"Captain from Castile, a classic of American popular fiction, is the story of a young Spanish nobleman, Pedro de Vargas, who goes with Cortes to conquer Mexico. His swashbuckling adventures move at a fast pace from sword fights to romantic and political intrigue. Readers often have compared this Samuel Shellabarger novel to Alexandre Dumas' "The Count of Monte Cristo" and "The Three Musketeers."
When "Captain from Castile" was first published in 1945, it became an overnight best-seller, had 20 hardcover printings, was republished in 19 countries and was made into a Tyrone Power movie. Now, re-reading the novel half a century after he first read it, Washington Post critic and Pulitzer Prize-winner Jonathan Yardley says in his introduction he "was astonished at how well it has survived. . . . It is accurate, meticulously researched history, and it is a sympathetic, nuanced account of a young man's moral education; for both reasons it should be as appealing to younger readers now as it was to me so many years ago, while older readers will be impressed by how superior it is in literary terms to most popular fiction of today."
"Captain from Castile" is set principally in Spain and Mexico during the early sixteenth century, amid the Spanish Inquisition and the conquest of the New World. When Pedro de Vargas' family is denounced to the Inquisition on trumped-up charges by the avaricious Diego de Silva, the 19-year-old Pedro flees to Cuba. There he enlists in Cortes' campaign to take Mexico from the Aztecs and present its riches and territory to the King of Spain.
About the Author
Samuel Shellabarger (1888-1954) was a U.S. Army intelligence officer in World War I, a professor of English at Princeton, and headmaster of a girls' school in Ohio. He was a Renaissance scholar and the author of nonfiction books on Lord Chesterfield and on the fading age of European chivalry. He also wrote six historical novels, one of which, "Prince of Foxes," the best-seller about the Italy of the Borgias, is being republished simultaneously with "Captain from Castile."