Monday, 30 May 2011

The Captain Jack Sparrow Handbook, by Jason Heller – reviewed by Stephen Theaker

I’m probably not the best person to review this book: the first Pirates of the Caribbean bored me senseless (I think we only finished the DVD at the third attempt), and it did the same once more when I rewatched it in preparation for this review. And the best I can say for the next two films is that they weren’t quite as dull as the first. I’d rather hoped to hand the review of this book over to my children, who love the films (the eldest reviewed Dead Man’s Chest back in TQF#12, at the age of three) and have been playing the demo of Lego Pirates of the Caribbean to death in recent weeks, but although they liked the look and feel of the book, and especially the pictures – this being a fully licensed title, there are lots of stills – the amount of text led them to turn me down.

So here I am, reviewing it myself. Is it possible to give a fair hearing to a tie-in based on a series you don’t really like? I’ve no doubt that if this were a handbook to time travel in the Tardis or to space travel in the Enterprise I’d like it a lot. A good deal of effort has been put into this detailed guide to living the piratical life; it’s more than just a collection of pirate trivia with Captain Jack’s face on the front – examples are drawn from the four films wherever possible. The would-be pirate will find here a treasure chest of information; How to Become a Pirate, to begin with, How to Spin Your Own Myth, or How to Fight a Tavern Full of Angry Men – all essential for life on the high seas, and off them!

It has a slightly odd approach, in that it’s addressed to the present day reader, and acknowledges that the life of a modern day pirate is much grimmer than that of the romantic buccaneer of cinematic legend. With no means of putting it into practice, then, the advice is perhaps best taken as being addressed to those who take a method approach to fancy dress parties! It’s not a book to be taken seriously, it’s one to flick through, a perfect book for the smallest room. It’s not hilarious, but it’s solidly amusing, attentive to its source material, and the design (the book is resplendent in full colour), printing and illustrations are all top notch. I’d imagine that everyone who had a hook in producing it is as proud as a parrot. I’d sooner read it again than watch the first three films, and that’s a pirate fact!

The Captain Jack Sparrow Handbook, by Jason Heller. Quirk Books, hb, 176pp. Amazon US. Amazon UK.

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