Barbados and Jamaica 1648. The lush and deadly Caribbean paradise, domain of rebels and slaveholders, of bawds and buccaneers. Colonists fight a wishful war for freedom against England.
The men had six canoes in all, wide tree trunks hollowed out by burning away the heart, Indian style. They carried axes and long-barreled muskets, and all save one were bare to the waist, with breeches and boots patched together from uncured hides. By profession they were roving hunters, forest incarnations of an older world, and their backs and bearded faces, earth brown from the sun, were smeared with pig fat to repel the swarms of tropical insects.
After launching from their settlement at Tortuga, off northern Hispaniola, they headed toward a chain of tiny islands sprawling across the approach to the Windward Passage, route of the Spanish galeones inbound for V...