The Black Count by Tom Reiss
(from the back of the book)
The hero of The Black Count is a man almost unknown today, yet 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 and, after a meteoric rise through the army of the French Republic, given command of 53,000 men. 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, a lushly textured evocation of eighteenth-century France, a window into the modern world’s first multiracial society, and a heartbreaking story of the enduring bonds of love between a father and son.
It turns out that Alexandre Dumas used his own father as inspiration for his stories. And it also turns out that his father was a very interesting person. This very carefully researched book actually starts out with the novelist’s grandfather, who happened to be a French count. So you get to see the entire life of Alex Dumas from being sold by his own father, to becoming a renowned solider fighting with Napoleon, to dropping into obscurity. He lived through a very interesting time in French history and had many adventures along the way so his life truly reads like one of his son’s novels without needing any embellishment. Because of his mixed heritage, race relations in France are an important part of the book and they take an interesting course though time. I didn’t know anything about Alex Dumas before I read this book so I obviously learned a lot about him but I also learned things about French history in general that I didn’t know before. Quite apart from the role he played in history you would think that his story would be better known simply because it is such a good story, with action, courage, duels, romance and so much more. This is a good book for you if you are interested in French history or if you are just interested in Dumas’ novels, because you can truly see his father in his works.