DVDs, cell phones, chocopies and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Heroin, ecstasy, komodo dragons and rhino horns. Cigarettes, coltan ore (short for columbite-tantalite, a substance used in cell phones and other electronic devices). Human beings. Cold, hard cash. These are some of the most popular items being smuggled across international borders today (debiparna chakraborty. List Dose ).
Smuggling has been going on as long as there have been borders and duties to be paid. Black markets, free traders, rum runners, gun runners have influenced history in a big way. Boston, Rhode Island, New York; Americans built those cities on profits from evading taxes and duties on sugar and molasses. The notable John Hancock was a smuggler and The War for Independence was all about not paying our taxes.
England; 1801. Alaric Bond’s latest novel, Turn a Blind Eye, tells the story of Commander Griffin, an earnest young officer in His Majesty’s Custom Service who takes on the smuggling cartel of Newhaven. Not only did the English smugglers evade import taxes on wine, spirits, tobacco, and luxury items, they helped the enemy by shipping gold, wool, and other vital raw materials out of Britain and into the French coffers. During Britain’s Golden Age of Smuggling (roughly 1750-1830, Bond tells us), the nation was involved in a number of wars and numerous gangs as well as individuals carried on their business with the enemy, often bribing customs officials and preventative men paid to apprehend them.
I found all the smuggling business fascinating. Like, how they did it; all the little tricks of the trade. Bond includes a glossary of nautical and smuggling terms. I liked His protagonist, Commander Griffin. Griffin can’t be bought off. And he stands to profit from prize money for capturing smugglers. But he falls for a young woman whose family is involved in smuggling. And that creates tension. Not to mention, the smuggling mafia wants to kill him like they killed the last revenuer. Actually, this nautical historical novel reminds me a lot of a good Western, except instead of horses, you have cutters, smacks and sloops.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Turn a Blind Eye — in part because my work-in-progress, By a Yankee Moon; book 3 of the Patricia MacPherson Nautical Adventure Series, is also about smuggling. The smuggling of sugar and molasses from the French West Indian plantations into the British colony of Rhode Island, in the mid-1760’s. Patricia, however, is not so honorable as Commander Griffin. But hey, a girl’s got to make a living. Even if she’s pretending to be a man.