regular cruise-taker, would you be spooked by reading a novel like “Pirate Alley,” or would you just dive in? Did you see “Captain Phillips,” and do you follow the issue of modern pirates?

20 thoughts on “In ‘Pirate Alley,’ Stephen Coonts builds tension on the seas

  1. i’ve never read coonts, but this book sounds exciting. i’ve only been on one cruise, but that’s a blog adventure for another day. ) the book wouldn’t stop me either, i’d jump right in to another adventure on board a big ship in a heartbeat. as for cap’n phillips and the plight of the modern pirates – it does create and ethical and moral dilemma. the somalis do not have many options in life at this point in time and it seems pirating has become a profession. many feel they have nothing to lose, a desperate situation.


  2. I’ve never been on a cruise. And silly as it seems there are two scees in Titanic that play through my head. Well, actually, many. But these are the reason I have no desire….It’s when Jack is chained in the room. And the water starts to rise. And he is trapped in there. And when the Mama is with her children trapped in 3rd class. Keeping them calm. I have flown. But have no desire for the cruise ships. And no, if I was a cruiser, I would not read them! 🙂


    • Those two scenes are terrifying, certainly, Colleen. Thanks for reminding me. How will I get on that next ship now! Really, though, I feel safe onboard for some unexplainable reason. Maybe it’s the lifejacket and intro-to-disaster class on the first day. It’s called the Muster Drill. Everybody stands under the lifeboat that is reserved for them. Comforting, see?!?


  3. I’ve always been intimidated by the pirate concept, and the exception was Treasure Island, which was filled with classic/stereotypical pirates. I may have to one day just buckle down and try something new.

    Thanks for the recommendation!


  4. I would also be worried about getting sick on a cruise. I know it doesn’t happen all the time but it’s often really bad news when all the passengers are unwell.
    Glad that didn’t happen to you and Karen.


    • Knock on wood, Rachel, shipwide illness has not happened on any of the ships Karen and I have cruised on. I see in the news that it just happened, on the line that we always go on, too. RCI always put Purell out to use entering and leaving all dining rooms, and we do, we do.


  5. After all the cruise fiascoes lately (including the latest Royal Caribbean 600+ people vomiting and evacuating their bowels), I would be quite fearful to get on a cruise. Unless I was Julie the Cruise Director on Love Boat. Then maybe so. Also, books about pirates scare me. But I’m glad you found a book you couldn’t put down bc that is a rarity it seems. Most books I buy, I put down in my Goodwill pile after a couple days.


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