The Traitor of Treasure Island

Written by John Drake
Review by Julia Stoneham

Most of us carry with us from our adolescence a familiarity with Treasure Island, its fast-moving plot, its thrilling locations and above all, its characters.

Whether from a modern edition of the original novel, or sitting bolt upright through one of the several cinema versions – in my case Walt Disney’s boisterous and vivid 1950 film (of special interest to me, as my father composed its music) or, as is the case with John Drake’s splendid treatment of the wonderful, wild, fast-moving, nail-biting, bloodcurdling and ultimately satisfying world  of Silver and Flint and Doctor Livesey and Smollett and Jim-Lad and Trelawney and all, we are, and always will be, caught in the thrall of the Treasure Island experience.

So why, you may ask, have we been given this new version? A five-minute dip into John Drake’s pages will not only tell you why but promise you “treasure” indeed and in spades. His treatment embraces his subject with a proper sense of respect, affection and a barely suppressed, boyish, sense of humor. The plot is neatly set up in the sleazy world of the Bristol waterfront, and we are soon aboard the Hispaniola, familiarising ourselves with the vessel’s extraordinary crew and rolling our way across the blue to the daunting beauty of the island.

The language of this novel is in harmony with the period in which it is set. Artefacts, tools, maritime and surgical procedures are given in precisely the right amount of detail, holding our interest without slowing the well-sustained pace of the prose. The inevitable fights are sudden, violent, vicious and gory. Almost, in some scenes, unbearable for the fainthearted. But they have to be! This is Treasure Island, my hearties!

If anyone ever makes another film of Treasure Island, the producers should hire John Drake to write the script.