the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

The Dread Crew and Skype Calls


On Wednesday, I wrote about meeting Ms. Kate Inglis in Chicago during BlogHer.

Recently, I received her first novel, The Dread Crew:  Pirates of the Backwoods, in the mail.  I was quite surprised by the book’s appearance.   As you may recall, I had described Kate as one of those angelic-looking women surrounded by a constant glow.   So why was she writing about a band of dirty, smelly, and belching pirates?   Was this smudge-lover the same sweet woman I met in Chicago?

The Dread Crew is a “rollicking” pirate story for smart kids and adventurous adults about a very unusual band of hooligans in the Nova Scotia area of Canada.  These rowdy and rude pirates travel in a giant crumbling woodship that rumbles through the forest, destroying everything in sight as the group searches for junk.  Their lives are turned upside down when this mean-spirited bunch meet their most formidable nemesis yet — Grampa Joe, another junk collector, albeit a more successfully one, who wins clients over with his sunny disposition.   Before you know it, Grampa Joe becomes the teacher, showing the “pirates of the backwoods” a new approach to piracy, a “nicer” one.

The humor and sarcasm of Kate’s writing would have made this book a favorite of mine when I was a boy.   The tone reminded me of those oddball adventure books written by Roald Dahl.    “The Dread Crew” turns piracy on its head in unexpected ways.  Pirate unions?   Pirate junk-collectors?   Pirates roaming in the forest?!

This novel has a strong sense of place, that of the Maritime Canadian woods, and at first, it seems like a strange place for a “pirate story.”  On further research, I discovered that there is a whole tradition of Atlantic Canada pirate adventures, and clearly Kate is playing with — and against — this long tradition, even presenting her readers with a very modern environmental message underneath all of the “heap o’ splinters” and maggots in beards.

Some younger kids might need a bit of guidance with this book because the pirates are nontraditional.   Don’t expect the Pirates of Penzance/Pirates of the Carribbean type of pirates.   These are Canadian Pirates of the Backwoods!  Our friends up North do things differently.

After I finished the book, I gave it to my mother to read, hoping to share my enjoyment.   After she read a few pages, she came into my room, asking, “What kind of pirates are these?  They don’t go on the water?”  Luckily, the beautiful illustrations by Sydney Smith help clarify what the pirate “ship” looks like on land, and how it travels through the forest.   Once my mother “got it,” orienting herself to the time and location, she loved the novel as much as I did.

I love stories that go against the clichés, and this novel does just that.   These unique pirate characters make this young adult novel a special one.   Each character is quirky in his or her own way, and the illustrations are beautiful.  I read it in one sitting, admiring the clever dialogue between Grampa Joe and the pirates.

Kate is an amazing writer, particularly in her descriptive powers.  You can smell the lousy odor of the pirates in her words, and hear the burps of Captain, Hector the Wrecker Gristle, in the sentences.



Last night, I was able to get Kate to do an impromptu “interview” with me about her book.   One caveat — even though she is now a professional novelist now, I am NOT a professional interviewer.  This is less of an interview than a recording of our Skype conversation as some handyman was fixing the roof in her home.  The interview is fairly long.  I promised her that I would cut it down, but well… I lied.   Maybe next week when I have a chance.

(jeez, just listened to the recording.  I talk WAYYYY too much for an “interviewer.”  As usual, she sounds like an calm inspirational angel and I sound like an overbearing New York cab driver from 1940.  Try to skip me and just listen to her.  Also, the nonsense in the beginning was because I was confused over Kate’s last name.  Even though it is spelled Inglis, it is pronounced “Ingels.”)

Here is the unedited version of the conversation —

Part 1

Part 2


If you want to learn more about “The Dread Crew: Pirates of the Backwoods” — or how to order it online, you can go to the book’s website.   Check it out.   It is gorgeous.


  1. maya

    I think this one will be under the tree this year.

  2. Danny

    Fabulous conversation, I loved every second of it! We all have a crush on Kate in our house and want her to do a west coast book tour so we can show her “exotic” southern California. By the way, I love how you repeat that one line to give her a sense of your wonderful New York accent, as if it’s not blaring through every word! (Has it gotten stronger since you’ve been back there or is it just in comparison to the dulcimer strains of Kate’s mellifluous voice?) Can’t wait to read that book!

  3. ingrid

    awesome! i am checking it out right now.

  4. sweetsalty kate

    Off to google ‘mellifluous’. Thinking it will make me want to roughen myself up for pirate credibility.

    This was so fun, Neil. Thanks for being such a fantastic reader, and your mom too, even though you totally scared me with that. Love all your thoughts on the book. Love that you called me boyish and made me stammer. Love how you noticed how important Grampa Joe is. And that you’d even utter the words ‘Roald Dahl’ in the same sentence as ‘Dread Crew’ or ‘Kate Inglis But-Not-Pronounced-That-Way’ makes me fall over backwards.

    You’re a great interviewer. Except for how you keep cracking me up. I can’t help it. You just make me smile. xo

  5. Alison

    I love your voice Neil – straight out of a movie. Fascinating interview – you asked all the questions I would want to pose to Kate. You sound suitably starstruck. I would be too in that situation.

  6. kelly

    My boys LOVE filthy badly behaved pirates from Treasure Island to Pirates Don’t Change Diapers so this looks like a must have! The illustrations are fantasic looking as well.

  7. mepsipax

    That looks like a good book. I might have to buy a copy.

  8. Kellee

    You totally had me up until maggots in the beard. HOWEVER, as you wrote a very compelling review and I LOVE quirky stories, I still plan on giving it a shot. Especially with the added of bonus of keeping it all in the blogosphere family. 🙂 (And seriously, take that as a compliment, it had to be a very well written review for me to overlook the fact that it is Canadian! *wink*)

  9. C...

    Awesome! I would not mind reading it.

  10. Christine

    I just want to say it’s amazing to hear your voice.

  11. Kim @ Beautiful Wreck

    The books sounds very interesting. Something I think my older two children would enjoy. On to add it to my list of things to buy.

  12. leah

    HA!!! your accent is awesome!

  13. Ryan C

    Found the book in Liverpool a few days back while sitting down at Lane’s for a bite. Great book, I love the writing style, the word choice is amazing, and the concept is fantastic.
    Hope there are many more to come from this author.
    I’ll be recommending it to my students, and all my fellow teachers.

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