The Last Bookaneer
A title like this is bound to be picked up by any fiction-friendly bibliophile. But what exactly is a bookaneer? Matthew Pearl, author of a slew of literary mysteries beginning with The Dante Club back in 2003, has dreamed up this figure, a literary pirate and "mischief maker" who uses the 1790 copyright loophole that left works of foreign authors unprotected, to make his living. Men like Pen Davenport and his long-time rival, who goes by the cryptonym Belial, steal manuscripts and proof sheets and deliver them into the hands of greedy publishers. (Women, too; one named Kitten is said to the best bookaneer there ever was until she unearthed Mary Shelley's long lost short story and promptly went mad.) But now its 1891, and that loophole is about to close. Three bounty hunters embark on their final adventure--to Samoa, where an ailing Robert Louis Stevenson is finishing his final work. The tropical island, however, proves more than a challenge to this trio of literary bandits, all trying to out-sleuth one another. It's an enjoyable read, and Pearl certainly deserves points for tackling antiquated copyright law in commercial fiction!
The Last Bookaneer (Penguin Press, $27.95) is in stores now, and Pearl is currently on book tour, if you want to catch a reading/signing.