Sword fight between Captain Blood (Errol Flynn) and Capitaine
Levasseur (Basil Rathbone) from the film Captain Blood

I first read one of Rafael Sabatini‘s books back in my college days. As a fan of historical action/adventure fiction, it was a no-brainer for me to enjoy his writing. You may not be familiar with Sabatini as such but if you have watched some of Errol Flynn‘s swashbuckler movies, then you have experienced Sabatini.

I have downloaded a number of Sabatini’s books to the Kindle (for free of course.) Captain Blood is his work that the movie stays closest to the book although Scaramouche and The Black Swan are also fairly close to their source. The book Scaramouche is available from Project Gutenberg and the movie is in rotation at Turner Classic Movies (TCM). The book The Black Swan is not available at Project Gutenberg (first published in 1932) but the movie is a pretty good action flick with Tyrone Power and Maureen O’Hara. The movie The Sea Hawk with Flynn was originally supposed to be based on the Sabatini book (per wiki) but they kept the title and gave it a new storyline although apparently there is a 1924 silent film version that follows the Sabatini story.

As is seemingly becoming the norm, when I read Sabatini’s wiki, once again here is a man of accomplishment although Sabatini’s was mainly as a writer:

Rafael Sabatini was born in Iesi, Italy, to an English mother (Anna Trafford) and Italian father. His parents were opera singers who became teachers.

At a young age, Rafael was exposed to many languages, living with his grandfather in England, attending school in Portugal and, as a teenager, in Switzerland. By the time he was seventeen, when he returned to England to live permanently, he was the master of five languages. He quickly added a sixth language – English – to his linguistic collection. He consciously chose to write in his adopted language, because, he said, “all the best stories are written in English.”

After a brief stint in the business world, Sabatini went to work as a writer. He wrote short stories in the 1890s, and his first novel came out in 1902. In 1905 he married Ruth Goad Dixon, the daughter of a Liverpool merchant. It took Sabatini roughly a quarter of a century of hard work before he attained success with Scaramouche in 1921. The novel, a historical romantic set during the French Revolution, became an international best-seller. It was followed by the equally successful Captain Blood in 1922. All of his earlier books were rushed into reprints, the most popular of which was The Sea Hawk from 1915. Sabatini was a prolific writer; he produced a new book approximately every year, and maintained a great deal of popularity with the reading public through the decades that followed.

While I am most familiar with Sabatini’s fiction, he wrote some non-fiction as well. I have The Life of Cesare Borgia on the Kindle but have not read it as yet.

There is a web site, with much more detail on his life and some references to Sabatini from pop culture over the years.

Photo from Evil Preacher licensed under Creative Commons