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Publisher's Summary

Pulitzer Prize, Biography/Autobiography, 2013

By the author of the internationally best-selling biography The Orientalist, The Black Count brings to life one of history’s great forgotten heroes: a man almost unknown today yet with a personal story that is strikingly familiar. His swashbuckling exploits appear in The Three Musketeers, and his triumphs and ultimate tragic fate inspired The Count of Monte Cristo. His name is Alex Dumas. Father of the novelist Alexandre Dumas, Alex has become, through his son's books, the model for a captivating modern protagonist: The wronged man in search of justice.

Born to a black slave mother and a fugitive white French nobleman in Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti), Alex Dumas was briefly sold into bondage but then made his way to Paris where he was schooled as a sword-fighting member of the French aristocracy.

He was only 32 when he was given command of 53,000 men, the reward for series of triumphs that many regarded as impossible, and then topped his previous feats by leading a raid up a frozen cliff face that secured the Alps for France. It was after his subsequent heroic service as Napoleon’s cavalry commander that Dumas was captured and cast into a dungeon - and a harrowing ordeal commenced that inspired one of the world’s classic works of fiction.

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. Drawing on hitherto unknown documents, letters, battlefield reports and Dumas' handwritten prison diary, The Black Count is a groundbreaking masterpiece of narrative nonfiction.

©2012 Tom Reiss (P)2012 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"From pike-wielding mobs to prisoners locked in a fortress tower, The Black Count, a fascinating, detailed account of the life of Alexandre Dumas' father, is as action packed as The Count of Monte Cristo. Unlike Dumas' famous adventure novel, however, Reiss' incredible tale is true." (Candice Millard, New York Times best-selling author of The River of Doubt and Destiny of the Republic)
"The Black Count is a dazzling achievement, a feat of ingenious scholarly research that shows a novelist's flair both for sketching character and recreating the smells and tastes, and colors and textures, of 18th century slavery and colonialism in Haiti, and aristocratic life in the metropole back in Paris. It's also the fullest biographical study of the complexity and fluidity of race relations in the colonial period that I've ever read.... I learned something new virtually on every page.... No one who reads this magnificent biography will be able to read The Count of Monte Cristo or any history of slavery in the New World in the same way again." (Henry Louis Gates Jr., Director of the W. E .B. Du Bois Institute, Harvard University)
"Tom Reiss's The Black Count is the riveting, beautifully written and well-researched story of the seemingly impossible: In 18th-century France, Alex Dumas, a man of color - the son of an enslaved woman and French nobleman - became one of his country's most celebrated generals and the father of a famed novelist who used his father's gallant and, ultimately, tragic life to create characters that are known the world over.... It could never have happened in the United States, and with great skill, Reiss shows how the moment that produced Alex Dumas was lost with the rise of 19th century racism." (Annette Gordon Reed, author of Andrew Johnson and winner of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award for The Hemingses of Monticello)

What members say

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  • gtrj
  • Brownsville, TX, USA
  • 01-19-17

I learned so much from this book. Two thumbs up.

I loved this book. I learned a lot, and it's definitely a must-read for history lovers. The narrator did a good job. I usually listen to books at 1.75 speed, and his voice came through wonderfully.

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  • Natasha
  • BONIFAY, FLORIDA, United States
  • 11-19-16

Informative, interesting and educational.

After reading "The Count of Monte Cristo", I decided I needed to know more about Alexander Dumas, and French History. This book was perfect. He uses information straight from Alex Dumas' (father) war journals and other historical documents to walk you first hand through the French Revolution and the events surrounding it. Informative, interesting and educational. It's very hard to find books like that and I enjoyed it so much I read it twice...then decided I needed to read more Alexander Dumas!!!

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Eye-opening

Never did I ever guess that one of my favorite novels of all time was based on true events. This revealing account of a true-life Hercules was all together bittersweet...the dedication of an honorable man and his subsequent betrayal and tragic loss...the lack of knowledge that in our current technological plenty we have no excuse for. We must keep this brave man and others like him alive by celebrating their moment in time to be remembered for all life times to inspire all and to keep us ever vigilant against the unjust treatment of our fellow human beings.

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Fantastic and important historical novel!

I'm in awe of the author's ability to so thoroughly research Alexander Dumas and this period in time and weave it together in this eloquent and riveting book.

I had read the book and loved it, and got the audio for my husband and I to listen to while taking a road trip. The reader has excellent French accent when pronouncing the French names. As well as reads the entirety beautifully.

The importance of this book is to grasp the scale and perspective of slavery in the 1700's, the political influence of the French Revolution relative to the rest of Europe at that time.

Alexander Dumas should be a hero for humanity, not only for his passionate service to his country, but also for his love of family and his near perfect integrity as a human being. Truly an astonishing man in our history!

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The French Black General Excluded From History

A striking and reveting account of the birth of the French republic, the death and rebirth of race laws and the Black French general who lived, fought and died for his country. A tremendous story showing human nature and how soon nations forget their heros

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Enjoyable story and I was learning history :)

What made the experience of listening to The Black Count the most enjoyable?

The descriptions of events are wonderful and well acted in the audiobook, even if he is just reading a memoir.

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Fabulous story of a real life hero.

An exciting telling of the life of General Alex Dumas, father of author Alexandre Dumas. Heroism, honor betrayed, battlefield genius, and true love: it's all here. Add to that a man who excels in so many ways in spite of racial injustice. Read it. You'll be glad you did.

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Excellent - brings Revolutionary France to life

An compelling listen that pairs extremely well with the Revolutions Podcast segments on the French and Haitian Revolutions.

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Enlightening!

Having previously only been vaguely aware of details regarding the French Revolution, The Black Count provided a helpful primer about the vast and deeply dark period in France. The author did well, however, to elevate the(few) good accomplishments of the Revolution.
General Dumas lived before my minds eye and I felt outrage as the epilogue revealed the last and ongoing betrayal perpetrated against the heroic and dedicated republican of France.

Anyone that enjoys a well woven tail, especially historically intriguing, will revel in the tale of General Dumas.
TLY, Kansas

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Rich with history!

Love the real accounts of what happened in 18th century France and the French colonies. It's a story that needs to be told. Excellent narration!