Tuesday, 12 May 1998

Jeffery Farnol: Black Bartlemy's Treasure (1920)

Edition: Pan, 1972
Review number: 47

Swashbuckling would not have been the same without Jeffery Farnol. He wrote many books in the spirit of the Errol Flynn films of the twenties; this one and its sequel, Martin Conisby's Vengeance, are typical, though among his best. These are the sources parodied affectionately by George Macdonald Fraser's Pyrates.

There are plenty of "Ar-hars" and "Wi'a curse" here to parody, but they are fun even today. Black Bartlemy's Treasure is perhaps less good than Martin Conisby's Vengeance; there is a fair amount of padding - about a third of the book is a fairly straight rip-off of Robinson Crusoe, though with an English aristocratic lady as a Man Friday.

Martin Conisby is already seeking his vengeance on Sir Richard Brandon, who has ruined him, and arranged his sale as a galley slave into long years of torture. He falls in with a group of buccanneers who are seeking the treasure hoard of the infamous Black Bartlemy, and who take service on a ship with Richard Brandon's cousin and daughter Joan (she is the one stranded on a desert island with Martin). Naturally, he falls in love with Joan, and spends the rest of the book trying to make the agonising decision of foregoing the revenge that has been keeping him going or losing the woman he loves. The island he is stranded on, naturally, turns out to be the one on which the treasure is hidden; but he is only interested in those parts of it which he can use in living on the island - it won't help him with his revenge. Their rescue more or less ends the book, though there are many plot issues remaining to be sorted out in the sequel.

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