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The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristoby Tom Reiss
2013 Pulitzer Prize for Biography
The Black Count is the story of Alex Dumas, the father of Alexandre Dumas and inspiration for some of the best adventure fiction ever written. Alex Dumas's life is stranger than fiction in a time when hope for the common man, equality, and emancipation are vying to be the ideals of a revolution.
Synopses & Reviews
Here is the remarkable true story of the real Count of Monte Cristo — a stunning feat of historical sleuthing that brings to life the forgotten hero who inspired such classics as The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers.
The real-life protagonist of The Black Count, General Alex Dumas, is a man almost unknown today yet with a story that is strikingly familiar, because his son, the novelist Alexandre Dumas, used it to create some of the best loved heroes of literature.
Yet, hidden behind these swashbuckling adventures was an even more incredible secret: the real hero was the son of a black slave — who rose higher in the white world than any man of his race would before our own time.
Born in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), Alex Dumas was briefly sold into bondage but made his way to Paris where he was schooled as a sword-fighting member of the French aristocracy. Enlisting as a private, he rose to command armies at the height of the Revolution, in an audacious campaign across Europe and the Middle East — until he met an implacable enemy he could not defeat.
The Black Count is simultaneously a riveting adventure story, a lushly textured evocation of 18th-century France, and a window into the modern world’s first multi-racial society. But it is also a heartbreaking story of the enduring bonds of love between a father and son.
“Tom Reiss wrings plenty of drama and swashbuckling action out of Dumas’ strange and nearly forgotten life, and more: The Black Count is one of those quintessentially human stories of strength and courage that also sheds light on the flukey historical moment that made it possible.” Time
“A remarkable and almost compulsively researched account…The author spent a decade on the case, and it shows.” Christian Science Monitor
“Fascinating…a richly imaginative biography.” New York Times Book Review
"It would take an incredibly fertile mind to invent a character as compelling, exciting and unlikely as Gen. Alexandre (Alex) Dumas [hence] you might forget, while reading, that The Black Count is a work of nonfiction; author Tom Reiss writes with such narrative urgency and vivid description, you'd think you were reading a novel….The Black Count reminds us of how essential stories, whether true or invented, can be.” National Public Radio
“Vibrant….Sometimes the best stories are true. This is one of them.” Ebony
“Reiss details the criminal forgetting of Alex Dumas….This remarkable book stands as his monument.” Washington Post
“Superb...as improbable and exciting as [Dumas’s] best books… but there is much more to this book than that.” Newsweek/The Daily Beast
“Lush prose and insightful details make The Black Count one of the best biographies of 2012…a tale that is as easily engrossing as one of Dumas’ page-turning and timeless works.” Essence
“Impressively thorough….Reiss moves the story on at an entertaining pace…fascinating.” Wall Street Journal
“To tell this tale, Reiss must cover the French Revolution, the Haitian Revolution, and the rise of Napoleon toward Empire; he does all that with remarkable verve.” Boston Globe
“Fascinating [and] swashbuckling...meticulously evokes the spirit of Revolutionary and Napoleonic France....Dumas comes across as something of a superhero...a monument to the lives of both Dumas and his adoring [novelist] son.” The Seattle Times
“A thoroughly researched, lively piece of nonfiction that will be savored by fans of Alexandre Dumas. But The Black Count needs no partner: It is fascinating enough to stand on its own.” Bookpage
“A compelling new work by literary detective Reiss, author of The Orientalist, tracks the wildly improbable career of [Count of Monte Cristo author] Alexandre Dumas’ mixed-race father....Reiss eloquently argues the General’s case.” Kirkus Reviews
“Alex Dumas, an extraordinary man whose sensational life had been largely lost to history solely because of his race, takes the spotlight in this dynamic tale….Reiss capitalizes on his subject’s charged personality as well as the revolutionary times in which he lived to create an exciting narrative.” Publishers Weekly
“Thrilling…Reiss makes clear that Alex lived a life as full of adventure, triumph, and tragic loss as any of his son’s literary creations….This absorbing biography should redeem its subject from obscurity.” Booklist
SLAVE. SOLDIER. LIBERATOR. HERO.
General Alex Dumas, is a man almost unknown today, yet his story is strikingly familiar — because his son, the novelist Alexandre Dumas, used his larger-than-life feats as inspiration for such classics as The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers.
But, hidden behind General Dumas's swashbuckling adventures was an even more incredible secret: he was the son of a black slave — who rose higher in the white world than any man of his race would before our own time.
Born in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), Alex Dumas made his way to Paris, where he rose to command armies at the height of the Revolution — until he met an implacable enemy he could not defeat.
TIME magazine called The Black Count "one of those quintessentially human stories of strength and courage that sheds light on the historical moment that made it possible." It is also a heartbreaking story of the enduring bonds of love between a father and son.
About the Author
Tom Reiss is the author of the celebrated international bestseller The Orientalist. His biographical pieces have appeared The New Yorker, The New York Times and other publications. He makes his home in New York City.
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