Treasure Island by Robert Lewis Stevenson
DeNiro in Heat. The Assassin in The Day of the Jackal. The criminals in Ambler’s The Light of Day. Swayze in Point Break. They all owe their “one-last-job-and-then-I-get-out” narrative arcs to one man. The birth-giver of a classic crime-fiction trope: Long John Silver.
Treasure Island isn’t a coming-of-age story about a young man facing trials, evolving, and returning changed. It is a crime story about a world-weary gang leader named John Silver. Silver is hunting for that last payday before getting out clean… The story is simply narrated by Jim Hawkins.
Treasure Island isn’t a coming-of-age story about a young man facing trials, evolving, and returning changed.
I know you probably read it in grade school, but to recap: Jim Hawkins is a young man in search of adventure; unfortunately he lives at his parent’s boarding house, located in backwater England. Jim spends his days helping the family business. Things change when a low level pirate moves in, drinks, and dies.
Jim, through gang warfare, lucks into a treasure map. He tells a local Doctor and Lawyer about the find. Unfortunately for Jim, the Doctor and Lawyer are white collar criminals eager to make a quick buck. The three treasure hunters buy a boat, accidentally hire a gang of pirates as crew, and set off to get the score.
John Silver, with his wooden leg and parrot, is the leader of the pirates. Once the ship nears the titular island, the gang decides to keep the treasure for themselves and get rid of everyone else.
Silver makes it clear he needs this one big score to escape into the sunset.
Silver makes it clear he needs this one big score to escape into the sunset with his wife, an African woman, in an interesting bit of early racial harmony.
The Pirates make a run at the treasure. The white collar types fight them off, violently. A lot of people die and the white-collar types come out on top. The survivors return to civilization, with Silver held as a prisoner. However, Silver escapes his confinement with a share of the treasure.
This is a happy ending. The “one last job” was a success. Silver got away clean. The waves got Swayze, but not Silver.
Treasure Island is a great crime story.