A True Account of Pirates with Katherine Howe – Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast
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New York Times Bestselling Author Katherine Howe climbs aboard ship for a captivating conversation about her new novel, A True Account: Hannah Masury’s Sojourn Amongst the Pyrates, Written by Herself. Embark on a voyage with us as Katherine navigates us across the enthralling seas of piracy history, offering listeners an unforgettable discussion that delves into the high-stakes world of seafaring adventures. Her expertise and passion shine through, making this episode a must-listen for history enthusiasts, book lovers, and anyone seeking a thrilling journey into the past. Ready to embark on a literary adventure? Weigh anchor and hoist the mizzen! It’s time to press play and sail through the seas of history, mystery, and the indomitable spirit of characters like Hannah Masury. And we don’t forget the witch trials.
Pitch in here on #GivingTuesday, November 28th
[00:00:10] Josh Hutchinson: Ahoy, and welcome to Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial and Pirate Podcast. I'm Able Seaman Josh Hutchinson. [00:00:19] Sarah Jack: And I'm First Mate Sarah 'Calico' Jack. [00:00:23] Josh Hutchinson: Today's guest is acclaimed author Katherine Howe, who is here to talk to us about her new book on pirates. [00:00:30] Sarah Jack: That's right, this is our special pirate Thanksgiving episode. You may also be asking what pirates are doing on a witch trial podcast. [00:00:39] Josh Hutchinson: Well, you know Katherine Howe the witch trial writer, but you're fixing to meet Katherine Howe the pirate writer. [00:00:45] Sarah Jack: As announced here last year, she has written a wonderful historical novel titled, A True Account, Hannah Masury's Sojourn Amongst the Pirates, Written by Herself. [00:00:55] Josh Hutchinson: It's not just wonderful. It's marvelous.[00:01:00] [00:01:00] Sarah Jack: That's an understatement. I had such a great time reading this book. [00:01:05] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah. Once I picked it up, I literally could not put it down until I was done. It's really a thrilling book, and you have to know what's coming up next, so it just keeps you in its hook like grip. [00:01:24] Sarah Jack: Hannah's account pulls you in immediately, and you start hearing it from the moment the story begins. It's full of local history and Hannah. [00:01:39] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah, the beginning of the book is just so captivating and really drew me in. And that's why I just, from there on, things just kept going and going. And I had to keep reading and reading. [00:01:58] Sarah Jack: This is one of those books, as soon as you [00:02:00] have your nose in it, you are so glad you picked this book up and started it and you're thinking about your schedule and you hope you can clear your calendar so you can enjoy every page. [00:02:11] Josh Hutchinson: Yes, you will be willing to drop everything once you get into this. Forget about sleeping that night or running the errands. They can wait, but Hannah Masury's story cannot. [00:02:25] Sarah Jack: Hey, book clubs, this is a book for your club. This is great for discussion. [00:02:32] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah, you really enjoy Katherine Howe's comments on the book in this episode, and you can use those as some talking points in your book club. And we talk about how there are more similarities between witches and pirates than you might think. [00:02:54] Sarah Jack: Executing the witches and executing the pirates were both acts of purification for the community.[00:03:00] [00:03:01] Josh Hutchinson: Katherine Howe is the best selling author of The Physic Book of Deliverance Dane, The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs, Conversion, The House of Velvet and Glass, and The Appearance of Annie Van Sinderen. She is editor of the Penguin Book of Witches and, coming soon, the Penguin Book of Pirates. [00:03:21] Josh Hutchinson: She coauthored Astor: The Rise and Fall of an American Fortune and Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty with Anderson Cooper. [00:03:32] Katherine Howe: Chapter One, Boston, June 1726. I don't know what made me determined to go to the hanging. I'd always made a point of avoiding them. I resisted the entreaties of my friends who wanted to be in amongst the throngs of onlookers, ears pricked for the last words and the pious advice of the soon to be damned. Of course, I'd always been curious. One cannot help but wonder about the face of one condemned, [00:04:00] to see his carriage toward the crowd and himself, to feel the swelling cheers and cries of all the townsfolk, to hear the crack of the felon's neck snapped like a chicken's. I wondered if their eyes were open or closed when their moment came. [00:04:14] Katherine Howe: What happens in the instant in between being a living, breathing creature, trembling with needs and wants and fears, and being an empty sack of flesh and bone? Is it the same for an old woman alone in her bed with the covers pulled up tight as it is for a man mounting the scaffold before God and everyone? Does an unearthly light of heaven attained shine upon the greasy strings of their hair if they have confessed and repented? Everyone repents at the end, or so I've been told. I'd heard the moment of public death described often enough, usually by someone with a hand around a glass, but I'd always been of too delicate a nature to see for myself. [00:04:54] Katherine Howe: I didn't like to drown kittens or stomp trembled whiskered mice, and as often as not found a way to avoid such grim [00:05:00] chores on the occasion Mrs. Tomlinson chose to impose them on me. I even crossed the street from dogs lying dead in the gutter. But something about William Fly was different. I made up my mind that I would go. [00:05:15] Josh Hutchinson: Such a good introduction. That hook just grabbed me when I was reading it. So starting with the execution, that was quite a way, quite a bang right at the beginning. [00:05:29] Katherine Howe: Why mess around? One of the things that I enjoyed about working on this book, because it's set in 1726, it opens at a real event. So the hanging of William Fly was a real thing that happened. William Fly led a short-lived mutiny and went briefly pirating off of Cape Hatteras, and then he trusted a guy to take him to, I think it was Martha's Vineyard for water with, he had renamed his boat the Thames Revenge, which is such a great pirate name, but the guy he trusted [00:06:00] to pilot him fooled him and led him off the coast of Boston, which of course now as a sailor in Massachusetts, I find myself wondering like going on the outside of Cape Cod, which is how you have to go to get from Martha's Vineyard, like all the way around and get back to Boston, it's actually like a really long trip. It's like really way out of their way because there was no Cape Cod canal to cut through. So that must have been, William Fly must have been a pretty naive leader, unfortunately. [00:06:24] Katherine Howe: But what happened was William Fly's public trial and gibbeting. So William Fly is tried and he's found guilty and he's not just hanged in front of everyone, but he's gibbeted. And what that means is that his body, after he is dead, it hanged in chains in a public place for everybody to see. And so he was gibbeted on a little rock, one of the Boston Harbor islands called Nix's Mate, and just left there to rot. And the historian Marcus Rediker has pointed out that is a that practice of publicly [00:07:00] displaying the mutilated bodies of people convicted of piracy was a, was like a conscious act of terror by the state. The state was trying to terrorize people out of thinking of turning to piracy. [00:07:12] Katherine Howe: And it's so interesting to me because, of course, this is so most people who know my fiction associate me with Salem witch trial stories or Salem stories. And of course, this is a generation later, because Salem is 1692 and William Fly is 1726. But the idea of using public execution as a mode of terror is still very much in play. And interestingly enough, too, one of the theologians who presided over William Fly's trial was Cotton Mather himself. He was much more famous by the time the 1720s rolled around, and at the beginning of the story, in A True Account, we actually talk a little bit about his fame, that people respond to him like, like he's a celebrity, they freak out when they see him in the street. [00:07:56] Katherine Howe: And Hannah Masury, is bound out to service in a [00:08:00] real tavern, Ship Tavern is a real place, at the foot of Clark Wharf, which is a real wharf, one of the longest, most major wharfs in pre-revolutionary Boston. And so I imagine her mistress, Mrs. Tomlinson, as being very much enthralled to Cotton Mather, very much like touched by his fame and the proximity of his fame. [00:08:20] Katherine Howe: And so at one point, I even have Hannah remark to herself that she grew up in Beverly, which is a town close to Salem, which is on the water, a seafaring town, and that she grew up close to where Cotton Mather had driven the devils out of Salem a generation before, before she was born, which seems impossible to her, as impossible as driving fairies out of a hole in the ground, because public thinking about witchcraft had changed by the 1720s, but not completely. Hannah is still living in this sort of just post-Calvinist world and much of her internal monologue or the way that she understands the world is inflected by [00:09:00] Christianity because of the moment in which she's living, even though she herself is living a very, what we might term, unchristian life. [00:09:09] Josh Hutchinson: As you mentioned, you're known for writing about Salem Witch Trials. What drew you away from that to write about pirates? [00:09:18] Katherine Howe: I think, I think everyone is secretly attracted to pirates. Maybe that's a sweeping generalization, but maybe it was partly having spent so much time thinking about the world of very early European-settled, English-settled Massachusetts, and what an incredibly strict and hierarchical culture that was. And trying to imagine ways that people chafed under that structure or bucked that structure a little bit. And if Salem was, if the Salem Witch Crisis was one example of when regular people are at the center of the story, which is so a little bit unusual. So [00:10:00] much of our history is so called great man history where you talk about leaders or kings or queens or people who are in charge. And I've never been particularly interested by the people who are in charge. I'm much more interested by the people who are just trying to make their way in the world who are regular people. [00:10:15] Katherine Howe: And so another instance of regular people in extraordinary circumstances is piracy. So often pirates didn't plan to be pirates, or they turned to piracy through mutiny or, as William Fly did, through what they called hard usage, and especially at a time when impressment was such a big part of the British Navy. You could be snatched away from everything that you knew in your life and thrown into a ship with no desire to ever leave the land and have your freedom taken away. And so I was interested by piracy, like the golden age of piracy, which kind of wound down in the 1720s, but stretched broadly from the 1680s to the 1720s, the same period [00:11:00] as the period of the witch trials in North America. [00:11:02] Katherine Howe: And also it is an example of the collision between the most radical forms of freedom and the most radical forms of unfreedom. Because so much golden age piracy was inextricably bound up with the money to be made in the transatlantic slave trade, and one of the reasons that it was so important to the state to strike terror into the hearts of mariners of the threat of being tried as pirates was because of the economic risks that they posed to this very wealthy triangle trade between the Caribbean and the North American colonies and Great Britain. [00:11:40] Katherine Howe: And so I was, I just was very drawn to the idea of here are people in extreme circumstances, under extreme forms of constraint, or sometimes forced servitude, and who throw off those constraints, often using violence and often, with no hope of success, [00:12:00] really, depending on how we define success. [00:12:03] Katherine Howe: So I was just very, I was very moved by it, and also very moved by, the story of witchcraft is so much a story about women in extreme circumstances, and typically piracy is a story of men in extreme circumstances, but not always. There are a couple of very famous examples of women who disguised themselves as men and went pirating, and I was very moved by that possibility and what that might look like and how that might feel. [00:12:34] Katherine Howe: And so I have Hannah Masury at the beginning of her story, she gets a sort of traditional call to adventure, as a way of structuring the story, where she's working, she's in her late teens, we never really learn exactly how old she is. She's bound out to service, which is not unusual for this time period. In fact, Abigail Williams, famously, who kicked off the Salem Witch Panic, who was 11 years old and was bound out to service.[00:13:00] [00:13:00] Katherine Howe: And so Hannah ends up getting tangled up in the events around the trial of William Fly and winds up having to flee for her life in a way that she does that, because the only way in or out of Boston, pre-revolutionary Boston at this time, was by the Neck, which is a long, skinny stretch of land. So Boston at the time was this, was a peninsula. And it was very easy to choke off access to that peninsula. The only way that Hannah could escape, people are trying to hunt her down. I don't want to give away too much about why they're trying to hunt her down. They're trying to hunt her down, and so the only way she can flee is over the water. And so she disguises herself and ships out on what she thinks is a fruit packet down for the Azores. And then her adventure goes in a pretty wildly unexpected direction. [00:13:47] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah, quite a lot of wildly unexpected directions. Yeah, you keep us guessing what's going to happen next. [00:13:56] Katherine Howe: Yeah, I don't want to give too many twists away, but I've been telling, when [00:14:00] people ask me about this story, I've been telling people it's a little bit like Treasure Island meets Gone Girl. And and there are people who are fans of pirate fiction, anyone who's read Treasure Island is going to see a couple of little winks here and there, narrative winks or things that are slightly familiar seeming but that is of course like the ultimate pirate story, which is also set in the 17, I've never learned the specific year, but sometime in the 1700s, but was written in the 19th century. [00:14:29] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah, that's what got me interested in pirates, Treasure Island. Read that very early. [00:14:36] Katherine Howe: Yeah we're, I have a young son and I've been reading Treasure Island to him at night for some weeks now. And as you can imagine, we're a completely normal family. So his playhouse in our garden has a pirate flag on it. It has a sign hanging from it that says the Admiral Benbow Inn, which is where the action starts in Treasure Island, and a bill of fare hanging from a nearby tree. And my son likes to demand kid rum. Everything's completely [00:15:00] normal in my family. Kid rum is water, I hasten to add. [00:15:04] Josh Hutchinson: Oh, okay. [00:15:05] Katherine Howe: Not to worry. That's a worry. [00:15:08] Josh Hutchinson: I was thinking it was a Juicy Juice or something. [00:15:10] Katherine Howe: no. He gets very frustrated when other kids want to play pirates, but they don't know all the weird, obscure plot points of Treasure Island. He's no, you have to be the blind man. [00:15:19] Katherine Howe: He's, very controlling. Anyway, [00:15:22] Josh Hutchinson: That's adorable. [00:15:23] Sarah Jack: It is. And he'll share his love for the story with his peers. Yeah. [00:15:28] Katherine Howe: Whether they want him to or not. [00:15:33] Sarah Jack: How has your love for sailing influenced your writing about seafaring? [00:15:37] Katherine Howe: I think certainly my, I sail a lot in my free time. It's my only hobby, really. And it was inevitable that I would want to write a seafaring story, even though they're perhaps a little bit out of fashion these days, but there's something so unique about being at the mercy of the elements so completely. I mean, there are many elements of [00:16:00] seafaring that are attractive from a fiction perspective. One is that it is this self-contained world, if we're talking about the Age of Sail. You're living within this community in very close quarters. of a really profound intimacy can form, but even within that intimacy there is rigid hierarchies and structures and lines of authority and lines of command. [00:16:22] Katherine Howe: There's also an incredible technicality to it that I find interesting, and especially imagining someone like Hannah, who has no background in seafaring at all, suddenly finding herself in this universe of ropes, where every rope has a specific name and a specific purpose, and the technical aspects of it, and how much knowledge there is to acquire in order to be able to effectively make a sailing ship go has was interesting to me from a narrative perspective. [00:16:52] Katherine Howe: And also I think there's the idea of exploration, the idea of we now live in this world of instant discovery. If I want to [00:17:00] see what a picture of New Guinea looks like, all I have to do is type it into my phone. But the idea of these undiscovered worlds or uncharted worlds, you know maps that say 'here there be monsters,' and the idea of sailing into the unknown is for me, still a very romantic idea and something that I find interesting to think about. And over the course of the story in A True Account, we encounter many different characters who are all trying to find a path towards their own self-determination. If anything, I think that is the theme of the book. There’s Hannah, obviously, who’s trying to find her own route to freedom, if you will. [00:17:42] Katherine Howe: Many of the pirate characters that she encounters are themselves actually seizing their own authority and freedom for themselves. And something about the freedom and the rebellion of it has always been very attractive to me. [00:17:57] Katherine Howe: And also just speaking [00:18:00] personally, I think there are only two times in my life when I'm really fully present. And both of those times, one, one is when I'm writing, if I'm really engaged in what I'm writing and I'm completely involved in it. And then the other is when I'm sailing, when I'm underway, because it is so necessary to completely focus your attention on what you're doing, on what the surroundings are, on what's going to happen next. [00:18:25] Katherine Howe: There's no room for distraction. There's no room for worrying about something else. There's no room for preoccupation. And for someone like me who lives in the head so much all the time, that is an incredibly liberating sensation. And so my mind, I wanted to try to explore in fiction, what that sensation can be like, and what that distinctly weird world is like as well. [00:18:52] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah you built the world so excellently. All of those details that you put in, [00:19:00] and I loved learning the the terminology that you were just talking about, the names of the ropes, the mizzenmast, and this and that, and they're so good. [00:19:11] Katherine Howe: Thanks. And I, believe it or not, I don't even get all that technical. If you read Patrick O'Brien, it's simply staggering how much, he's the guy who wrote Master and Commander, simply staggering the level of detail that he's able to access. But having Hannah come into a sailing world, naive, means that I can get away without actually weighing it down with a whole lot of jargon. [00:19:35] Katherine Howe: But I also enjoy, I think there's so many turns of phrase and idioms that we use in English that are derived from seafaring, some of which we know in an abstract way, but many of which I think we don't know. Three sheets to the wind for being drunk is a great one, or armed to the teeth means carrying a knife in your mouth because you're about to board somebody else and you need to bring your arms with you. I really enjoyed unearthing some of [00:20:00] those turns of phrase that we still have this nautical discourse that we're not even aware that we use. [00:20:07] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah, really all of that, the rich detail, really helped bring the world to life. It was like you're there experiencing all the senses. Job well done. [00:20:18] Katherine Howe: Thank you very much. But not too jargony, right? I hope not. [00:20:22] Josh Hutchinson: No I was able to follow and I think I've been on boats like twice and they've been like speedboats at lakes. [00:20:31] Josh Hutchinson: Uh, [00:20:33] Katherine Howe: Glad to hear that, that it worked okay for you, Josh. [00:20:36] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah, my brother is in the Navy and he knows a lot about naval history, so I'm going to send him a copy of the book and see what he thinks of it. I think he'll get a kick out of it like I did. [00:20:50] Katherine Howe: I hope so. [00:20:52] Sarah Jack: And it allowed for us to really, as you said, experience her introduction to what she was going to [00:21:00] have to do to cope on that vessel and work. And As you can even hear in the very introduction of your book, you take us right into who Hannah Masury is. We start to learn the details about her. Who is Hannah? [00:21:17] Katherine Howe: So Hannah Masury is, in the book, she's in her late teens. She was born in Beverly, Massachusetts, but she doesn't really remember any of her early childhood, because from when she was very small, she, it's hazy what her family situation was, but it's clear that wherever she was living, she, her parents couldn't afford to keep her, which was not unusual at that time. [00:21:42] Katherine Howe: And so she's given to a distant relative of her mother's, and she doesn't remember if it's an aunt or a cousin, it's some kinswoman, some like long, long distance family member named Mrs. Tomlinson, who runs this inn, Ship Tavern. And Mrs. Tomlinson we understand has 13 kids, and it's a [00:22:00] boisterous kind of place. [00:22:01] Katherine Howe: And Ship Tavern, most of their customers are Men who are sailors, who have just come rolling into town and need a place to stay, and not unlike Treasure Island, which opens in an inn, so the first, the character in Treasure Island is Jim Hawkins, and he is working in the Admiral Benbow Inn, and so I had Hannah begin her working life in a seafaring inn, which is when she first starts to encounter some of the pirate life, and similarly to early scenes, for example, in Moby Dick, you know, There's a lot of scenes there opening in where Ishmael meets Queequeg because they have to share a bunk. Because in many of these places it was very crowded and you would have to sleep in shifts or sleep two sailors to a bed head to foot or things like that. [00:22:44] Katherine Howe: So one thing I wanted to explore a bit was the kind of, once again, I think when we look at the past we have a tendency to look at the way people with wealth lived. And it's partly because the material culture of people with wealth was more likely to [00:23:00] survive. We have a greater picture, we have a greater imagination of what a grand house might be like. House museums tend to preserve a higher class level of living. And I wanted to try to explore what was a more common way of living in around 1726. [00:23:17] Katherine Howe: And so Hannah's days were organized by her work. She's a girl of all work. She has to wait at tables and scrub things and clean things and empty the chamber pots and do all those nasty things that she wouldn't want to do. But she also has friends who are like her. She has like girls that she hangs out with who are in similar circumstances. [00:23:37] Katherine Howe: And early on she, she sneaks out of the inn after her mistress has told her she can't go to William Fly's hanging. She had seen them at church, because the pirates had been brought to church to be preached at by Cotton Mather, who was trying to bring them back publicly to repent. There are sins of swearing and whoring and disobedience.[00:24:00] [00:24:00] Katherine Howe: And so it was, there was really in this time period, a unified perspective between religious leadership and government leadership to try to ensure compliance and obedience. And one of the things that I found so moving and striking about it was that in, in William Fly, Hannah sees someone who refuses to comply, who refuses to bend to what authority demands of him. [00:24:29] Katherine Howe: And that is the moment that invites her own refusal of the circumstances in which she's living. And as she goes on her adventure, she ends up having to disguise herself as a boy, as a cabin boy, to go on this ship. And there are ways that I deal with objections, like why it might seem difficult for a girl to make it like she was a boy on in this time period, but I think it's actually quite credible, the more you think about it, the more you know about what the body would have been like after a [00:25:00] lifetime of work and after a lifetime of insufficient nourishment and things like that. And so we watch her come into herself or come into being as. As the more time she spends on the fruit packet, which we think is called the Reporter, but then is revealed to have actually been a ship called the Fancy, we watch her come into herself. She starts to learn what she's doing. She starts to learn her way around. She does things that she would never have imagined herself doing. At the beginning of the story, we see her steal a mug from a drunk person who is in her tavern, who drives her crazy. And at one point, that's the worst crime she's ever committed in her life. And then, within a few months, she committed crimes she never thought that she could possibly have imagined. [00:25:45] Katherine Howe: And so one thing that I liked thinking about with Hannah was, not that she's proud of everything that she's done. She's still a moral being. But it's also an examination of what happens to our moral systems based on the circumstances in which we [00:26:00] find ourselves. In some context, morality is a luxury. And so I wanted to look at what it would be like, not to write an anti hero exactly, but to write someone who does things that we personally might find horrifying or objectionable, but to write it in such a way that we not only understand why she does them, but actually sympathize with her choices that she's made. I'm being a little bit deliberately vague, because I don't wanna give too many things away. And in the end, I also don't wanna give away the matter of what happens in the end. [00:26:33] Katherine Howe: But suffice it to say, I also have fun with the pirate tropes. There's definitely a parrot, there's definitely a guy with one leg, there's definitely treasure, because you can't have a pirate story without a parrot, you've got one leg, and treasure. [00:26:47] Katherine Howe: And one of the other things that is fun for me in this book, in A True Account and which you can see in the title, A True Account: Hannah Masury's Sojourn Amongst the Pirates, Written by Herself, is the question of what is true?[00:27:00] Can something be emotionally true, but factually false? What does it mean to have a relationship between truth and fiction? [00:27:08] Katherine Howe: And there's an ongoing debate about authorship and and authority, and who is writing what in the course of this story, and who is reading what in the course of this story. I get a little bit meta, but hopefully not in an exhausting kind of way. But as someone who is a historian who writes fiction, these are issues that I think about all the time, especially knitting together things that really happen, like William Fly's trial, I actually take pretty much verbatim from the trial transcripts. So all the discourse that happens on when William Fly is hanged, I didn't make it up. It's what people actually said. And Hannah herself is based on some historical antecedents, but she herself is a fictional character. So what does it mean if I'm braiding those things together? [00:27:55] Josh Hutchinson: She's such a rich character, how hard has it been for [00:28:00] you to wait to be able to introduce her to the world? [00:28:04] Katherine Howe: I'm very, I feel very close to Hannah. I think I'm more emotionally involved with her than I have been with a lot of my protagonists. I'm still very emotionally involved with the protagonist in my first novel, Connie Goodwin, because I think it's not unusual to feel very close to your protagonist in your first novel and because she was so personal to me, but I feel very emotionally involved with Hannah. I feel protective of her, maybe because she's younger than me, by a lot actually now. But at the same time, I feel proud of her, and, and so I'm excited for people to meet her. I'm curious. I'm very curious what people are going to think. Also cause it's not usual for me to write someone who does despicable things, and Hannah definitely does some despicable things. But at the same time I feel, I don't know, proud of her. Is that the right word? I don't even know. It's a little unusual for me to still be as [00:29:00] emotionally bound up with a fictional character. [00:29:04] Katherine Howe: It's a shame to say that you play favorites with your protagonists, but right now I'm definitely feeling, I'm very, I'm treasuring Hannah a little bit right now. [00:29:12] Sarah Jack: What you did with presenting her and bringing us along and what she was experiencing is incredible. Even, even when she was like needing to rest, you like felt it with her. Is she going to get enough hours to recuperate? So I can see how you would feel so proud of her. As a reader, and you start to feel like, oh, maybe she's your friend, or you want her to be your friend. You want to know her more and more. So when she takes care of things, does things to move forward and take care of yourself, you're like, it's a role model in a way for determination and moving forward. [00:29:54] Katherine Howe: Thank you. One thing that also comes up in this book, and a lot of my fiction [00:30:00] deals with the ways that gender roles constrain or enable things that we're able to do, that we're expected to do. And this book is a little bit unusual. A True Account is unusual in being pretty explicit about about gender roles, in part because Hannah makes such a conscious decision to disguise herself. She assumes a different identity, and that identity is of a different gender. [00:30:25] Katherine Howe: And there's another character in the book, and I don't want to give it away, it's too much of a twist. There's another character in the book who has a similar kind of fraught relationship with her own gender, with her own sexuality, at a different moment in time. [00:30:39] Katherine Howe: And so I wanted it to be a way for the story to talk about a different perspective on the kinds of strictures that are in place, historically, but I think in the present too, we're living through this really interesting moment where so many young people are rethinking what gender can mean and what it [00:31:00] should mean and what they want it to mean and taking control of it for themselves. [00:31:04] Katherine Howe: And in some ways, I was looking for a historical lens through which to think through some of those same kinds of questions. And, so it's inevitably different and historically grounded and rooted in sources, but it is trying to be part of that conversation. I think I've been thinking a lot about gender roles throughout my fiction writing career. But this is a another way of looking at it, as well. [00:31:29] Josh Hutchinson: You alluded to another character. As in your other works, this is a dual timeline narrative. What's the relationship of each timeline to the other? How do they, are they echoes of the same story? [00:31:49] Katherine Howe: Yeah, again, I don't want to give too much away, but there is a mystery that is, that surrounds Hannah's story. And there is a [00:32:00] character who is looking at Hannah's story and is trying to figure out whether it is a true account or not. And which is one reason I was so wedded to the title, A True Account, because it is insisting on its own truth. [00:32:13] Katherine Howe: And yet anything that is trying to insist on its own truth, I think you should automatically question whether or not it is true. And so there is a kind of a framing story. And in a similar way to Hannah looking at William Fly and taking him as an inspiration for a change that she makes in her life, I have a character who's looking at Hannah and who ends up taking some of Hannah into herself and thinking about ways that it can change what her life is going to look like. And again, I don't wanna give it too much away, 'cause there's a, there is a little bit of a twist involved. There is a relationship between those two. [00:32:51] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah, I definitely don't want to give away the ending, so we won't even go within 50 miles of that. I'll just say that it's such a [00:33:00] good ending. Readers will be pleased with that. Take care in the way you wrap things up. [00:33:07] Katherine Howe: Thank you. I appreciate that. Yeah, as usual, there are a couple of like local nonprofits I should probably like warn are in this book. I don't think the Beverly Historical Society has any idea that they're mentioned in this book, I should probably tell them as a courtesy. [00:33:22] Josh Hutchinson: Oh yeah, and maybe they'll get some questions in there. Can we see Hannah's book? [00:33:27] Josh Hutchinson: In addition to the dual timelines, you also do an artful job of weaving a lot of different story threads through. You've got people on a sort of a quest for independence and freedom, but there's the pirating that happens and there's other layers. [00:33:50] Katherine Howe: One, one major character that Hannah meets, so Hannah ends up meeting some real people and some fictional people. One of the real people that Hannah meets is a guy named [00:34:00] Edward Low, who was one of, who was a real person who was based for a time in Boston in this period, and he was a real pirate, and he was a famously cruel one. He was the guy who, one of the best known kind of first person accounts of piracy in this period was actually written by a Marbleheader named Philip Ashton, who was a fisherman on the Grand Banks and who was captured by Ned Low and escaped. He ran away from him in an island in the Gulf of Honduras and ended up having to live on his own on an island before he hitched a ride home on a ship that was based out of Salem. [00:34:37] Katherine Howe: And so we learn a lot about Ned Low's cruelty, and we get a lot of the details about life on board a pirate ship come from some of those sources. From that, we actually learned that Ned Low had a soft spot for dogs. That was true. And we learned that he refused to have married men in his crew, the [00:35:00] nominal reason being that that he felt that someone should be home with their family if they had a family, but practically, as Hannah comes to think to herself, that's, there's a less noble interpretation of it, and that is that somebody who is married has a reason not to fight, if they have something else to live for, they're not going to fight quite as hard. There are a couple of ways you can interpret Ned Lowe's perspective in that regard. So she meets Ned Lowe, and some of the details about pirating come from the truth of what happened with Ned Low and some of his raidings. [00:35:34] Katherine Howe: And there's another character she meets who is a fictional character, but who is based on fact, and that character is a man named Seneca, who is a little bit older than Hannah, he's in his early twenties. And Seneca we gradually realize is a self-liberating person. He, we never really learn any of his backstory, but we do learn that he liberated himself from bondage and went pirating, and there are actually several examples of [00:36:00] men who took it upon themselves to flee a life in bondage and to take to the high seas in doing that. [00:36:07] Katherine Howe: And in fact, one of the things that was so interesting to me in reading primary sources of piracy was the ways that there are so many more pirates of color than he would anticipate. In fact one of the most notorious North American pirates was Blackbeard, who was active in the Carolinas. And when he was finally taken off the coast of, I think it was Hatteras. When he was finally taken, half the crew who was with him were men of color. And in fact, there was a guy who was all set to, he was like, with, he had a flint and he was all set to blow up the gunpowder magazine and destroy the entire ship and himself out of loyalty to Blackbeard. And he was talked out of it by a guy who was like imprisoned nearby, "no, don't do it." [00:36:50] Katherine Howe: And and it's interesting to me, because I think there's some ways in which pirates of color get overwritten if you look at a lot of pop culture, Pirates [00:37:00] of the Caribbean or whatever, every, everybody is white, but that's just not what it looked like. One of the things that was really interesting to me was to think about the way that pirate crews tended to be these mostly men of like of no country in a way, and so the crew that Hannah ends up joining are from all over the place. One of the characters that she deals with is a Spanish Creole from, who had lived in Louisiana and speaks French. One of the guys, originally from Marblehead, but it's been a lot of his time in St. Petersburg, because that's where he had ended up traveling. There, there were men from the west coast of Africa. There are men from the Caribbean. There are men who are native. There are men who are all different kinds of people. And so the thing that binds them all together is their will to self determination and perhaps a certain degree of brutality. [00:37:49] Katherine Howe: But I was and still am very interested in the ocean as its own nation, and so one argument that the novel, that A True Account makes is [00:38:00] that it's like a different model of citizenship, in a way, that you are no longer bound to wherever you happen to have been born or even where you happen to have spent most of your time on land. You're bound to the articles you pledge yourself to live under, and you're bound to your shipmates. [00:38:18] Katherine Howe: And one of the terms of art that I liked about piracy is the way that the collective of pirates would be called the people. The people choose this, the people elect the captain by popular acclaim, the people do this, people do that. And especially given this time period, in the early part of the 18th century, that idea of the people, of the polis, is such a unique and intoxicating idea, such a proto democratic idea, almost, that it's something that I was really interested to explore. [00:38:49] Katherine Howe: And so Seneca ends up. We discovered that Seneca has named himself because he has cast off the name that was foisted upon him, and no one's allowed to use it. And so he has chosen [00:39:00] the name of a philosopher for himself, a Stoic, and when we first meet him, or when Hannah first meets him, she doesn't know what a philosopher is. [00:39:08] Katherine Howe: And so I liked the idea. It was important to me to have a main character who was a person of color, who was a self liberating person, because that is a part of the history of piracy that I feel like hasn't been really sufficiently explored. [00:39:23] Josh Hutchinson: The articles and the structure of how they organize themselves on the ship was, it's so radically different than what Hannah grew up with where she's got Mrs. Tomlinson being the authority figure, but then beyond Mrs. Tomlinson, there's the ministers and the magistrates. [00:39:45] Katherine Howe: Everybody outranks Hannah in Boston in 1726. And so the moment that she discovers that when she's on a pirate ship, they all put their, they all sign the articles, which are loosely based, I think, on the [00:40:00] articles of war. But it is a list of rules that really existed that spelled out their obligations to each other, who the officers were and how much everyone would be paid, how much people would be paid in the event of their being maimed or otherwise hurt and offers specific outlined bonuses. So when she discovers that there's a special bonus, you get to choose the best arms on board if you are the first person to spot a prize that you end up taking. It's the first time that Hannah has ever really been in an incentive labor relationship, that where she actually has an incentive to, to apply herself and do what she's doing. [00:40:38] Katherine Howe: And she throws herself into it very quickly. And we actually see how she is able to rise a little bit in the ranks from just being like a regular crew member to being rated able. Being an able seaman gives her like a greater sense of authority and purposefulness and belonging. [00:40:57] Sarah Jack: When I read your [00:41:00] articles, I thought how enjoyable that must have been for you to create. And then I just, I felt like I was taking all your bait through the story. And the article that jumped out to me... You know, a few sentences after the articles, here you have Hannah grabbing onto that article. And I had already written a note for myself. Oh, this is my favorite one. We saw that as her in, know, one of her ends, one of her ways to get traction to her next step. So I really loved the articles. I loved picking one and then finding that I was following the crumbs. I was like, oh man. [00:41:40] Katherine Howe: I'm glad. Yeah. Yeah. Hannah has freakish farsightedness, which is actually something that that I've given her for myself. There's not a whole lot of myself personally in Hannah, but I've always been farsighted. And particularly in one eye more than the others, which makes this bad for ball sports. So don't expect to throw a ball at me and have [00:42:00] me actually catch it. But can be handy when you're looking for something on the horizon. [00:42:05] Katherine Howe: I will also mention as you can imagine, I did a lot of research for A True Account. And the fruit of that research, besides the novel itself, is that in February, I'm releasing an edited volume, The Penguin Book of Pirates for Penguin Classics. And it's going to be a primary source reader, basically like The Penguin Book of Witches. [00:42:26] Katherine Howe: And it will include a lot of the original source materials that I read to fuel my imagination for a true account and for Hannah's adventure. And it starts in the 1500s and goes up through the Amistad, the case of the Amistad, which is in the 19th century, and I'm pretty excited for people to read that book. I think it's going to be really fun. And it also includes two excerpts from the most widespread fictional accounts of [00:43:00] pirates. One thing that's interesting to me, both as a historian, but also as obviously as a fiction writer is the way that, especially for something like piracy, the way that myth and fact can sometimes blur a little bit. [00:43:13] Katherine Howe: So there are a few examples in The Penguin Book of Pirates that are not factual, but were so widely circulated that people mistook them for fact. And then it includes two excerpts, one from Peter and Wendy, the novel version of Peter Pan, which talks about Captain Hook. And the other is 'What I Heard in the Apple Barrel,' the chapter from Treasure Island where Jim learns that Long John Silver is actually the leader of a secret pirate crew. [00:43:44] Katherine Howe: And it was fun to do those both, because those are both pirate stories we all know so intently, they're dramatized so much. And yet have you actually really gone back and really read them? For instance, Captain Hook [00:44:00] in Peter and Wendy, which is from 1911, we learned that he was a graduate of Eton. [00:44:05] Katherine Howe: And so like a lot of Captain Hook's ridiculousness, like you picture him, this sort of Disney restoration flowing wig and then crazy, the crazy coat and everything. But his foppishness derives from an embedded class critique in Peter and Wendy beyond anything else. [00:44:22] Katherine Howe: Or it's also interesting to me that there is actually an allusion in Peter and Wendy. Hook's nickname is Barbecue, or they talk about him going up against a pirate named Barbecue, and they're actually alluding to Long John Silver in Treasure Island. So they're like origin point, because Long John Silver's nickname is Barbecue in Treasure Island. So there is this intertextual aspect of even classic pirate lore, and that extends even into examples of actual piracy itself, because the generation of pirates who were active at the beginning of the 18th century, [00:45:00] like Edward Low or Blackbeard or some of these other guys that we know. They're actually a generation later then the first golden age generation of pirates from the 1680s, 1690s. So the guys who go pirating in the 1720s and teens have been hearing stories about the guys who were pirating in the 1680s and 1690s. So there's already this like meta aspect of even actual piracy. [00:45:26] Katherine Howe: And in fact, one of the, one of the guys who's my favorite is he was the guy who was dramatized in Our Flag Means Death. So one of the guys who was an active pirate in Bermuda, I think it was, in the 1710s and 1720s, was a guy named Stede Bonnet, and Stede Bonnet is fascinating, because whereas usually men go pirating out of necessity or a desperation, Stede Bonnet is rich and decides he just feels like going pirating. He gets out a ship, he hires the crew, [00:46:00] he consciously chooses to leave his life as a wealthy plantation owner and go raiding on the high seas. And he likes to wear all red and red feathers, and there's this very self aware aspect to it that I thought was really, it was really fascinating. So that's one of the reasons that the story in a true account is very much engaged with questions of authorship and truth and fiction and the relationship between those things and what is, what counts as a trustworthy source when we're talking about piracy. [00:46:37] Sarah Jack: What you do with your writing, your fiction writing, shows the power of historical fiction and why historical characters and fictional character representations of historical characters are so important. [00:46:52] Katherine Howe: Thank you very much. I'm glad that you think so. I have a sort of a different approach to historical fiction, but I think it's mainly, I think it's largely rooted in being an [00:47:00] Americanist and being, as I said before, particularly interested in the kinds of stories or the kinds of histories that are largely overwritten by the archive or are harder to excavate from the archive, stories about regular people, stories about people who are not literate or are not otherwise remembered, people who maybe have dramatic and memorable lives, but maybe those lives are not written in, historical annals. And so I think that's my perspective as a historical fiction author. [00:47:35] Katherine Howe: I'm not going to be writing any regency romances, I'm afraid. Although I do enjoy them, they are quite fun, but there's not going to be any court intrigue and no regency romance in my wheelhouse. [00:47:48] Katherine Howe: Piracy, yes. Riots, absolutely. [00:47:54] Josh Hutchinson: oh, wonderful, yeah, [00:47:57] Sarah Jack: Yes. [00:47:58] Katherine Howe: 100%.[00:48:00] [00:48:01] Josh Hutchinson: I'm there for that, [00:48:02] Katherine Howe: Yeah, [00:48:02] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah I wanted to know if we could talk about Hannah's sexuality, [00:48:08] Katherine Howe: Sure. Yeah, [00:48:10] Josh Hutchinson: because You've mentioned a lot of the important themes in this story, but one of those is her quest for finding herself, and that's revealed partly through her sexuality. [00:48:23] Katherine Howe: That's true. And yeah, writing Hannah as an explicitly sexual being, I'm, I tend to be a prude. And most of my fiction is very PG or PG 13. I tend to like, not have romantic scenes that much just because I don't think I'm very good at them. They're actually really hard to do well. [00:48:43] Katherine Howe: And so Hannah is, for me, is a little bit of a departure in that she is so explicitly a sexual being. And one of the questions that I wanted to raise in thinking about her was, I think was the extent to which [00:49:00] she, because she operates because of her class status and because of her gender, she operates in a tense point between, on the one hand, she could be seen as sexually vulnerable, right? And there are moments in the course of the story where we see a picture of that vulnerability. [00:49:22] Katherine Howe: Like at one point, she's, she's coming home from having sneaked off with her friends to watch William Fly's hanging, and she's on her way home and she doesn't want to go back to the inn because she's going to get in trouble for having sneaked out. And so she's hanging out in the street for a while by herself, but it's nighttime. But then she starts to attract attention because she is a young woman alone at night in the street, and she has to, and nothing happens in that moment, but I wanted to, us to be aware of what that choice would suggest about her. [00:49:52] Katherine Howe: We don't get a full picture of, of her life, her tavern life, as she puts it. But, she, there is a [00:50:00] fluidity to her sexuality, also. She has a quasi-romantic relationship with one of her female friends. And she gives us to understand that she'll let people stop in her hayloft with her, but that it's her decision. [00:50:15] Katherine Howe: And so on the one hand, she, within the context of her time, she is morally, like debased is too strong of a word, but she's not married. She is not a virgin. She is a sexual person, despite the fact that she's young and she's not married and she lives in this Calvinist, just post-Calvinist moment. [00:50:37] Katherine Howe: But at the same time, I wanted to explore Hannah, the way that Hannah takes what could be a vulnerability and turns it into a source of power for her, a source of power, also a source of pleasure, because Hannah, in, in her life has so little of her own, right? So little of her own that she owns or that she can enjoy or that she can rely on or that [00:51:00] she can count on. [00:51:00] Katherine Howe: She has no leisure to speak of. She has no time. She has no goods. She has very little comfort, but sexuality is a way that lots of people can find comfort or can find pleasure or can find freedom. And so I wanted to explore that a bit, and that comes into play in the pirate crew, as well. [00:51:22] Katherine Howe: Because of course there you would think with a young, sexed person, in a crew only of, of men, there's an obvious question to be asked there. And Hannah does ask that question. She addresses that question. She's here's how I made up my mind that I'm going to deal with that eventuality or that possibility. And so I'm intrigued that you wanted to, that you wanted to ask about her sexuality because it is, there's at least one sort of scene of Hannah's sexuality being deployed. [00:51:53] Katherine Howe: And it's not gratuitous, I don't think. I think it is important because it advances the plot in a way that the [00:52:00] plot has to advance. And of course there's an added risk of her discovery. And so that, that is part of what is at stake in the deployment of her sexuality later on in the story. [00:52:11] Katherine Howe: But I think that's something that, that we all have to decide as we are, especially when we are in our coming of age, as it were, coming into ourselves, whether that happens in our teens, whether that happens later in life. Sometimes, as there's another character in the story who comes into her own sexuality and the deployment of her sexuality. She's at a later point in her life. But for whatever reason, this is the moment when it is happening for her. And so I wanted to make that an issue for Hannah that she had to, it is another arena for her to decide how she wants her life to be lived and how she wants to assert control over her life. [00:52:52] Josh Hutchinson: And I think between the two eras that you choose, they're times of great sexual suppression, [00:53:00] and she's taking her independence from that. [00:53:03] Katherine Howe: Yeah, but sexual suppression of a different kind. One thing that's interesting to think about, talking of like the colonial period, on the one hand, it was a time of sexual suppression, but on the other hand, it was also a time of sexual frankness. You would have shared rooms like a married couple would have, a kid sleeping on a trundle bed next to them and a baby in the bed next to them, right there. They're not waiting until everyone's at school. You know what I mean? They're not like, they're not waiting for date night. That's not a thing that happens. Like there was a greater, you know, there were no bathrooms. You'd go off into the corner and you'd use the pot and whatever. [00:53:39] Katherine Howe: There was a different relationship between bodies in the late 17th and into the early 18th century than we have now. And it's partly because of the way that space was at a premium. There was a different sense of what privacy could look like at that time. Which I think is something that we forget, especially in [00:54:00] thinking about the kind of moral strictures under which Calvinists and just post-Calvinists were living. [00:54:06] Katherine Howe: There's a weird tension between those two facts. Like there's the fact of bodies in everyday life, and there's also the fact of this like incredibly heavy, overbearing Christianity informing every aspect of everyday life. And then in the other time period that we're talking about, which is 1930, that is a slightly different time when there were, I don't want to go into too much detail about it because I don't want to give too much away from that timeline. [00:54:33] Katherine Howe: But, it was also a time of changing sexual mores a bit, after the 1920s and into 1930, they're like, like laws were changing around sexuality to some extent, and the way that gender was performed or policed, depending on who you were and where you were and what time you were, was changing to some degree but not entirely. So it's a very different time. [00:54:56] Katherine Howe: But both of those times are actually quite different from the time we're living in right this minute, [00:55:00] which is another thing that I think is worth considering that, we, all of these historical moments are so contingent on so many different factors and so many different things. And so things that we would assume as natural in one time period would seem profoundly unnatural in another. [00:55:18] Josh Hutchinson: And you use that issue of privacy on, in Hannah's life on the ship also, where she's in disguise and can't be found out, but she has to share a head with dozens of men. [00:55:32] Katherine Howe: I know. [00:55:33] Josh Hutchinson: yeah, [00:55:33] Josh Hutchinson: that gets a little awkward for a moment. [00:55:36] Katherine Howe: Yeah. It's a little, it's a little bit awkward. At one point we address the question of of like her body and whether or not her body would give her away. And so even though she was 17 she was starving. So she was starving, and she'd spent her entire life undernourished. [00:55:52] Katherine Howe: So she would have been skinny. She would have been almost wiry. She would not have had any body fat. Without enough body [00:56:00] fat, she wouldn't, she may have even never started menstruating, right, even at 17. She would not have had breasts to speak of. She, her body would have still looked not like a child, but like a young youth. I think her body would have read very differently. [00:56:17] Katherine Howe: And so one thing that we, that I suggest in the story is that particularly in a time period where costume or clothing choice was so rigidly determined that if you saw someone dressed in britches and a blouse or a waistcoat, the assumption would be that you were looking at a male gendered person. [00:56:40] Katherine Howe: That there, there was no like, oh, I feel like wearing shorts today, option, like I'm speaking to you in t shirt and shorts today, I'm wearing the exact same thing that like a 12 year old boy would wear potentially, but that simply wasn't the case in the 1720s, and so thinking about Hannah's body, but also what that [00:57:00] body would have looked like, like the way that poverty and that time period etches itself in the body in some ways independent from sex, arguably. [00:57:10] Katherine Howe: And so that is part of how Hannah is able to be so persuasive in her disguise. And in fact, at one point I have a scene in the book where someone is looking at lots of paintings on the wall of sailors, and a lot of them are boys. And the character who's looking at them is starting, for the first time, thinks, oh, wait a minute. Are they boys? I don't know. Maybe they're not like part of it is, part of it is that you see what you expect to see. [00:57:37] Sarah Jack: Yeah, I really enjoyed the lessons that you give about that in this story, throughout the story. I think that right now our society is grappling with that, why do we have to expect a specific, defined person. The youth and others are [00:58:00] teaching You can't count on that. [00:58:03] Katherine Howe: Yeah. We're living through a really fascinating and exciting moment. And it's, I enjoy grappling with some of those questions in the way that I would being a, you know, a historian and a historical fiction person grappling with it and in a historically-informed way. [00:58:20] Sarah Jack: Do we have time to talk about execution? [00:58:22] Katherine Howe: We always have time to talk about execution. Are you kidding? [00:58:25] Sarah Jack: I really like the parallel between the hangings of the pirates in Boston, and then you've got how the crews handle punishment. [00:58:36] Katherine Howe: Yeah, that's true. That is also true. And this again, this goes back to the uses of terror. This is an argument that historian Marcus Rediker very generously gave me a quote for A True Account. I was really blown away that he would agree to do that. His work is very seminal to my thinking about pirates and piracy. And one of the big arguments that he has made is about the [00:59:00] role of terror in piracy. And that role was twofold. One was the terror that the pirates inflicted on the people that they were raiding. So it was actually, the threat of violence was actually their most effective tool, perhaps even more effective than the violence itself. [00:59:19] Katherine Howe: And at one point in the course of a raid, we even learned that it's not out of, it's not unheard of for a ship to see pirates coming and just say, 'take it all, we give up,' because the threat of terror, A, and B, because of the role of insurance, actually. From a historiographic standpoint, thinking about insurance probably doesn't sound very exciting, but all the cargo that were raided by pirates, including human cargo, thank you very much, were all insured by insurance companies, and so in many cases, the mariners who are on board the ship, they have no interest in what is being taken from them. They, why would they lay their lives [01:00:00] down for a load of lumber and, or a load of breadfruit or whatever it is? Why would they lay their lives down for that when the insurance company is just going to make the syndicate whole anyway? That's the insurance company's problem. And of course, the insurance companies were then in a position to put pressure on governments to reduce the risks of piracy to maritime trade. [01:00:19] Katherine Howe: But in many instances, the threat of violence was enough. And would give a reason for mariners to, to happily give up, not, maybe not happily, but to give up their goods. And and oftentimes if a mariner, for whatever reason, or a captain decided to fight the pirates off and was successful, I can point to at least one example of an insurance company actually rewarding the captain with a really nice silver tea service for defending their property. And so it was certainly in the insurance companies' interest for piracy to be suppressed. [01:00:55] Katherine Howe: That being said, there's a scene where the Ned Lowe's crew [01:01:00] takes a small man of war, a small like Navy ship and hangs everybody up in the spars and in the rafters. And that was a not uncommon way of either murdering people or at times trying to torture them into getting information. So like you could hang somebody and then let them down and ask, 'okay, tell me where the goods really are,' hang them, let them down, 'no, really. I mean it', hang them, let them down because hanging, of course If it's the choking kind takes a little while. [01:01:29] Katherine Howe: That's a grim way to think about it, but it's absolutely true. So you're right. There is a parallel, a visual parallel between the hangings of pirates at the beginning, the gibbeting of William Fly's body, the way that the state used terror to try to suppress piracy. And the ways that pirates used terror to try to get what they wanted, or the threat of terror to get what they wanted. [01:01:54] Katherine Howe: And as I said, that argument, that sort of dual pronged uses of terror, twin uses of terror, was an [01:02:00] argument Marcus Rediker has made, not me. But which I think is a very persuasive and interesting argument, and is at work in some plot points in [01:02:07] Sarah Jack: and it gave you then the opportunity to show the responses of the people who are experiencing the terror. And there are different ones. [01:02:17] Katherine Howe: Yeah. There are some different ones. And yeah it's interesting because at the very, at the beginning, we see the responses to William Fly's gibbeting, particularly for Hannah, like the William Fly actually becomes kind of a recurring theme, almost like a Greek chorus in Hannah's ear a little bit, because she keeps thinking about him. She keeps turning her mind back to him. And because she was so horrified by the spectacle of his mutilated body. He had gone from being this very handsome man, who not much older than her, handsome, rebellious like playing to the crowd. One thing that William Fly really did do this, which is amazing, William Fly, he's on the scaffold, he's [01:03:00] about to be hanged, and he looks at the noose, and he says to the hangman, "don't you know your trade?" He unties the noose and reties it better, because he's a sailor and he knows how to tie knots. Which like, for my mind is ranked right up there with Sarah Good, "I'm no more witch than you are a wizard. And if you take away my life, God will give you blood to drink," for badass things people have done on a scaffold. Things that I would be far too terrified and pipsqueaky to possibly contemplate. But he really did do that. [01:03:28] Katherine Howe: And so there is both the way that Hannah experiences some kind of mixture of inspiration and love and pity when she sees what's done to William Fly that then turns into a kind of determination or rebellion. [01:03:46] Katherine Howe: And then there is a different reaction later in the story to a pretty grotesque scene of hanging that causes a pretty pronounced change in how the plot is unfolding and in the group of pirates. [01:04:00] And it shows the different ways that terror can be brought to bear on individual people. . [01:04:08] Katherine Howe: And for that matter, it's still also for anyone who spent as much time thinking about witches and witchcraft as I have, or as your listeners have, you can't help but think about the spectacle of the hangings at Salem too. That was also a method of the state employing strategies of terror to get compliance. It was the same thing, the same strategy. And the fact that the Salem Witches bodies were cut down and then chucked into a ravine and were not, that it's not gibbeting, but it's not that different. It's treating their bodies like, like trash instead of objects in which a soul used to dwell. And so in that sense, especially given the proximity of those events in time, the fact that Cotton Mather presided over both of them is, at least for me, certainly something that was in the back of my mind while writing those scenes. [01:04:57] Josh Hutchinson: And since you've [01:05:00] written about both witches and pirates, have you detected any other similarities between the two? [01:05:07] Katherine Howe: I think the biggest areas of similarity are, well, now that, thinking about it, in some respect, they're both economic crimes. And one of the things, and piracy ends up being suppressed and becomes less of an issue in the late 18th century and then resumes its role into the 19th century as the politics of the slave trade changes, and witchcraft recedes as a crime with the dawning of the consumer revolution in the 1730s, and so in that instance, of course with witchcraft it's like personal household level of crime, butter not coming together, beer going off, what have you. And with piracy it, the crime is perhaps on a larger scale, because it is being, it is against nations and [01:06:00] nations' economic interests, and therefore nations have an invested incentive to suppress it and to thwart it. [01:06:07] Katherine Howe: But other than that, there it, there's a funny, there is a funny similarity to it. They're both essentially economic crime. They're essentially economic crimes that are controlled or suppressed with methods of terror. They are crimes that are perpetrated by working people, people without a lot of economic power, a lot of, or without a lot of social power. So in that sense, maybe there are some similarities, of course, and of course, but then you have to look at the way that they're gendered. [01:06:36] Katherine Howe: But that has to do with the universe in which each crime is unfolding, because the universe of the witchcraft crime is a domestic universe. It is the domestic sphere. And the universe of piracy is a maritime universe, which is an almost entirely male space. So in a, maybe there is more points of commonality between those two than we've thought about up until this point. [01:06:59] Katherine Howe: It's a good question, [01:07:00] Josh. I'm glad you asked. [01:07:01] Sarah Jack: I had thought on the side a little bit, because you had me thinking so much about gender roles. And then I was thinking, I was like, Oh, look at this over here with the piracy. That's a lot of male. And then over here in, In New England, a lot of, female witch accusation. So that's interesting. [01:07:20] Katherine Howe: yeah, it's interesting. I don't know that I have a a particular conclusion to draw, but it is intriguing to, to juxtapose those two sets of circumstances, those two sets of extreme people, like individual regular people in extreme circumstances are, that's an interesting juxtaposition. [01:07:37] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah, there's two sides of a coin, they're the female and male aspect of the supervillain, so to speak. They're menaces, and they terrorize communities. [01:07:51] Katherine Howe: And anyone can be turned. Maybe there's another way to think about it, too, that you don't know who, who is going to, who will fall next. Who is going to, who will [01:08:00] resist like Philip Ashton and swim away to Roatan Island and camp out, and who will cave and sign the articles? [01:08:05] Katherine Howe: And there's also a question of signing. You put, you, you put your mark on the articles just as you write your name in the devil's book. And I have actually the. The signature that I have Hannah use when she signs the article, she chooses a spiral, and because she's not literate at the time of the story. And she says she chooses it because of the pattern of stars that she sees in the night sky over her head. [01:08:28] Katherine Howe: But actually, I chose that mark for her because it was one of the marks, one of the Salem girls made. One of the accusing girls made that mark, who wasn't It wasn't literate. I'm sure other people made that mark as well or chose that mark, but I, that is where I had seen that mark before. [01:08:45] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah, that's a powerful symbolism. You've certainly had a busy writing schedule and publishing schedule. [01:08:57] Katherine Howe: I'm tired. [01:08:58] Josh Hutchinson: Would you like to tell us anything [01:09:00] about Astor? [01:09:01] Katherine Howe: So I have been, yeah it's a busy publishing season for me. On September the 19th, whatever that Tuesday is my next collaboration with Anderson Cooper is going to be published by Harper. It's called Astor: The Rise and Fall of an American Fortune, and like Vanderbilt, it is an unconventional look at the sweep of one person. [01:09:27] Katherine Howe: It's about a major American family, but it also, it goes in a couple of unexpected directions, just as Vanderbilt did go in some unexpected directions. But it starts with John Jacob Astor, who immigrated first to Baltimore and then to New York from Germany, Waldorf, Germany, and became first a fur trader and then started making his money in Manhattan real estate. [01:09:49] Katherine Howe: And then we go all the way up through the kind of conflagration that ended the Astor dynasty in New York, which was the trial of Brooke Astor's son, [01:10:00] Anthony Marshall, for elder abuse shortly after her death. And that was about 20 years ago, give or take. And in between, we have some really interesting waypoints, including an Astor being the most famous person who went down on Titanic and including some unexpected twists and turns. [01:10:18] Katherine Howe: So we talk, we end up having a way of talking about the draft riots, which is the biggest race riot in New York city history that happened. If you saw Gangs of New York, actually, the movie, the Martin Scorsese movie. We just saw a dramatization of of, the draft riots. And we also touched on the Astor Place Riot, which happened before before the draft riots. [01:10:37] Katherine Howe: And it looks like Vanderbilt. It looks at, What wealth can do to individuals, but it also looks at the unusual ways in which this one particular family have etched themselves into the American landscape in some regards. And I think it's going to be pretty fun. It's meant to be like an episodic history, easy to dip into and out of. You can read a [01:11:00] chapter at a time, very meant to be very readable. And if you're at all interested in the Gilded Age or in New York or riots, it's a pretty great read, and I'm really proud of it. And so that'll be out in September. And A True Account: Hannah Masury's Sojourn Amongst the Pirates, Written by Herself comes out on November the 21st. [01:11:20] Katherine Howe: I have to say as a native Texan where there, there is an independent bookstore on the front lines of attempts to ban books in schools for teenagers. Shout out to Blue Willow Books for all that they're doing. I think it's very important. We actually can't really overstate how important independent bookstores are for free reading. And so I would really encourage readers who are listening to this to support their independent bookstore and their local library that way. [01:11:45] Katherine Howe: A True Account will be out on November the 21st, which is the Tuesday right before Thanksgiving. And I'm gonna be doing a couple of events that week, and then also the following week, which you can find out about on my website katherinehowe.com/events, [01:12:00] or on my Twitter, where I'm still, strangely, on Twitter, @katherinebhowe, or on Instagram which I have a little bit more fun, and there's lots of sailing pictures there, too, which is also @katherinebhowe and then The Penguin Book of Pirates will come out in February, on February 6th. So it's going to be a piratey winter in my household, and maybe then I'll have a vacation. [01:12:23] Sarah Jack: Good. So is that what's next for you? Some [01:12:27] Katherine Howe: We'll see I, I have, I'm already have an idea or two for a couple of novels that I would like to work on next. I think one of them might be a New York City, It's a little bit, because I've been spending so much time thinking about New York in the 19th century riot era New York, I might find that a fun time to write about, and we'll see if Anderson and I can come up with another collaboration. I think it would be fun to do, and I have a, an idea where that might go, but we'll have to see what his schedule looks like for that as well. [01:12:55] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah. I know Vanderbilt is such a great book.[01:13:00] Looking forward to reading Astor. [01:13:02] Katherine Howe: We're really proud of Astor. I think it's pretty great, and I think it's a little bit. As I say, we try to have a more critical view of history. So it's not like a straight up celebration of wealth and splendor book. There's plenty of wealth and splendor, but there's also some the other side of the coin as well, as you might expect from anything I'm involved with. [01:13:23] Katherine Howe: Yeah. Gotta have riots. Riots. [01:13:27] Josh Hutchinson: How can you have a book without a riot? [01:13:29] Katherine Howe: How can you have a book about a riot? Is it even possible? Is it a book if there's no riot? [01:13:33] Katherine Howe: Oh, that's what's up for me. [01:13:36] Josh Hutchinson: Oh, that's awesome. Congratulations on all your successes. [01:13:42] Katherine Howe: Thank you so much. And thank you so much for inviting me back on on your podcast. I've had such a pleasure. Such a great time visiting with you both. [01:13:50] Sarah Jack: And now for a minute with Mary. [01:13:52] Mary-Louise Bingham: Dr. Charu WaliKhanna welcomed me from India in September with a smile and [01:14:00] namaste before we chatted about ongoing witch hunts. She is a Supreme Court lawyer specializing in women's rights. Dr. WaliKhanna educates on accusations against tribal, single, elderly, or widowed women who inherit or own their land. A related family will call her a Daian, the Indian term for witch. The family will kick her off her land, if she is not killed first. There is no centralized anti-witch-hunting law in India. However, there are varying anti-witch-hunting laws in different states, the strictest in the state of Assam. Anyone who accuses another as a dayan in Assam and the accused is murdered will go to trial with no possibility of being released on bail and could face seven years to life in jail. [01:14:46] Mary-Louise Bingham: Watch Dr. WaliKhanna's interview in the video, Witch Hunting in the 21st Century. Read her book, Law on Violence Against Women. Thank you for your voice, Charu WaliKhanna. [01:14:59] Sarah Jack: Thank [01:15:00] you, Mary. [01:15:01] Josh Hutchinson: Here's Sarah with End Witch Hunts News. [01:15:04] Sarah Jack: End Witch Hunts urges collective action to end witch hunting practices worldwide. At End Witch Hunts, our commitment is unwavering to actively engage in educating and advocating for the cessation of witch hunting practice. We can do this through the power of collective action. Thank you for already supporting our projects by listening to and sharing our podcast episodes. If you'd like to further contribute, please consider a financial contribution. Your financial support empowers us to continue our education and advocacy efforts. As the holiday season approaches, we invite you to keep End Witch Hunts in mind when considering your charitable gifts, especially with Giving Tuesday right around the corner. We have donate buttons on our websites. [01:15:46] Sarah Jack: Our latest historical justice initiative, the Massachusetts Witch Hunt Justice Project, is dedicated to securing formal exoneration for those wrongly convicted as witches in Boston. We are also seeking a formal apology for all documented victims of the [01:16:00] Massachusetts Colony Witch Trials. Each of these individuals has a story of innocence, injustice, and consequences due to false accusations. You can make a difference immediately by signing and sharing the petition. Do so now at change.org/witchtrials. [01:16:16] Sarah Jack: If you live in Massachusetts, you can share this project with your legislative representatives and ask them to propose the amendment. If you are a voting member of the Massachusetts General Court, we need you to lead or collaborate on this amendment effort now. Please consider reaching out to the project so that we can support you as you propose or support such an amendment. Please take action, and let's work together to help close a chapter of American history that calls out to us all for answers. [01:16:43] Sarah Jack: This holiday season, as you gather with friends and family, consider sparking friendly conversations about social issues, like the historical and modern implications of witch hunts. While it requires a thoughtful and respectful approach, discussing such topics within your community can be both enriching and eye opening. [01:16:59] Sarah Jack: [01:17:00] Here's a guide to initiating a positive dialogue. Identify shared interests and experiences. Begin by finding common ground. Try asking about their podcast or reading preferences. Creating a comfortable sharing atmosphere before diving into more substantial topics. Lead with basic information, starting the topic with an informative comment, such as, 'I've recently been learning about historical and modern witch hunts.' This statement naturally invites a response and opens the door to a relaxed and friendly chat about the realities of witch hunting. Share a specific element. Choose one aspect of witch hunts that you find intriguing or important and share it casually. Whether it's a historical fact about witchcraft trials, or your interest in learning about modern violence related to witchcraft accusations, keep it simple and factual. Bring up a favorite book, podcast episode, share about relevant online resources like our website. This approach helps ease into the topic and fosters a more comfortable environment for such a layered social issue. Respect diverse perspectives, [01:18:00] especially around celebrations and get togethers with loved ones. Accept that people have diverse perspectives on social issues. [01:18:07] Sarah Jack: Recommend additional resources. If the conversation flows smoothly and your friend or family member expresses interest, recommend additional resources on modern witch hunts. This could include documentaries, articles, more podcast episodes, or other educational materials. Always be mindful of comfort levels. Pay attention to cues from your conversation partner. If they seem disinterested or uncomfortable, respect their boundaries and avoid pushing more information. You've already successfully introduced the topic and created awareness. They may take time to think about and process what you introduced them to. Let them decide to learn more. [01:18:40] Sarah Jack: May our suggestions serve as inspiration for you as you craft your unique approach to navigating social issue conversations. This holiday season, aim to enrich your personal growth by fostering understanding and by seeking meaningful connections, successfully weaving the social significance of witch hunting into your conversations is undoubtedly a triumph. [01:19:00] However, when you dedicate effort to learn more about those around you, recognizing their perspectives and experiences, consider that a victory as well. Whether you immerse yourself in thought provoking discussions about witch trials or focus on finding connections, both avenues actively contribute to richer social interactions. [01:19:16] Sarah Jack: Your support is instrumental in driving positive change and bringing an end to the dark history of witch hunting practices. For more information and to contribute, visit endwitchhunts.org. [01:19:28] Josh Hutchinson: Thank you, Sarah, [01:19:30] Sarah Jack: You're welcome. [01:19:32] Josh Hutchinson: And thank you for listening to Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial and Pirate Podcast. [01:19:37] Sarah Jack: Join us next week. [01:19:39] Josh Hutchinson: Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. [01:19:43] Sarah Jack: Visit ThouShaltNotSuffer.com. [01:19:45] Josh Hutchinson: And remember to tell your friends about the show. [01:19:48] Sarah Jack: Please rate and review the show wherever you get your podcasts. [01:19:52] Josh Hutchinson: Have a great today and a beautiful tomorrow. 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