Leah Devlin is the author of two murder mystery series set in the East Coast: the Woods Hole Mysteries and a new forthcoming series, the Chesapeake Tugboat Murders. In her new series, Leah makes use of historical research to create a truly notorious ancestor whose influence continues to cause murderous havoc.
Giles Blood-hand was the scourge of the seven seas (or maybe just the Chesapeake Bay). In the Chesapeake Tugboat Murder series, the fictional village of River Glen swells with lobbyists, Zumba instructors, life coaches, and computer programmers who peel off their skins of middle-class respectability and become raucous pirates and wenches for an annual bacchanal known as Giles Blood-hand Day. Who was this 17th-century pirate whose banners flap from the lampposts around the bayside village and draws masses of mid-Atlantic tourists to carouse and dance in his honor? To Alex Allaway, the marine biologist protagonist of the Chesapeake Tugboat Murders, Giles Blood-hand is merely the creation of some town father or mother whose savvy marketing ploy brings tourist dollars into the faltering economy of River Glen. But as Alex investigates the bizarre circumstances surrounding her grandfather's murder, she pieces together Giles Hale's true identity and discovers the treachery and bloodlust that led to the pirate massacre that earned him the nickname "Blood-hand."
After reading Donald Shomette's Pirates on the Chesapeake: Being a True History of Pirates, Picaroons, and Raiders on the Chesapeake Bay, 1610–1807 (1985, Tidewater Publishers), I was intrigued by the rich history of piracy in the Chesapeake, a region where I'd boated, swam, and camped out countless times as a girl. For this mystery series, I didn’t want to use a historical pirate. It was so incredibly fun to create my own: an escaped convict-turned-pirate named Giles Hale from Aberdeen, Scotland. And why only Giles? Why not a whole ship of pirates? Maybe I call the ship the Raven. How about the pirates attack a Spanish galleon called El Espíritu de la Virgen in the Gulf of Mexico, steal her impossibly vast treasure, then burn the galleon to the waterline? Maybe our young Scotsman leads a mutiny against the Raven's sadistic captain, Bartholomew Dodd, and tosses Dodd overboard to tiger sharks. Then the Raven takes flight up the eastern coast of the Americas.
Wait ... the story's missing something. Giles and the other pirates are feeling amorous. Drumroll, please ... Enter women. Ferocious women, indentured servants—prisoners from the slums of Dublin and London—flee from a brutish foreman on a Virginia tobacco plantation and join the crew of the Raven. Yes, perfect. Women, check. Rotgut, check. Blotto sex, check. Women + men = children and descendants, like Giles's great (to the nth power) granddaughter, Alex Allaway.
Under the veil of darkness, Giles guides the shipworm-riddled Raven up the Chesapeake and finds an uninhabited northern river to make repairs. But the planks crumble to the touch; the Raven's sailing days are over. The pirates and their lovely brides are stranded and the pirate village of River Glen is born. But what is to happen to the cargo in the Raven's holds, the staggering treasure from the El Espíritu de la Virgen?