The Pirate King

The Strange Adventures of Henry Avery and the Birth of the Golden Age of Piracy


The incredible story of the “Robin Hood of the Seas,” who absconded with millions during the Golden Age of Piracy and who harbored an even greater secret.

Henry Avery of Devon pillaged a fortune from a Mughal ship off the coast of India and then vanished into thin air—and into legend. More ballads, plays, biographies and books were written about Avery’s adventures than any other pirate. His contemporaries crowned him "the pirate king" for pulling off the richest heist in pirate history and escaping with his head intact (unlike Blackbeard and his infamous Flying Gang). Avery was now the most wanted criminal on earth. To the authorities, Avery was the enemy of all mankind. To the people he was a hero. Rumors swirled about his disappearance. The only certainty is that Henry Avery became a ghost.

What happened to the notorious Avery has been pirate history’s most baffling cold case for centuries. Now, in a remote archive, a coded letter written by "Avery the Pirate" himself, years after he disappeared, reveals a stunning truth. He was a pirate that came in from the cold . . .

In The Pirate King, Sean Kingsley and Rex Cowan brilliantly tie Avery to the shadowy lives of two other icons of the early 18th century, including Daniel Defoe, the world-famous novelist and—as few people know—a deep-cover spy with more than a hundred pseudonyms, and Archbishop Thomas Tenison, a Protestant with a hatred of Catholic France.

Sean Kingsley and Rex Cowan's The Pirate King brilliantly reveals the untold epic story of Henry Avery in all it's colorful glory—his exploits, his survival, his secret double life, and how he inspired the golden age of piracy.

About the author(s)

Dr. Sean Kingsley is a marine archaeologist who has explored over 350 wrecks from Israel to America. Off the UK he identified the world’s earliest Royal African Company English ‘slaver’ ship. Sean writes for National Geographic and is the founder of Wreckwatch magazine about the world’s sunken wonders.  He is the author of God's Gold: A Quest for the Lost Temple Treasures of Jerusalem and Enslaved: The Sunken History of the Translatlantic Slave Trade (with Simcha Jacobovici), also available from Pegasus Books.

Rex Cowan is a former lawyer turned shipwreck hunter, author and broadcaster.  He served in the Royal Air Force and has a law degree from King’s College London and is also a Fulbright scholar.   He has since become Britain’s most successful shipwreck hunter and worked with John Le Carré on A Century of Images. Photographs by the Gibson Family and Castaway and Wrecked.


"Kingsley and Cowan have pulled together the story of Henry Avery, one of the most colorful yet mysterious pirates of the early eighteenth century. The authors do an excellent job evoking the past and bringing Avery and his milieu to life. Fans of pirate stories will be treated to a rousing tale and in the process will learn about how history and historians work."


"In this twisty account, marine archeologist Kingsley and shipwreck hunter Cowan trace the life of 17th-century pirate Henry Avery. [Contains] fascinating descriptions of turn-of-the-18th-century espionage pieced together from archival scraps. A winding yarn."

Publishers Weekly

"An account of the life of a notorious British pirate and the first English novelist as they intersected in the shadowy world of royal espionage. The authors untangle a web of conspiracy and subterfuge to create an engaging story of the golden age of piracy, following the adventures of two enormously enterprising men. An intriguing unraveling of a mystery that 'beggars belief.'"

Kirkus Reviews

Praise for Sean Kinglsey

"Indiana Jones would tip his hat to Kingsley, an intrepid archaeologist."

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