When you think of Texas outlaws, you probably think of stagecoach robberies or cattle rustling. Gritty men with bandana-covered faces and revolvers in their hands. You probably don’t picture the man off to the right. But as it turns out, Texas was home to one of the most famous pirates of the 19th century – Jean Lafitte.
Jean Lafitte was a French pirate and privateer in the Gulf of Mexico in the early 19th century. He and his brother ran a successful smuggling operation from an island in Louisiana’s Barataria Bay until the American authorities invaded in 1814 and seized most of his fleet. Always ready to make a deal, Lafitte agreed to help General Andrew Jackson defend New Orleans against the British attack of 1815 in exchange for a pardon, thus beginning his more honest career as a privateer. Once pardoned, Lafitte moved his base of operations to Galveston Island, Texas where he set up a pirate colony called Campeche.
Well, when I learned this fascinating tidbit, I knew I had to find a way to work this pirate angle into one of my books. Full Steam Ahead proved the perfect place.
In my story, my heroine’s grandfather, Henri Renard served with Lafitte in his privateering efforts and in the course of events, saved the pirate’s life by taking a bullet meant for Lafitte. Lafitte rewards his valor with the gift of his personal, jeweled dagger.
The Lafitte Dagger became the Renard family legacy handed down from father to son. It became a symbol of honor and loyalty, and over time its legend grew. Over the next few decades Galveston underwent great political turmoil – going from Mexican rule through the Texas Revolution; it became an independent republic; then joined the union as a state – and through it all, Renard Shipping flourished. People began to believe that whoever possessed Lafitte’s dagger would find prosperity in the port of Galveston that he established.
When a rival shipping owner sets out to steal the dagger, Nicole Renard, as the only heir to the Renard line, takes the dagger and flees Galveston in an effort to protect her ailing father. Only, instead of escaping to New Orleans to meet up with trusted family friends, she is forced to take a detour up the Trinity River and ends up on the same plantation as Darius Thornton, an obsessed scientist investigating steam engine boilers. Adventure, romance, and many explosions ensue.
I had a lot of fun giving my heroine several unexpected pirate-y traits, too. (Watch out for her knife skills…)
- So what are some of your favorite pirate movies?
Anyone remember the old Gina Davis pirate film Cutthroat Island? She made a great female pirate. Loved that one!