When I was a young teenager, I was fortunate to have lived in Miami, Florida where I had access to a boat and the pristine waters of Biscayne Bay. I had many adventures there, some worthy of tall tales, but none more worthy than the one told me by Sir Lancelot Jones. At that time, Lancelot Jones was a famed fishing guide and the world’s leading expert on finding and catching the illusive Bone Fish, much lionized by leading sports fishermen. He was guide to many celebrities of his time, Richard Nixon and Charles (Bebe) Rabozo among them. Though independently wealthy, well connected, highly educated and intelligent, Lancelot and his older brother, King Arthur Jones lived simple lives, close to the Earth, with a love for all the values that are common to that station. Most of all they loved Biscayne Bay and the barrier islands that dot its eastern perimeter, especially Rhodes Key, Porgey Key, Elliot Key and the narrow cut between them known as Caesar’s Creek, where they had grown up and lived out their lives.
I met Lancelot one summer afternoon while camping on Elliot Key. I knew of him through my father who had hired him as a Bone Fish guide in the past, for the entertainment of business clients. My friends and I had taken my boat out just off shore to dive for lobster when Lancelot pulled up along side. The moment he spoke I knew who he was. My mother had told me of his education and his perfect English and diction. We conversed pleasantly for several minutes before, espying our ice-chest, he asked, “Have you got a cold Coke?”
I nodded that I did and opened the ice-chest to offer one. He reached in, pulled one out of the ice, thanked me and went on his way. That night, as I sat by our fire, on the windward side of the island, he appeared again, out of the dark, standing next to me. I was startled, having not seen him approaching our camp. He apologized politely, sat down next to the fire and asked, “Have you got another one, Coke?”
I said that I did and pointed to the ice-chest near him on his side of the fire. We talked for a long time that night about him and his life on Caesar’s Creek. During the conversation I interrupted him at a strange sound that had troubled me earlier. A whispering sound that came from the dense tangle of jungle surrounding our camp. It was barely audible over the sound of the wind off the ocean and the water rushing over the reef.
“Listen.” I repeated, holding my breath. He hadn’t heard it the first time. Then it came again. “There. What is that?”
“It’s the ghosts.” He answered without hesitation or smile. “The ghosts of the children.”
I was fairly gullible at the time. I would believe anything an adult told me. I’m not that gullible now. I’ve learned to only believe half of what I hear; I’m just not sure which half it should be.
“What ghosts, what children?” I could feel the hairs raising at the back of my neck. I wanted to turn and look, but he didn’t and I didn’t want to appear, well, gullible. Too late I guess.
Lancelot went on to tell me the story of Caesar’s Creek, the legend of Caesar’s Rock and how the creek got its name. His version was the story of a great and powerful pirate called Black Caesar, a legend in his own right who was discredited in history and cheated of the fame he deserved because of his race. He told me of the children of Caesar’s maroon community who had lived on Elliot Key before it had a name and who had died in the great storm of 1715. He spoke of vast treasure hoarded by an escaped slave named Henri Caesar, a giant black man who sailed in command of his own sloop in partnership with the infamous, Blackbeard and his fleet. His story went on into the wee hours of the morning, when, finished, he excused himself politely and left our camp. I never saw Lancelot again after that, but I never forgot that night, or the story he told me with such passion.
Years later, when I thought I would like to become a novelist, my first attempt was an interpretation of Lancelot’s story of Black Caesar. It was what I refer to as the first novel I never finished. I worked hard on it for more than a year, but it just kept going and going till I put it aside realizing that I didn’t know how the story ended. (Never start a novel without knowing how it ends.)
I won’t say how many years have passed since then, but as I began to research my character more thoroughly I found a history so vague and variant that Lancelot’s legend of Black Caesar seemed more probable than the official, historical record. For that reason, I have adapted his premise and written a novel based on the character he described.
This novel is the story of a great and powerful pirate in his own right. Though he was African and swept up in the slave trade, he was not born a slave and he is determined not to die as one. The story revolves around the life he shared with Edward Drummond, later known as Blackbeard, and Collin Aldworth, a boy from a well to do family in England, sent on a journey of learning, by his father, aboard a slave ship called “Arthur”.
The life these three young men share in the “Golden Age of Piracy” is a story of of great, personal struggle in the crucible of a changing world. Caught together in a battle between the imperial forces of European expansion and the lawless freedom of a new frontier, their varied pasts shape a relationship together in, what the powerful joint stock monopolies of Europe call, “the triangle trade”. The sailors who ply that trade, the African slaves caught up in it, and those who seek an end to the business of slavery, all refer to it as “The Devil’s Triangle”. The bond forged there between three young men will shape who they become in – “Triangle: A Memoir of Black Caesar”, due to launch December 1st 2013, an e-book for Kindle, Nook, iPad and all other digital readers.