8. The Captain Sharkey Quartet

Captain John Sharkey, Conan Doyle’s ruthless pirate villain, appeared in four short stories, three in 1897 and one in 1911.

You can read the stories here: https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php/Sir_Arthur_Conan_Doyle:Captain_Sharkey

The episode can be heard here: http://doingsofdoyle.podbean.com/.


Set in the early years of the eighteenth century, after 'the great Wars of the Spanish Succession has been brought to an end by the Treaty of Utrecht,' the four story saga of the notorious pirate Captain John Sharkey charts his brutal exploits throughout the Caribbean and beyond, including his near-fatal encounter with Sir Charles Ewan, the Governor of St. Kitts, the double-dealing of the pirate-turned-Sharkey hunter Stephen Craddock, the vengeful mission of the tragic Copley Banks, and the hidden terror of the Portabello with its beautiful and insidiously deadly cargo...

Writing and publication history

Sharkey by Paul M. Chapman
Commissioned by Cyril Arthur Pearson for Pearson’s Magazine and written in mid-1896/early 1897.

A Rover Chanty (The Speaker, 27 June 1896) - https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php?title=A_Rover_Chanty

Tales of the High Seas No. 1: The Governor of St. Kitts (Pearson’s Magazine, January 1897) - https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php?title=The_Governor_of_St._Kitt%27s

Tales of the High Seas No. 2: The Two Barques (Pearson’s Magazine, March 1897) - https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php?title=The_Two_Barques

Tales of the High Seas No. 3: The Voyage of Copley Banks (Pearson’s Magazine, May 1897) - https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php?title=The_Voyage_of_Copley_Banks

The Blighting of Sharkey (Pearson’s Magazine, April 1911) - https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php?title=The_Blighting_of_Sharkey

Pirates before Sharkey

Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe (1719), Captain Singleton (1720) and The King of Pirates (1720) - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Defoe

Captain Charles Johnson, A General History of the Robberies & Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates (1724). Authorship disputed – some say it is Defoe - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_General_History_of_the_Pyrates

Walter Scott, The Pirate (1822) - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pirate_(novel)

Captain Frederick Marryat, The Pirate (1836) - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Marryat

Edgar Allan Poe, The Gold-Bug (1843) - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Gold-Bug

1880s revival

Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island (1881-2, 1883) - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treasure_Island

Robert Louis Stevenson, The Master of Ballantrae (1889) - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Master_of_Ballantrae

Gilbert and Sullivan, The Pirates of Penzance (1879) - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pirates_of_Penzance

Pirates after Sharkey

Emilio Salgari
Rafael Sabatini, The Sea Hawk (1915), Captain Blood (1922) and The Black Swan (1932) - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rafael_Sabatini

Emilio Salgari, The Black Corsair (1898); the Sandokan novels (1883-1913) - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emilio_Salgari

J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan (1904-11) - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Pan

William Hope Hodgson, The Ghost Pirates (1909) - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Hope_Hodgson

William Clark Russell, The Frozen Pirate (1887) - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Clark_Russell

Russell Thorndike, Doctor Syn: A Tale of the Romney Marsh (1915) - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctor_Syn

Though not mentioned in the podcast, it's worth a shout-out to Daphne du Maurier's Frenchman's Creek (1941) which was adapted for the cinema in 1944 and starred Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce.

Other Conan Doyle works referenced

Kenneth Williams as Sharkey by Mark Jones

Through the Magic Door (1907) - https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php?title=Through_the_Magic_Door

Mr Stevenson’s Methods in Fiction (1890) - https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php?title=Mr._Stevenson%27s_Methods_in_Fiction

The Five Orange Pips (1891) - https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php?title=The_Five_Orange_Pips

Podcast errata

A couple of slip-ups. Mark mentioned that Copley Banks' wife and daughter were murdered by Sharkey; it was actually his wife and two sons. Also Poe's The Gold Bug was first published in 1843 (corrected above) and not 1853.  

Next time on the Doings of Doyle…

Conan Doyle’s not-so-festive short story, An Exciting Christmas Eve, or, My Lecture on Dynamite (1883). Read it here: https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php?title=An_Exciting_Christmas_Eve


Thanks to our sponsor, Belanger Books: www.belangerbooks.com.

Image credits: Thanks to Alexis Barquin at The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopaedia for permission to reproduce these images. Please support the encyclopaedia at www.arthur-conan-doyle.com.

Music credit: Sneaky Snitch Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com). Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/


  1. Good to hear you both again.
    Great episode.
    Many thanks.

  2. Good to hear you both again.
    Great episode.
    Many thanks.

  3. Another fascinating discussion thanks - superb background research including all the other piratical stories before and after Doyle’s quartet, read these years ago but will now have to revisit for sure… again, full of wonderful facts and comparisons and influences… interesting points re ODE pointing out ACD’s characters’ names and the thought processes - either consciously or subconsciously - behind some of them… regarding Galloway, you missed mentioning Sharkey himself’s name! Isn’t a pirate a shark on the seas? Too obvious as well to also say about Stevenson’s Long John Silver and CD’s Jonathan Small’s one legged obsession with treasure.
    I also never thought about CD’s use of ‘subtle historical accuracy’ compared to some of his other historical writings… excellent!

    Ferocity and fun indeed!

    Very well done for continuing to fly the flag for Doyle’s lesser known fiction, in fact this was a great Ensign of the four!!!!

    Also, loved the Daily Express put-down… bravo!

    Mark Chadderton


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