Monday, August 29, 2016


Published by HarperCollins New Zealand  |  August 2016  |  RRP $36.99  trade paperback
America had Captain Kidd, the Caribbean had Captain Morgan, the Mediterranean had Barbarossa, and Blackbeard cruised the Atlantic. The Pacific only had whalers and explorers – until the flamboyant Captain William Henry ‘Bully’ Hayes arrived on the scene in the mid-nineteenth century.
As Bully Hayes navigated his ship throughout the Pacific he was accused of every kind of crime from seduction, bigamy, blackbirding, horse-stealing, cheating at cards, and even the murder of his own family. He was notorious for sailing away from ports without paying his debts, a dishonesty so common in the days of sail that it became known as ‘paying with the foretopsail’.
Reports of his activities were many. ‘Thief, pirate, plunderer, kidnapper as he is there can be but one termination in the eternal fitness of things to such a career as this!’ blared one Honolulu paper in 1859. ‘The Notorious Captain Hayes’, shouted another paper in Australia described with relish, ‘one of the most systematic and unmitigated scoundrels who had ever dropped anchor in the colony’.
By all accounts Bully Hayes certainly looked like a pirate. At around six feet tall, hefty in physique, with a bluff and hearty manner, and a soft persuasive voice, he was an impressive man. He bragged like a buccaneer and dressed like one too. And he loved women.
Hayes’ eventual gory demise in 1877 did not bring respite. He has been the inspiration for writers from Robert Louis Stevenson to James A Michener and Frank Clune. Rousing films have been based on his life, and his name adorns bars, hotels and museum exhibits all over the Pacific.
Who was Bully Hayes really? Is there any truth behind the headlines of the day? Leading New Zealand nautical historian Joan Druett tells his fascinating story in her new book, The Notorious Captain Hayes. ‘Whatever aspect of Pacific history I might have been looking up over the years, whether it was blackbirding, smuggling, trading or piracy, the name of Bully Hayes cropped up,’ says Druett.  ‘It was irritating because I did not believe a word of the sensational yarns so I decided to fossick about for the truth.’
As Druett sifts the facts from the fantasy, an amazing true story of a genuine rogue and adventurer, set against the backdrop of the great age of sail and trade in the Pacific, is revealed.
About the author:
In 1984, while exploring the tropical island of Rarotonga, Joan slipped into the hole left by the roots of a large uprooted tree, and at the bottom discovered the long-lost grave of a young American whaling wife. It was a life-changing experience. 
Since then her life has been devoted to researching the more unusual voyagers under sail, including women, children, the Polynesians the captains picked up in New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, and a variety of seafaring rogues and adventurers.
Many books of maritime history have been the result, including the bestselling Island of the Lost, and a biography of the Polynesian star navigator, Tupaia, which won the general non-fiction prize in the 2012 New Zealand Post Book Awards.


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