Thanks to Hollywood and any number of swashbuckling novels, the word conjures up instant visions in our heads: rolling ocean waves, tropical islands, palm trees swaying in Caribbean breezes and of course, buried treasure.
But did you know there were pirates on the Great Lakes? And not all that long ago.
These pirates roamed the waters on America’s Great Lakes in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and did things like poach lumber from federal forests so they could transport it via the lakes to cities that were itching for wood for buildings. They filled their boats with Canadian liquor and traded American firearms for it. One of their most interesting tricks was called “moon cussing.” This devious activity involved setting up false lights on the waters to trick other ships into thinking they were reaching safe harbor. Instead, the lights drew the ships to rocky waters and once they ran aground, the pirates would board those ships and steal everything in sight.
The most famous of the Great Lakes pirates–and the only man in America who was ever formally tried for piracy–was Roaring Dan Seavey, who plied the waters of Lake Michigan in the early 1900s. Seavey’s crimes on the high seas (er...lakes) include everything from running a floating brothel to stealing sailing vessels. He was eventually brought before the court, and the charges were dropped on a technicality. In his later years, Seavey worked as a US Marshal. His speciality–tracking down lake pirates and bringing them to justice.
What writer could ignore fascinating historical tid-bits like this! As soon as I heard Roaring Dan’s story, I knew I had to use it in one of my Button Box mysteries.
I got that opportunity in “Panic Button,” Button Box mystery #3. In the book Josie Giancola, one of this country’s leading experts in antique and vintage buttons, has a customer who brings her a charm string (a string of 1000 vintage buttons) to be appraised and insists that the charm string is cursed. Josie, ever practical, isn’t about to believe that...until the customer is found dead behind the Button Box shop, strangled with the charm string.
Yes, it all involves a Great Lakes pirate, one I’ve named Thundering Ben Moran, and those 1000 buttons, one of which is far more valuable than anyone would have imagined.
“Panic Button” is on store (and cyber) shelves now. Enjoy!