The Good Pirates of the Forgotten Bayous Fighting to Save a Way of Life in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina Ken Wells

Publication date:
02 Sep 2008
Yale University Press
272 pages: 235 x 156 x 24mm
20 b-w illus.

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With a long and colorful family history of defying storms, the seafaring Robin cousins of St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, make a fateful decision to ride out Hurricane Katrina on their hand-built fishing boats in a sheltered Civil War–era harbor called Violet Canal.  But when Violet is overrun by killer surges, the Robins must summon all their courage, seamanship, and cunning to save themselves and the scores of others suddenly cast into their care.


In this gripping saga, Louisiana native Ken Wells provides a close-up look at the harrowing experiences in the backwaters of New Orleans during and after Katrina. Focusing on the plight of the intrepid Robin family, whose members trace their local roots to before the American Revolution, Wells recounts the landfall of the storm and the tumultuous seventy-two hours afterward, when the Robins’ beloved bayou country lay catastrophically flooded and all but forgotten by outside authorities as the world focused its attention on New Orleans. Wells follows his characters for more than two years as they strive, amid mind-boggling wreckage and governmental fecklessness, to rebuild their shattered lives. This is a story about the deep longing for home and a proud bayou people’s love of the fertile but imperiled low country that has nourished them.


Called “the Cajun Carl Hiaasen” by Tom Wolfe, Ken Wells is an editor-at-large for Bloomberg News in New York and a contributor to Bloomberg Businessweek.

"Gripping. . . . This is not another sad Katrina book. It's a book that dispassionately looks at what happened and why and relies on facts for impact. Everyone should read it."—Greg Langley, The Advocate (Baton Rouge)

"[This] off-the-beaten path Katrina story is one of the best. . . . In the glut of works about the devastation Katrina caused . . . Wells has found a fresh, compelling story. As a bonus, he is a superb reporter and accomplished stylist. Of the dozen Katrina books I have read so far, I am guessing The Good Pirates will stay with me the most vividly. . . . The individual survival stories make for adventure storytelling of the first order."—Steve Weinberg, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Winner of the 2008 Harry Chapin Media Award in the Books category, presented by WHY (World Hunger Year).

“Ken Wells is first and foremost a great reporter. Nothing escapes him, and yet every detail he includes counts. This book is literary journalism at its best.”—Don Ranly, University of Missouri School of Journalism