John Steinbeck wrote and published his first novel when he was 29 years old. This historical novel, follows the career of Henry Morgan (1635?-1688), starting as a young boy dreaming of greatness. This fictive biography blends history and boys’ adventure stories to create a swashbuckling romance.
Steinbeck’s Henry Morgan is driven from one successful sea raid to the next, trying to satisfy his desire for fame. However, Steinbeck shows how this drive isolates Henry Morgan from those around him and leaves him unfulfilled. As in his later works, failure and restlessness are better teachers than success and contentment.
This work is also deeply influenced by Steinbeck’s early and abiding love of Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur and the quest for the Holy Grail. It blends a number of Steinbeck’s early influences and favorite themes: Arthurian legend, the myth of El Dorado, a symbolic and unattainable woman, the sack of Troy, naturalistic imagery, and many others. This first work of Steinbeck’s shows him exercising his craft in a long form work. In it, the seeds of later works started their slow growth towards maturity and mastery of his craft.