Anyone can write an adventure story. All you need to sell a few copies is a swordfight, a storm at sea, fierce pirates or desert bandits, and a fire from which a pretty girl is rescued. Whether you can write well doesn't matter—someone will read your tale and maybe pen blog-published fan fiction.
Or maybe they'll pen fan fiction and call it Treasure Island. For decades, Robert Michael Ballantyne was considered among the best English writers of boys' adventure stories; he was so good, in fact, that he inspired Robert Louis Stevenson to pen his most famous novel about greedy pirates and the resourceful cabin boy, Jim Hawkins.
Let's be clear: anyone can write an adventure story, but few could write one as Ballantyne did, and almost nobody else would be able to write as many as he did using his methods. He wasn't content to read about a distant land and think up exciting plots related to it—he had to experience what he wanted to write about firsthand.
Before he wrote The Pirate City, he lived disguised among Algerian pirates to get a feel for his subject. For the book Fighting the Flames he did a stint as a London firefighter; he wrote a book called Deep Down about tin miners in Cornwall, among whom he lived before he felt able to write about them; he spent time in a lighthouse before writing The Lighthouse.
Adventure enthusiasts love the authenticity; Christians love Ballantyne's Christian ideals, dedication to manliness, and Reformed theology that explicitly appear in the 80 books he wrote. A thoroughly Victorian Englishman, he nevertheless opposed the slave trade, finding his biblical convictions more compelling than the jingoist rhetoric that seduced many of his peers.
Ballantyne shouldn't be read for his literary merits, however. He was no Dickens (or Stevenson), but that's not really the point. His prose is vigorous and muscular, explicitly Christian, and inspiring. (He did grow up in the company of Sir Walter Scott, a friend and client of his father.) We hope you enjoy these adventure stories as much as we do, and that your boys grow into men who reflect the virtues and strengths of Ballantyne's heroes.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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