Hook's Tale

Being the Account of an Unjustly Villainized Pirate Written by Himself

Hook's Tale

A rollicking debut novel from award-winning playwright and screenwriter John Pielmeier reimagines the childhood of the much maligned Captain Hook: his quest for buried treasure, his friendship with Peter Pan, and the story behind the swashbuckling world of Neverland.

Long defamed as a vicious pirate, Captain James Cook (a.k.a Hook) was in fact a dazzling wordsmith who left behind a vibrant, wildly entertaining, and entirely truthful memoir. His chronicle offers a counter narrative to the works of J.M. Barrie, a “dour Scotsman” whose spurious accounts got it all wrong. Now, award-winning playwright John Pielmeier is proud to present this crucial historic artifact in its entirety for the first time.

Cook’s story begins in London, where he lives with his widowed mother. At thirteen, he runs away from home, but is kidnapped and pressed into naval service as an unlikely cabin boy. Soon he discovers a treasure map that leads to a mysterious archipelago called the “Never-Isles” from which there appears to be no escape. In the course of his adventures he meets the pirates Smee and Starkey, falls in love with the enchanting Tiger Lily, adopts an oddly affectionate crocodile, and befriends a charming boy named Peter—who teaches him to fly. He battles monsters, fights in mutinies, swims with mermaids, and eventually learns both the sad and terrible tale of his mother’s life and the true story of his father’s disappearance.

Like Gregory Maguire’s Wicked, Hook’s Tale offers a radical new version of a classic story, bringing readers into a much richer, darker, and enchanting version of Neverland than ever before. The characters that our hero meets—including the terrible Doctor Uriah Slinque and a little girl named Wendy—lead him to the most difficult decision of his life: whether to submit to the temptation of eternal youth, or to embrace the responsibilities of maturity and the inevitability of his own mortality. His choice, like his story, is not what you might expect.
  • Scribner | 
  • 288 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781501161056 | 
  • July 2017
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Hook’s Tale includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

In the tradition of Gregory Maguire’s Wicked and John Gardner’s Grendel, Hook’s Tale allows Peter Pan’s legendary nemesis to finally set the record straight. With debut novelist John Leonard Pielmeier at the helm, Hook explains how he has been unjustly demonized, and why Peter Pan himself may be Neverland’s true menace.

Topics and Questions for Discussion

1. The opening scene is of a nightmare during which James Cook murders a family of birds that are attacking him. Why do you think the author begins the story with this image? How are nightmares of “innocent intent” different from other nightmares?

2. When the reader first meets James Cook’s mother, the impression is that she is weak and unwell. Why is his mother’s constitution significant to Cook’s character? How are women portrayed throughout the rest of the novel?

3. The author takes readers through a series of painful events in Cook’s childhood. Do you think this is to elicit sympathy for Cook? I see more

About the Author

John Leonard Pielmeier
Photograph by Jordan Matter

John Leonard Pielmeier

John Pielmeier is a three-time Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated playwright and screenwriter. His successful plays, television movies, and miniseries include Agnes of God, Gifted Hands, Choices of the Heart, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, and successful screen adaption of Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth. He has received the Humanitas Award (plus two nominations), five Writers’ Guild Award nominations, a Gemini nomination, an Edgar Award, the Camie Award, and a Christopher Award. He is married to writer Irene O’Garden and lives in upstate New York. Hook’s Tale is his first novel.

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