'An ingenious thriller' (Sunday Times) from the author of The Dante Club
A reclusive writer…A stolen manuscript…An adventure at the ends of the earth
On the island of Samoa, a dying Robert Louis Stevenson labours over a new novel. It is rumoured that this may be the author of Treasure Island’s greatest masterpiece.
On the other side of the world this news fires the imaginations of the bookaneers, literary pirates who steal the latest manuscripts by famous writers.
Two adversaries set out for the South Pacific: Pen Davenport, a tortured criminal genius haunted by his past and Belial, his nemesis. Both dream of fortune and immortality with what may be their last and most incredible heist.
The Last Bookaneer thrillingly depicts the lost world of these doomed outlaws, a tropical island with a violent destiny, a brewing colonial war and a reclusive genius directing events from high in his mountain compound.
In the days before e-books, self-publishing, and fan fiction, publishing was an even riskier undertaking or so Pearl (The Dante Club) makes an entertaining case for in his latest, ingenious literary caper. The author imagines the life of 19th-century manuscript thieves called bookaneers, who unscrupulously published others' novels on their own, thereby depriving authors of their financial due. It is Pearl's contention that a historical 1890s international copyright agreement would soon put an end to this illegal practice, and he imaginatively conjures up two such bookaneers, Pen Davenport and his assistant, Edgar Fergins, who embark on one last mission, traveling to Samoa to steal a dying Robert Louis Stevenson's final manuscript, The Shovels of Newton French. Arriving at the author's mountain compound, Davenport, in the guise of a travel writer, finds competition from a rival bookaneer named Belial, who is passing for a missionary. And so the race is on to take Stevenson's purloined manuscript and return with it to New York before the new law goes into effect. But standing in the way of literary glory are cannibals, incarceration, German colonials, and a betrayal from beyond the grave. Pearl gives the bookaneers a lively fictitious history, including a flashback to the theft of Shelley's Frankenstein, and populates it with a colorful cast of roguish characters, including Davenport's former partner in crime, the lovely and enigmatic Kitten. In the end, this book is a loving testament to the enduring power of paper books.