Hey reddit,

My name is Robert Kurson. I’m the author of a few books, most notably “Shadow Divers”, the true story of two wreck divers who found and risked everything to explore a real German U-boat sunk 60 miles off the coast of New Jersey. It’s hopefully on track to be a movie soon as well.

I’m privileged to be here with John Chatterton, one of the most famous wreck divers in the world (who in addition to diving that submarine also co-hosted History Channel’s Deep Sea Detectives, journeyed to the Titanic, and dove many other wrecks), and John Mattera, who most recently partnered with Chatterton to discover the pirate ship of infamous English-merchant-turned-pirate, Joseph Bannister.

Both are the subjects of my book, “Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship”. Finding and positively identifying a Golden Age pirate ship is one of the rarest things a person can discover in the world (in fact, there had only been 1 prior), and both guys risked a huge amount go after this ship. They lived far away from their families for months in The Dominican Republic, fended off local bandits, battled claim jumpers, raced governments, dug deep into archives and libraries around the world - all to find not just a pirate ship, but the incredible pirate captain who sailed her.

The story is one of the most captivating tales I’ve ever worked on, and I hope you’ll check it out.

So feel free to ask us anything! You’ve got the whole crew and we’d love to dive into your questions.

BONUS: Also if you email this address: [email protected]. I’ll give you an extended interview I did with John last year.

PROOF: https://twitter.com/robertkurson/status/613011105892405248

Comments: 109 • Responses: 12  • Date: 

mbair17 karma

Hi Robert,

How do you find the stories you choose to write about?

Both for books, and for articles? I guess in this case, how did you hear about the divers and their story?

Robert_Kurson5 karma

Finding a great true story to tell is the single hardest part of my business. I talk about best approach to finding stories with my writer friends all the time. There doesn't seem to be any consensus on how best to go about it. For me, one of the best pieces of advice comes from the great Nassim Nicholas Taleb, who advises that a person - any curious person - should attend a lot of cocktail parties. By that, he means, sometimes the best stories (and insights) come from talking to other people. So...I ask people I know, and especially those I don't, a lot of questions.

BaldyMcBaldy7 karma

I loved Shadow Divers. Last I heard there was talk of a movie being produced. Is that still in the works?

Robert_Kurson10 karma

It's still being developed! The film is at Universal, in phenomenal hands there. Fingers crossed!

Piratefan6214 karma

Hey guys, I have a question for each of you.

Robert, in all of your stories you have a way of finding the human side. For example, in Pirate Hunters, the story of looking for a pirate ship is a vehicle for analyzing the characters of the story: John Chatterton, John Mattera, and even Joseph Bannister. Are the human stories you get to tell your favorite part about writing?

John Chatterton, you've had a long career of diving and the story in Pirate Hunters might have been your greatest. What's left for you in the world of diving?

John Mattera, my favorite part of Pirate Hunters was hearing about your upbringing alongside the Gambino crime family. Got any crazy stories from that period that didn't make it into the book?

Robert_Kurson3 karma

Absolutely, the human stories are everything to me.

ljayglover2 karma


All of your books are amazing and never fail to be one that a reader can't put down. What is the secret to your ability to get to the story on a deeper level? Have you always been a professional writer?

Robert_Kurson2 karma

I ask a lot of personal questions! And I look for stories in which the characters seem driven for myriad reasons. I've not always been a professional writer; for a few years, I worked as an attorney, then took jobs as an options trader, drapery installer, and data entry clerk, before getting a break at the Chicago Sun-Times.

natedog51502 karma

Hello Robert and John! Nate Dean here. I just got the book this weekend and already loving it! I have a personal connection having spent 1 month working on this project. John, what was the most difficult part of this expedition?

Robert_Kurson3 karma

Nate, you are very lucky to have been there at the start of this whole thing!

um_uniballer2 karma

Mr. Kurson, I'm a big fan. I've noticed a quite nautical theme to your recent adventures. Do you have any background in scuba diving, or simply the characters that make up the stories?

Also, boxers or briefs?

Robert_Kurson3 karma

I have no background in scuba. It's the human stories that count most to me. It so happens that the oceans and seas deliver a good many of those kinds of stories!

llaskin1 karma

Hi guys, would there be any chance of getting a signed copy? I have a friend getting married soon, we're both tech divers, and I want to give it to him as a gift...

John_Mattera1 karma

Sure, the three of us will be at a few venues together in Florida in early July, that may prove easiest either for a visit or shipping wise.

llaskin1 karma

Obviously will have to pay shipping as I am in TX...can I contact you somehow to set this up?

Robert_Kurson1 karma

Go to my website (www.robertkurson.com) and use the "contact" link and we'll make this happen!

TK-the-Elder1 karma

Never heard of Bannister. What years did he pirate?

Robert_Kurson5 karma

For years, Joseph Bannister was a well-respected English sea captain. Working for wealthy merchants, he sailed the Golden Fleece between London and Port Royal, Jamaica, carrying cargoes like sugar, hides, and indigo dyes. Then, in 1684, he stole the Golden Fleece, recruited a top-flight crew, and turned pirate. His rampage lasted more than two years, and its story - including how he cheated the hangman in Port Royal, then defeated the Royal Navy in battle in Hispaniola - forms the centerpiece of my new book, Pirate Hunters.

AmsterdamVallon1 karma

"English merchant-turned-pirate," I'm not familiar with Bannister: What was the motivation behind turning from legitimate merchant to pirate?

Robert_Kurson4 karma

History doesn't record Bannister's motivation. That remains one of the most fascinating aspects about the man. He was successful, likely earned a good wage, and could someday retire comfortably. By turning pirate in 1684 he faced near-certain hanging if caught.

CanuckDiver841 karma

Robert: Is it safe to assume that you dive? I can't imagine anyone not having the urge to get certified and start diving after reading your books. Shadow Divers was an amazing read, and I can't wait to read through Pirate Hunters!

John & John: What are your favorite artifacts you've recovered from wrecks you've dove?

Robert_Kurson3 karma

Hi Canuck, In fact, I do not dive. It's very tempting to learn, especially after spending time with world-class divers like John Chatterton and John Mattera, but the kind of diving they do takes years to learn and perfect. And it can be dangerous as hell! To this point, going with them, and with superb divers like Howard Ehrenberg and John Yurga, on boats and watching how they prepare mentally for shipwrecks has been the most valuable for me.

fatlosss1 karma

Robert - I was first introduced to you through "Who's Killing the Great Lawyers of Harvard?", one of the most memorable and powerful articles I've ever read.

  1. Do you have any updates on that article in light of the current legal market?
  2. Any thoughts about branching out on that topic to folks in other fields like finance?
  3. Finally, can you offer any more color on the relationship you developed with Greg Giraldo during the interview process in light of his death ~10 years after your article? Thanks!

Robert_Kurson3 karma

Thanks so much for the kind words about that story, which ran in Esquire magazine way back in 2000, I believe.

  1. I've been reading about the difficult state of the current legal market , especially for new lawyers. When I graduated from law school (1990), jobs seemed plentiful and the salaries grand. Now, it looks much tougher. The one thing that seems consistent since I wrote that story is that many lawyers, no matter their income or position, dislike the practice of law. I think it remains good advice to make sure you want to go into that field before you commit three years and a ton of money to it.

  2. It's hard for me to advise other people on career topics except to relate my own experience, which came down to this: no amount of money was going to compensate for the unhappiness of spending 40 or 50 years in a job I hated. Best thing I did was not to accrue massive expenses while I worked as an attorney - the golden handcuffs can be the biggest obstacle to getting out and finding something you love.

  3. Greg was a really genuine, funny, and nice man. And really, really smart, even by Harvard Law School standards. In person, in a one-on-one situation, he was a GREAT storyteller. He noticed small details, knew what mattered in communicating a feeling, understood subtle fears and pain. Like me, I think he felt lost coming out HLS - he knew damn early he couldn't be locked up in an office, pretending to care about corporate clients. But what to do instead? That's always the question. The guy had an amazing mind and the fastest wit you'll ever see, and he used it beautifully. He's missed by a lot of people. In the years since he died, I always thought he could have been a beautiful book writer, too.

itsDANdeeMAN-1 karma

Robert - I see your website links directly to your Facebook profile. Not a fan page, but a personal account. If I sent you a friend request, would you poke my wife?

Robert_Kurson4 karma

I think I've gotta fix that! And my wife is a pirate herself, so I don't think she'd approve.