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Awards and Reviews for Black Flags, Blue Waters


Chosen as a "Must-Read" book for 2019 by the Massachusetts Center for the Book.


Finalist for the 2019 Julia Ward Howe Award given by the Boston Author's Club

Selected by Goodreads as one of September’s top five History/Biography titles recommended in their monthly New Releases e-mail. 


"Dolin adroitly addresses these themes [the romantic appeal versus the hard truth of the pirate life] in Black Flags, Blue Waters, an entertaining romp across the oceans that shows how piracy is an inseparable element of our past. Here, as in his earlier books, Leviathan (2007), about whaling, and Brilliant Beacons (2016), about lighthouse keepers, Mr. Dolin explores a dreamy occupation and then shifts our focus to the gritty, perilous realities of leading such a life. . . . Dolin has a keen eye for detail and the telling episode. Readers will learn fascinating tidbits of language, habits and cultural assimilation."Rinker Buck, author of The Oregon Trail, in review in the Wall Street Journal


"Black Flags, Blue Waters is a fast-paced scholarly narrative about seamen who turned rogue to terrorize the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Atlantic. . . . Dolin has produced an elegantly written history. His streaming writing style makes for enjoyable reading, and his penchant for distinguishing where fact has been garnished and morphed into legend creates sundry unexpected revelations. These romantic or repulsive sea rovers continue to captivate the imaginations of the public. Over the years, many books about pirates have been published, but Black Flags, Blue Waters is distinctive and an excellent addition to this subdivision of maritime history."Louis Arthur Norton, Sea History Magazine


"In Black Flags, Blue Waters, Eric Jay Dolin presents the surprising and enthralling Age of Pirates that was more bloody than golden. In the process, he proves again that skillfully presented narrative nonfiction is even more gripping than swashbuckling mythology. If you've never read Dolin before, prepare to have a new favorite historian."—Jeff Guinn, author of Manson and The Road to Jonestown


"This is a masterly and vivid account of the pirates who operated around America’s coasts in the late 1600s and early 1700's. Using an impressive array of sources Eric Jay Dolin throws a fresh light on familiar stories, unearths some new and surprising facts, and skillfully sets the exploits of a notorious generation of pirates in their historical context."—David Cordingly, author of Under The Black Flag

"'Black Flags, Blue Waters' is rumbustious enough for the adventure-hungry, but it also hews to the facts as they are known about the pirate lives and activities during the Golden Age of Piracy. . . . Dolin’s book is not only a fine entertainment, but it draws the pirate in a clear light. These weren’t “misanthropic loners with anger issues.” No, “their selfish goal was to take money from the rich, or from anyone for that matter, and give it to the poor people they cared about most — themselves! Pirates had no broader or altruistic political agenda, and gravitated to this lifestyle for monetary gain, not to enact social change.” No Robin Hoods these blokes, but industrious devils with greed issues. Sounds familiar enough."

Peter Lewis, San Francisco Chronicle

"Dolin's work is a new take on the well-trodden path of pirate history, as scholarly as it is entertaining. . . . In Black Flags, Blue Waters, Dolin brings colonial America vividly to life and examines how the colonists and officials clashed and collaborated, and how piracy played its part in building the new economy. . . . he has an eye for the sort of detail that brings colonial North America springing from the page. Keeping such a sprawling, complex world with so many larger-than-life characters in check is no mean feat, and it is one that Dolin manages with considerable aplomb. . . . This book will appeal not only to scholars of the golden ages of piracy and exploration, but to anyone who enjoys a dramatic, well-told story. Black Flags, Blue Waters is an important work in its field, rich in scholarly sources and providing some welcome historical context for piracy's heyday and inevitable decline. It is immensely readable, and at least as thrilling and action-packed as any pirate legend!" FIVE STAR REVIEWAll About History (UK's leading independent history magazine)

"Eric Jay Dolin titled his new book Black Flag, Blue Waters with the tagline: The Epic History of America’s Most Notorious Pirates, which couldn’t be more apt. It is indeed “epic,” but don’t hesitate for a moment to dive into what, in fact, is a page turner and full of intriguing history, insights, and tidbits, whether you have a life-long passion for pirates or not."—Abby Remer, Martha's Vineyard Times

Black Flags, Blue Waters is “a fascinating voyage into the golden age of piracy that not only proves true some of the stereotypes of legend, book and film, but also debunks others and shockingly reveals the depth of early America’s connection to the outlaw seafarers. . . . Thar be treasure here.”—Jim Ewing, Clarion Ledger 

“Gripping…Dolin, who has previously written popular narratives about whaling, the fur trade and opium trafficking, finds another can’t-miss subject in the adventures of Kidd, Bonnet, Blackbeard and their ilk. Dolin makes it fresh by focusing on the interaction between pirates and the British colonies. His evidence is irrefutable: pirate cash and stolen goods were invaluable to colonial ports.”Anne Bartlett, BookPage

“A vivid and surprising book. Black Flags, Blue Waters weaves old names and fresh themes in unanticipated ways, giving us a deep history of American piracy that reads like a blood-drenched thriller.”—Stephan Talty, author of Empire of Blue Water and The Black Hand

"It's a salty yarn that's sure to kidnap any student of the sea."Martha's Vineyard Magazine

“Eric Jay Dolin has written a tour de force history of this period in American history. Black Flags, Blue Waters brings to life the famous, the not-so-famous, and the infamous of the ranks of American pirates during the... Golden Age [of Piracy].”
- Michael Pierce, Midwestern Rewind

"So ubiquitous are pirates into our culture, that it’s easy for us to see them as cartoonish figures with swagger a la Jack Sparrow — but of course, they were actual people, some plundered our own New England waters, and in some ways, helped our early colonies thrive. So we learn in historian Eric Jay Dolin’s “Black Flags, Blue Waters: the Epic History of America’s Most Notorious Pirates.” This one just hit shelves a few days ago and it’s utterly fascinating. . . .  Dolin introduces us to a “rogue’s gallery of maritime plunderers.” I picked it up to read the first few pages, and hours later, I was halfway through, glued to stories that felt lifted from movies, a colonial history I never learned in school, and a few pirates so brutal they could be characters in “Game of Thrones." . . . And while the book is packed with tales like this, it’s moreover a meticulously researched history, an utterly engrossing story of the Age of Exploration, the early American colonies and how these lawless rogues fit into economics and history. Mind blowing stuff.—Lauren Daley, South Coast Today

"Dolin doesn’t just write a first-rate history of the Golden Age of Piracy, he puts us on deck with the men themselves, bringing us into the action and leaving no doubt as to why these great rogues matter to this day."Robert Kurson, author of Rocket Men


"As he did with whales and lighthouses, Eric Jay Dolin gives us another sea-meets-shore epic wrapped in a swashbuckling narrative. Like a pirate’s treasure chest, this book is chock full of gold pieces that had me asking: “Why didn’t I know this?” . . .  A fascinating adventure story filled with rogues, rascals, and ruthless renegades, this is stirring history that reads like a novel."— Stephen Puleo, author of Dark Tide

"Bravo! Eric Jay Dolin--deftly blending scholarship and drama--has captured the flotilla of rogues who tormented merchants and crews along the American coasts. He powerfully re-creates the pirate life—from outlaw ports to stolen ships, from sunken gold to mass hangings. However, truth to tell, we do differ on Captain Kidd but that’s what keeps the world of pirate scholarship so lively."—Richard Zacks, author of Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd 

"Black Flags, Blue Waters is a compelling examination of the economics, geopolitics and strong—sometimes mad—personalities that fueled the great age of New World piracy. It not only illuminates a fascinating era of maritime history but also the dark actions of desperate men."—Dean King, author of A Sea of Words and Skeletons on the Zahara


“[Dolin] revels in the marauding adventures of these high-seas brigands while explaining factors, economic and political, involved in the rise and decline of the piratical phenomenon. … Amply illustrated, Dolin's realistic rendition of piracy, which he contrasts with its romanticized, Jolly Roger image, will enthrall readers seeking a new take on this ever-popular topic.Booklist.

“In this informative volume . . . Dolin more than meets his objective of separating fact from fiction . . . an excellent starting point for readers interested in this misunderstood chapter of American history.” —Publishers Weekly

“Dolin has penned masterly histories of North American whaling (Leviathan), lighthouses (Brilliant Beacons), and now piracy. . . . VERDICT A colorful and well-researched study of piracy's glory days, rooted in historical context. Sure to appeal to pirate enthusiasts as well as serious researchers.”—Library Journal

"Intriguing history of piracy's heyday . . . Dolin helpfully dismisses some of the more potent pirate myths. . . . [and offers] an informative and often entertaining blend of narrative history and analysis that should appeal to a general audience." –Kirkus Reviews

"With his unmatchable academic credentials and a keen eye for detail, Eric Jay Dolin takes us among the pirates on the high seas in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century. It is an authentic account of outlaws and strong men in colonial America. Dolin gives us new perspectives on colonial America’s geopolitics as well as social and class structure during America’s colonial period. This brilliantly written book betrays Dolin’s gift for writing. He has the gift of making history entertaining with real rogues and politicians from history. Over one hundred illustrations and eight pages of color illustrations make it an absolute must-read entertaining history book."Washington Book Review

"Dolin’s Black Flags, Blue Waters offers a scholarly but brisk survey of these raucous times. . . . for fans hungry for a guttural “arrgh!,” he servers up plenty of ripping yarns. —Ben Steelman, Wilmington Star News 


"Black Flags, Blue Waters is a terrific -- and at times terrifying -- read. Tearing back the fiction of Hollywood movies, Eric Jay Dolin presents a frighteningly accurate and riveting portrayal of America's pirates and the surprising ways their ruthless trade affected the colonies and helped shape the American experience."—Gregory N. Flemming, author of At the Point of a Cutlass


"Once again Eric Jay Dolin has taken a massive subject and focused it into a single volume that is both well-researched and highly readable. This true story of the pirates who infested the shores of America during piracy’s “Golden Age” is a fascinating look at who and what these criminals and their accomplices ashore truly were. It is the perfect antidote for the Johnny Depp-ism that has infected this part of our nation’s history."—James L. Nelson, author of Benedict Arnold’s Navy

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