A Captain's Duty

Bookshelf: A Captain’s Duty

A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy Seals & Dangerous Days at Sea – Richard Phillips & Stephan Talty

A Captain's Duty
A Captain’s Duty

Having watched and enjoyed the movie based on this book, Captain Phillips, I was keen to read the captain’s account of his ship’s hijacking. Like Sully Sullenberger, the passenger airline pilot who landed his plane in the Hudson River after the plane was damaged by a bird strike, Richard Phillips has become something of a folk hero.

In A Captain’s Duty Phillips portrays himself as a blustery, no-nonsense man’s man, with no time for “milquetoasts”. (He in fact uses this word so often that it became ridiculous – I was under the impression that the only people who know what milquetoast means would be considered milquetoasts themselves.) The book alternates between Phillips’s struggles with the pirates on board the Maersk Alabama and then the lifeboat that he ended up in, and his family’s attempts to cope with the drama (and the media attention) while at home in the United States. I could have done without the family part of the story – wisely (and to heighten the tension), the film downplayed his family’s activities while the captain was in captivity.

One expects a screen adaptation to take liberties with the truth, but it turns out the movie is very faithful to the book’s description of events. Whether this means that Phillips’s version of things is too incredible to be true is for the reader to judge… Slate attempted to tease out fact from fiction, if you’re interested. You can read an excerpt from A Captain’s Duty here. I don’t think it’s necessary reading unless you’re a rabid fan of the film or of Captain Phillips himself, and want deeper insight into what happened.

You can get a copy of the book here, here or here (if in South Africa).

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Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.