Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Hook's Tale: The Real Captain Hook, Demythologized?

I fell in love with Peter Pan as a girl watching the 1953 televised version starring Mary Martin as Peter Pan and Cyril Ritchard as Captain Hook. In Sixth Grade I found out that before the Broadway musical and the Disney cartoon, Peter Pan had been a book!

I read Peter and Wendy by J. M. Barrie and then set to read all of Barrie, including The Little White Bird and Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.

I felt the book was very 'grown up' in its understanding. I loved how Wendy's heart cried, 'Woman, woman, let go of me," as she wished she could return to Neverland with Peter. I understood; I did not want to grow up and pitied her womanhood. And I loved Peter facing the rising water on Marooner's Rock, thinking "To die will be an awfully big adventure." What a paragon of bravery!
illustration from Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie
In Hook's Tale, author John Leonard Pielmeier views the wicked pirate character of Captain Hook as a legend and warped history. He offers instead James Cook, a teenager pressed into service. James has his father's treasure map and the ship's captain follows it to Neverland where they become trapped. Things turn ugly for James, but at the last minute, he is rescued by Peter, and he becomes Peter's first and best friend.

Tiger Lily tells James she knows he is new to Neverland, for "too many people here...forget that there is more to life than the Now." Peter and the bear wrestle and kill each other daily, only to be resurrected the next day. Their actions have no consequences. Peter hates change, so he is very able to forget the past.

There is a crocodile, but one named Daisy, and a pocket watch. James does lose his hand. We meet Starkey and Smee and the pirates. Tiger Lily and the mermaids appear, and James meets Wendy Darling. Tinker Bell is one of the last living fairies, and there is a cache of magic sand.

But this tale is very different from the one 'that over imaginative Scotsman' left us. James rescues a marooned sailor, Arthur Raleigh, whose identity will greatly impact his life.

James wants us to know his 'true' story, as opposed to the popular image of him set in literature and on the stage.

"Why, dear reader, do you always insist on believing that sad little Scotsman, who only heard the story third-hand, instead of believing one who lived it? "
Barrie's words, characters, and scenes crop up, but altered. "To die will be an awfully big adventure," James remarks, "was becoming something of an annoying cliche."

The story is told in the first person and has the feel of a 19th c tale. Readers who enjoy the fractured fairy tale versions of Once Upon A Time and Wicked will enjoy Hook's Tale.
"And for some inexplicable reason, possibly having to do with the unbearably pompous actor who first portrayed me professionally, I will always be depicted as bearing an unfortunate likeness to King Charles II."
Mary Martin as Peter Pan and
Cyril Ritchard as Capt. Hook

In the Acknowledgements, Pielmeier admits his lifelong love of Peter and J. M. Barrie. He believes that Peter is misunderstood: "He was not a boy who refused to grow up he was a boy who grew up too quickly."

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

John Pielmeier is a three-time Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated playwright and screenwriter. His successful plays, television movies, and miniseries include Agnes of God, Gifted Hands, Choices of the Heart, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, and successful screen adaption of Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth. He has received the Humanitas Award (plus two nominations), five Writers’ Guild Award nominations, a Gemini nomination, an Edgar Award, the Camie Award, and a Christopher Award. He is married to writer Irene O’Garden and lives in upstate New York. Hook’s Tale is his first novel.
Hook's Tale, Being the Account of an Unjustly Villainized Pirate Written by Himself. By John Leonard Pielmeier
Simon & Schuster
Publication July 18, 2017
Hardcover $34.00
ISBN: 9781501161056

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