Pirates by Greg Cummings is an action adventure story based in the Horn of Africa. Cummings, although born in Montreal, has spent his life in the Rift Valley. He has held several positions from freelance journalist, bar manager, safari guide, UN Consultant, wildlife conservationist, and relief worker. He is an award-winning wildlife conservationist and achieved remarkable success protecting gorilla populations in the wild, Since 2009 he has been a director of WildLIGHT, a registered charity in Uganda where he lives.
Although the book can easily standalone, much like a Clive Cussler novel, Pirates is a continuation of the book Gorillaland for the main character Derek Strangley, Derek, a Canadian, spent his entire life in and around the Horn of Africa and most of his life is covered in Pirates, except for what went wrong in Gorillaland.
Pirates is an action/adventure story and contains all the elements needed and expected in such a story. There is mystery and intrigue. A female love interest and a psycho mercenary who fought in Angola. Al Qeada and radical Islamists. A long lost friend and a secret treasure. Cummings covers all the bases for a good adventure story, but then he does something unexpected. He includes real events and explains some of the realities of Somalia, Africa in general, international aid, and the pirates.
My personal knowledge of Africa is from graduate school and a short visit to Khartoum, Sudan in the mid-1980s. I know of Islam from a year and a half in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and from reading histories of Islam and Islamic nations. I was expecting fictionalized histories, but Instead I went back to my books to verify some of the information in the novel. For example, concerning the pirates, Somalia trained a Coast Guard to protect its coast and territorial waters, however internal strife and costs lead to disbanding the coast guard and having their duties contracted out (corruption). Now there are 1,500 trained seamen looking to make a living. They try fishing but the territorial waters are being fished out by other nations poaching the fish, especially the tuna, and dumping toxic waste. Piracy arose from the need for people to protect their livelihood and their natural resources. What the government couldn’t do, others did. While this may be slightly idealized in the novel, it is based on fact. There is also useful information on the different factions in the region and refugee camps.
There are a few parts in the book where the science does not quite ring true, but it is fiction and in the body of the story the events can be overlooked, much like a James Bond novel. It’s all part of the trade-off to give an exciting story. The characters are well developed and the reader will like the likable characters and will hope for the demise of the bad guys. The lines are pretty clearly drawn between the two groups.
All in all, a very good action novel that offers a bit of education in the current events in the Horn of Africa. The flaws are minor and will probably go unnoticed by the reader looking for some escapism. Even with a graduate degree in International Relations, I found the book very enjoyable even with my nitpicking and information checking. Most of my reading is nonfiction so I do tend to go a little overboard with the details. A very good novel worthy of a read and it does make me curious to find out what exactly happened in Gorillaland.