Tom Reiss’s childhood fascination with the novels of Alexandre Dumas led him to read Dumas’s memoirs. He was blown away by the superhero-like adventures of Dumas’s father and determined to uncover his larger-than-life story.
In an interview with CBS News, Reiss states, “As an equal fan of history, superheroes, and adventure stories, I was enthralled.” Why has this amazing man been forgotten by the history books? You’ll have to read to find out.
REISS, Tom. The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo. 432p. Crown. 2012. Tr $27. ISBN 978-0-307-38246-7. LC 2012017633.
Adult/High School–Alexandre Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo, the story of an innocent’s betrayal and imprisonment, his escape and his revenge on his betrayers, has entertained readers since the mid-1800s. But few of them know that the fictional Count, Edmund Dantes, is based in part on the life of the author’s father, Thomas-Alexandre Dumas Davy de la Pailletrie, aka Alex Dumas. Thomas-Alexandre was born in the colony of Sainte-Domingue, the mulatto son of a French nobleman and his female slave; at one point, he was pawned by his father to pay for passage back to France. Once in France, he was given a nobleman’s education, including swordsmanship, yet he soon renounced his noble heritage and became known as Alex Dumas, a fierce supporter of the French Revolution. As a soldier, aided by his 6’5” height and preternatural skill on horseback and with a sabre, he quickly moved up through the ranks to become a general in the French Army. Unfortunately, he ran afoul of Napoleon, which ultimately led to imprisonment, ill health, impoverishment, early death, and attempts to erase his legacy that led to his son’s commemorating his exploits as both Dantes and D’Artagnan. Teens interested in military history, particularly of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Era, will enjoy this book; the discussion of differences in slavery and the treatment of blacks in France and America is particularly enlightening.–Laura Pearle, Venn Consultants, Carmel, NY