Pirate Latitudes

In His Own Words

I’ve been working on this novel about 17th century Caribbean pirates for four years now, which is longer than I’ve ever worked on anything else. I’m interested in the concept of piracy, and in the society that generated this concept. I think that the people of the 17th century were very different from us in their assumptions about the universe, their notions about human behavior, and their fundamental values. There is not a “sameness’ to human nature through the centuries that most historical novels would have us believe. We tend to think that Charles II was pretty much like any of us, except that he happened to be king. That’s not true. The world in which he lived was very different.

For example, in the 17th century, the mechanisms of disease were not understood at all. And there was no virtue in hygienic habits, not even as a point of fashion. Oysters were a lower-class dish, cheap and readily available. It was a time not far removed from the Middle Ages: a society in which religious beliefs were firmly held by everyone. It is incredible to think that someone like Isaac Newton spent easily half of his working life devoted to the study of alchemy. It is an extraordinary feeling to spend your whole morning living in the world of 1665, and then get into your Mercedes-Benz and have lunch at some restaurant in Beverly Hills.

Michael Crichton


The Caribbean, 1665. A remote colony of the English Crown, the island of Jamaica holds out against the vast supremacy of the Spanish empire. Port Royal, its capital, is a cutthroat town of taverns, grog shops, and bawdy houses.

In this steamy climate there’s a living to be made, a living that can end swiftly by disease or by dagger. For Captain Charles Hunter, gold in Spanish hands is gold for the taking, and the law of the land rests with those ruthless enough to make it.

Word in port is that the galleon El Trinidad, fresh from New Spain, is awaiting repairs in a nearby harbor. Heavily fortified, the impregnable harbor is guarded by the bloodthirsty Cazalla, a favorite commander of the Spanish king himself. With backing from a powerful ally, Hunter assembles a crew of ruffians to infiltrate the enemy outpost and commandeer El Trinidad, along with its fortune in Spanish gold. The raid is as perilous as the bloodiest tales of island legend, and Hunter will lose more than one man before he even sets foot on foreign shores, where dense jungle and the firepower of Spanish infantry stand between him and the treasure. . . .

Pirate Latitudes is Michael Crichton at his best: a rollicking adventure tale pulsing with relentless action, crackling atmosphere, and heart-pounding suspense.

From the Archives

Pirate Latitudes is an adventure story set in the New World, in 1665, when Jamaica was a British colony holding out against Spanish dominance. The story centers on a plan hatched by the island’s governor and a notorious pirate called Hunter to raid a Spanish treasure galleon. Fast-moving and suspenseful, Pirate Latitudes is a historical classic from one of America’s best-loved authors. 

Pirate Latitudes is a fantastically enjoyable and light-hearted adventure yarn about pirates and profiteers in 17th century Jamaica. It is deeply researched and full of lively historical detail. It shows Crichton going back to the territory he explored in novels such as The Great Train Robbery – old-fashioned entertainment, with a twist.” – Jonathan Burnham, Senior Vice President and Publisher of HarperCollins

Michael Crichton’s handwritten changes to an early draft of Pirate Latitudes

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