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Behind the story of Jim Morgan and the Pirates of the Black Skull

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For a writer, serendipity might be described as finding an empty writing niche and realizing how few books are in that niche. That’s what happened to James Matlack Raney when he decided to write his Jim Morgan novels. For this interview, the San Diego author discusses why he writes books for boy readers and what the books are about.

For the most part, the Jim Morgan novels are simply fantasy adventures, which isn't to say that there aren't messages hidden within the story, but my chief aim is to entertain and uplift my audience. There's not a lot of old-school action and adventure on the bookshelves these days, especially not directed at boy readers, so I want to provide something perfect for that demographic.

“I hesitate to compare myself to someone as great as CS Lewis, but he famously said that the entire world of Narnia sprung from the single image of a Faun, walking through the snow, an umbrella and a stack of packages in his arms. It was a similar experience for me. I saw a picture of a young man, a black crow on his shoulder, standing on the prow of a pirate ship. When I was a young man, I lost my father to cancer. Somewhere inside I knew that this boy was also facing the journey of growing up without guidance, only his path was threatened by pirates, magicians, and thieves.”

For Raney, his primary goal is to write the type of book he loved to read as a boy. He said, “I grew up on Treasure Island, Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Ender, and Dune. Do I want my stories to say something and mean something? Yes, of course. But mostly I want the books to carry the readers off to far away places in their imagination, places that inspire them to live the best lives possible here in the real world.”

While Raney wants his readers to imagine far-off places, he’s taken real issues and transformed them into lessons befitting a fantasy world. He said, “We live in a society that is ideologically hyper-combative—right vs. left, old vs. new, liberal vs. conservative, and so on. Twitter and Facebook provide platforms in which people can anonymously berate one another, tear down the opposition, or trumpet their own causes. In ‘Jim Morgan and the Pirates of the Black Skull,’ Jim does face enemies and external challenges, but he also finds that sometimes a hero's greatest struggle isn't against a foe or obstacle, but against his own weaknesses and faults. I hope that's a message that does penetrate amidst the story.”

Raney said that “Jim Morgan and the Pirates of the Black Skull” thrusts Jim Morgan into a race against old enemies and new for possession of a powerful talisman, with his very destiny at stake. It has been more than a year since Jim Morgan outwitted the King of Thieves and escaped from London with his friends, Lacey and the Brothers Ratt. Now, at long last, Jim is ready to return home to Morgan Manor.

But a dark vision haunts Jim’s dreams—a Crimson Storm with the face of a black skull. Soon, Jim is thrust into a deadly race against his father’s old enemies, Count Cromier and his son, Bartholomew. This time, he will face terrors beyond his imagination – pirate battles, hidden islands, sorcerers, and sea monsters.
New foes and magic forces will tempt and test Jim. For there are terrible secrets he has yet to learn, secrets about his father, the Treasure of the Ocean, and his own incredible destiny.

More information

James Matlack Raney is a former high school teacher who grew up all over the world, in Europe, Latin America, and Africa. Now he calls Southern California home, writing adventures and occasionally living a few of his own. Learn more about the Jim Morgan books at or follow Raney on Facebook at

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