If "almost all the characters have a lust for gold", as Peter Hunt points out in his introduction, this is akin to Stevenson's reaction when he sold his masterpiece: "A hundred jingling, tingling, golden minted quid. Is it not wonderful?" His joy was understandable: "I was 31; I was the head of a family; I had lost my health; I had never yet made £200 a year."
Packed with detail – Stevenson invented the Black Spot and the shanty "Fifteen men on a dead man's chest" – the novel brought a new graphic reality to the "island-sea-adventure". It also appealed to adults and children.
The genre has gone into reverse with Pirates of the Caribbean. It is high time we cast adrift the supernatural pirate yarn and returned to the real thing.
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