peakeOne of my favourite writers and illustrators is Mervyn Peake.

I’d rank his Titus Groan trilogy alongside the best of Charles Dickens and the works of Lewis Carroll.

The gothic world within a world of Gormenghast is peopled by freaks, outsiders and eccentrics; in other words, the kind of folks that make life interesting.

Peake’s first published work from 1939 is also full of weird and wonderful characters. Captain Slaughterboard Drops Anchor was written and drawn for children or, as the back cover blurb says, for “all adults who have not yet lost the gift of dreaming”.

The protagonist is a big, bullying pirate who terrorises his crew and enjoys killing people. But this is before he meets a curious animal in human form “as bright as butter” known only as Yellow Creature.

Slaughterboard who “had never been pleasant to strangers before” is immediately smitten. He and the creature eat, dance, fish and laze in the sun together. He discovers an idyllic life on a pink desert island with his new soul mate.

The moral of the tale? If the circumstances are right, even pillaging pirates can change their wicked ways.

If only more real life tyrants would follow suit.

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