"Captain Kidd has gone down in history as America's most ruthless buccaneer, fabulously rich, burying dozens of treasure chests up and down the eastern seaboard. Over the centuries, novelists, relentless treasure hunters, and even historians have stoked this pirate legend. Robert Louis Stevenson, for one, placed "Kidd's Anchorage" on Treasure Island. But it turns out that most everyone, even many respected scholars, have the story all wrong. Captain William Kidd was no career cut-throat; he was a tough, successful New York sea captain who was hired to chase pirates. In 1696, he set out on a near-impossible mission to travel in a lone ship with a mutinous crew, heading 4,000 miles round the tip of Africa to track down a handful of die-before-surrender pirates and then bring back their treasure to the governor of New York and other secret backers." "Through it all, Captain Kidd found himself racing a long-forgotten rogue by the name of Robert Culliford, who lured Kidd's crew to mutiny not once, but twice." "Through research, author Richard Zacks has pieced together the story of Kidd versus Culliford, of pirate hunter versus pirate. Culliford climbed from Caribbean cabin boy to pirate captain, once capturing a ship in the Indian Ocean loaded with gold and several dozen wives and daughters of the local Moslem nobility. He divvied up both the gold and the women. This was an era of tall-masted sailing ships, and lords in full wigs; the drama on land played out in the smuggler's haven of New York City and in Cotton Mather-dominated Boston and in edge-of-empire London." "Across the oceans of the world, the pirate hunter, Kidd, pursued the pirate, Culliford. One man would hang in the harbor; the other would walk away from the treasure. The Pirate Hunter is both a masterpiece of historical detective work and a page-turner, and it delivers something rare: a pirate story for grown-ups."--BOOK JACKET.
Kidd maintained to the end he operated as an honorable privateer, serving his commission. However, He once faced a mutiny by his crew, anxious for a prize when none was forthcoming. In a fit of passion, Kidd clocked the gunnery officer with what became a fatal blow when the gunner encouraged the crew to take an allied Dutch vessel. This would be Kidd's undoing in the end.
The first half of the story details a captain determined to do right, but often facing a dilemma due to the nature of his work. Kidd takes an Arab vessel, which ought to pay off handsomely. Things just don't work out that way, however, and when docked in Puritanical Boston, he is arrested on unspecified charges.
The remainder of the book details Kidd's incarceration, as well as the fate of other rouges associated with Kidd at the time. In the end, Kidd's treasure was inaccessible, and the resulting poverty was the primary reason he could not afford legal council that likely could have exonerated him. As it turned out, perjuring "witnesses" commanded the attention of the jury, and things didn't work out so well for the erstwhile captain. The fact his treasure horde was never found grants Kidd a legacy that endures to this day.
In related events, the decedents of Kidd ultimately did well for themselves once property in New York and Manhattan was restored to his widow. His descendants include governors and senators and one signatory of the Declaration of Independence. Sometimes, bad things happen to not-so-bad people, and this book is testimony to one history's most illustrious examples.