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The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo

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3.95  ·  Rating details ·  17,627 ratings  ·  2,174 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,
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Hardcover, 414 pages
Published September 18th 2012 by Crown
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Charlie Johnson If you listen to the audiobook it doesn't feel as long; even so, I was thoroughly engrossed from beginning to end.…moreIf you listen to the audiobook it doesn't feel as long; even so, I was thoroughly engrossed from beginning to end.(less)

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 ·  17,627 ratings  ·  2,174 reviews


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Lisa (Harmonybites)
Sep 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: Suzanne
I'm sure a lot of people are going to think the same thing reading this biography: "How in the world did I not know about this man?" Everyone knows Alexandre Dumas, père--or at least knows his The Three Musketeers. I haven't read his books, but I've watched several adaptations and homages to them, everything from toons to allusions on Star Trek. I knew that this 19th century author was both French and black--yet nevertheless celebrated even in his lifetime. I knew of his son, who wrote the play ...more
Brina
Jan 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
The 2019 edition of my Pulitzer challenge is off to a swashbuckling start with The Black Count: Glory, Betrayal, Redemption, and the Real Life Count Of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss. A 2012 winner, Reiss had been influenced by his mother’s tattered copy of El Comte de Monte-Cristo, a copy she brought to the United States from France when she fled Nazi Europe. Reiss grew up in a household where the tales written by Alexandre Dumas were family favorites and each tale a treasured treat. Years later Rei ...more
Jason Koivu
Sep 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Nothing can live up to the exciting, over-the-top adventures Alexandre Dumas concocted, except maybe the real life exploits of his father.

The subtitle "The Real Count of Monte Cristo" is speaking of the writer's father Thomas Alexandre Dumas, a mixed race soldier from the former French colonies in the Americas. He was the basis for the tragic, wronged, swashbuckling heroes of The Count of Monte Cristo, the Three Musketeers tales, and more.

Tom Reiss' biography tries to bring back the memory of a
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Kelly
This is a really tough project to have been blessed with, I think.

On one hand, for the second time , Reiss has been lucky enough to stumble into a fascinating subject for a biography. Thomas-Alexandre Davy de la Palleterie's (aka "Alex Dumas'") life is enthralling in its own right, even told in a straightforward encyclopedic way. The son of a ne'er-do-well French aristocrat and one of his black slave mistresses (whom he seems to have taken up with while in hiding from his family and his creditor
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Bettie
Bettie's Books

This Count came from Haiti - a shithole country, according to the racist-in-chief. I also take a moment to remember the 2010 earthquake, and take pause as to reflect why US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are being ignored.
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Aubrey
4.5/5

Fascinating person, exciting time period, amazingly well researched writing. The prose could use some work, but hey, this is the uncorrected proof. Taking that into account, the work done so far is simply extraordinary.

I will admit it, I had no idea that the famous author Alexandre Dumas' father was so. Well. Larger than life, really. And the time period that he lived in that enabled him to reach such heights was almost as unbelievable. Before reading this, the extent of my knowledge regard
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Chrissie
Jan 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss is a book of nonfiction. Reiss is an historian. The book looks at the life of Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, the father of the famed author who wrote the classics The Three Musketeers and The Count Of Monte Cristo. The books’ author, Alexandre Dumas, based much in his books on his father’s life, and he and his father’s life were shaped by history. The author’s son, a famed playwright, goes also by the name Ale ...more
'Aussie Rick'
This new book on the life of General Alexandre Dumas; father of the French author; Alexandre Dumas, père (The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers), offers the reader an enjoyable account of this famous but apparently forgotten hero.

In The Black Count we get a good look at the life and career of a French Revolutionary soldier and officer, and later Napoleonic General, who served in Italy during the Revolutionary Wars and later in Egypt under Napoleon.

However this is not just a military
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Trish
Sep 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book caught my attention for three reasons:
1) I had no idea the Dumas family had black blood in them (and subsequently wondered why this wasn't known more).
2) I LOVE both The Count of Monte Cristo as well as The Three Musketeers.
3) I'm a history nut.
The book delivered on all three counts.

If you google "Alexandre Dumas", you get "père" and "fils" (father and son). What you don't know from a simple google search is that there were actually THREE subsequent males in the family called Alexandre
...more
Bradley
Sep 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Honestly fascinating and hitherto fully neglected, the hook of this biography is appropriately fantastic. The author of The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeer's father was a bonafide hero having commanded 50,000 troops... as a black man.

The author of this biography, Reiss, performed a heroic feat, himself, with his research. It's not only full of Alexandre Dumas's reflections on his father General Alex Dumas, but it's corroborated with extensive confirmations AND a truly excellent fo
...more
Hana
Jun 19, 2014 rated it really liked it

"To remember a person is the most important thing in the novels of Alexandre Dumas. The worst sin anyone can commit is to forget."

In this dramatic and often poignant book Tom Reiss sets out to reconstruct the life of a long forgotten hero, the father of French author Alexandre Dumas and a man of extraordinary skill, courage and integrity.

At its heart, The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo tells the story of Alex Dumas, the mulatto son of a French noble
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Jenny (Reading Envy)
This book was the October selection for my book club, and I probably would not have read it otherwise. It is obviously well researched, and the author includes his own journey to access the Dumas family documents even after the keeper of the documents (and the code for the lock) passes away. Alexandre Dumas who we all know as the author had a legendary father who was well known in the French military but because of his ethnicity and competition with Napoleon, has lost attention over the years.

I
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Jo Walton
Mar 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is exactly the kind of book I love and want there to be more of. It's well written, thorough, solidly researched and about a really interesting intersectional person. Alex Dumas was the father of Alexandre Dumas the writer, he was also a black slave from the Caribbean, he was also the son of a French aristocrat who sold his partner and his other children for the price of tickets across the Atlantic, and he became a general during the French Revolution. He had a remarkably exciting life, and ...more
Laura
Location 1139:
“Man is born free but is everywhere in chains,” wrote Jean-Jacques Rousseau in The Social Contract in 1762.

Location 1160:
Slavery was one thing for the empire, however, and another thing entirely within France itself.

Location 1236:
Everything is free in a Kingdom where liberty is seated at the foot of the throne, where the least subject finds in the heart of his king the feelings of a father.… No one is [a] slave in France.”

Location 1240:
The problem was not slaves in France. The prob
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Andrea AKA Catsos Person
Magnificent!

Thank heavens for this book. The details of the extraordinary life of Alex Dumas deserve to be known and should not be lost to history.

Reiss did a a masterful job of interweaving French history for someone like me who is rather weak in this area of knowledge.

Also, as this biography was NOT a dry historical tome, I recco to anyone who likes an exciting and easy to read story.
Nicky
Apr 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
To be honest, I only knew of one of the three Dumas men: the one who wrote The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers. My French history is pretty patchy, too, so this book was full of information that was new to me — it’s amazing how little one can know about Nelson and Napoleon despite knowing their names and historical significance. It focuses on General Dumas: not the father or the son we know from literary works, but the father and grandfather of them. I had no idea he was a man of ...more
Diane S ☔
May 08, 2013 rated it liked it
The author snared me at the beginning with a personal look at a grief stricken moment between mother and son. He than went on to set the stage with the genealogical data of Alex Dumas. The part set in what is now Haiti, with the plantations run by titled Frenchmen was very interesting as it also relayed the history of slavery. So the first half of the book was probably my favorite. The second half related to the French Revolution, what led up to it and the part Dumas would play in this revolutio ...more
Becky
Oct 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Wow. Unbelievable. There are not many times that I read a 500+ page history book and want to begin re-reading it the moment I finish, but this was one of those. There was just so much new information to me, so many stories, so many "characters", and so much that was important and that I want to remember, that I just don't feel that on one read through I could have possible gotten it all.

The fact that this story isn't told all the time, is a crime. Alex Dumas lead an impossible, heroic, and ultim
...more
The FountainPenDiva, Old school geek chick and lover of teddy bears
OMG! This incredible book depicts the life of the man who was the inspiration for the Count of Monte Cristo. It is the story of General Alexandre Dumas (father of the famous author), born mixed-race of noble blood, sold into slavery by his father then subsequently freed by the same man, then raised in luxury and who later became one of the great heroes of the French Revolution, only to be betrayed by the very country he fought so valiantly for. The Black Count reads less like a boring history bo ...more
Anna
Aug 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Anna by: Helen S, I think
‘The Black Count’ tells the epic life story of the novelist Alexandre Dumas’ father, an incredibly successful general of the same name who was figuratively and literally larger than life. Reiss argues, with copious support from a memoir Dumas wrote of his father, that the son’s fictional heroes were heavily inspired by his father’s actual exploits. His life story is very exciting; full of duels, battles, peril, narrow escapes, captivity, and success against the odds. However Alexandre Dumas is n ...more
Jason
Sep 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2019
I am not a fan of biographies, I've read a few and always find them to be bogged down with dates and facts and references and quotes, I soon lose interest and throw the book at the dog. I needed to pick an award winner for a reading challenge and as I really enjoyed the Count of Monte Cristo I gave this one a go. Lucky break for me this is a bloody good read. Tom Reis comes across more of a detective than a biographer, as he tries to find info on the elusive General, sudden deaths of experts and ...more
Suzanne
Aug 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Who hasn’t been enthralled with the swashbuckling stories penned by French author, Alexandre Dumas? From The Count of Monte Cristo to The Three Musketeers, the man was a genius at storytelling. They seem too good to be true, there was actually some truth to his writing. Mr. Dumas used his father, who died when the author was just a boy, as the role model for the heroes of his wonderful books.

In The Black Count, Reiss relates a tale of a man born to a black slave and a nobleman; and his rise thro
...more
Anna Kļaviņa
My copy: ibsn The Black Count Glory, Revolution, Betrayal and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss 9780099575139

An interesting account of the French Revolution and General Dumas life.

My main complaint is that except for few maps there are no images, photographies or illustrations. I would've loved if the book had a picture of the sculpture of 3 Dumas (Dumas the general, Dumas the novelist and Dumas the playwright) by Alfred de Moncel. (In 1942 the Nazi melted it along with hundreds other French statues.)

The author was able to find & read letters by Dumas and I would have a
...more
Porter Broyles
This was just what the doctor ordered.

I needed a fun, yet serious book.

Growing up I loved The Three Musketeers, The Man in the Iron Mask, and The Count of Monte Cristo. Market a movie, book, comic, etc on any of them and I was hooked. That being said, actually reading Alexander Dumas when you are in middle/high school might have been an overly ambitious thing to try. But I tried.

The Black Count is about Alexander Dumas’ father General Thomas-Alexander Dumas (TAD). I had no clue that Alexander Du
...more
Judy
Oct 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Dumas fans, Francophiles, history buffs
Tom Reiss delves into rarely seen documents regarding the lives of all 3 Alexandre Dumases. Three, you say? Yes. Of course, we all know the novelist, Alexandre Dumas, but his father and his son also carried the name. The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo is the story of General Alexandre Dumas, the father of the novelist, and how it influenced Dumas's writings particularly The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers.

Three things I loved:

1) The b
...more
Claire
Sep 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: france, nonfiction
A fascinating account of the life of General Alex Dumas, plucked from slavery (having been pawned by his own father (a French Marquis) in Saint Domingue [Haiti]) to be given a privileged education in Paris, becoming a revered General, part of the Revolution, a humanist, only to lose favour with Bonaparte who failed to rescue the General from imprisonment following a shipwreck in Italian waters and who damaged his prospects further by unravelling much of the progress that had been made for men of ...more
Ozymandias
Mar 30, 2021 rated it really liked it
This was a very enjoyable and interesting biography of Alexandre Dumas. No, not that Alexandre Dumas. The writer’s father, the great Republican General Alexandre Dumas – the highest-ranking black officer in the French army. Also, by right of birth, a Count. Had he deigned to claim it.

Dumas’ life is a compelling one. He was born his father’s slave (his sisters and possibly mother were sold off) in poverty on Saint Domingue (modern Haiti). His family was hilariously disreputable. His father was th
...more
Alex
Jul 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014, rth-lifetime
Alexandre Dumas' dad was a Revolutionary War hero general who once held a bridge by himself against a whole squad of bad guys with a friggin' sword and took the Alps basically singlehanded and then languished as a POW for years and died a pauper and was written out of history because Napoleon is an asshole, and also he was a black guy, and this is all pretty awesome.

Terrific book, handling not only Dumas' actual story but a fair amount of history along the way, from the French Revolution to the
...more
Maija
Feb 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, own
4.5 stars

A fascinating history of not only General Alex Dumas, the father of the novelist, an aristocratic black man rising through the military ranks and commanding armies in France, but also of the French revolution, the rise of Napoleon, and the racial policies in 18th-early 19th Century French society.

Some of the focus shifts mentioned above might have to do with the author not having an overabundance of material of the General himself, but I learned so much reading this. Most importantly,
...more
Beverly
Aug 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
A fascinating well-researched biography of General Alex Dumas who went from being a slave to commanding armies during the French Revolution – an impressive strategic leader. The author brilliantly tells the story of the General, the history of the time and place and puts everything into a world perspective. Loved the maps included as it enhanced my reading pleasure. While his country ignored/denied/erased his contributions, his devoted talented son paid tribute to his father through his engaging ...more
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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 lives with his wife and daughters in New York City.

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26 likes · 6 comments
“-I'm going to heaven! I replied.

-What do you mean, you're going to heaven?

-Let me pass.

-And what will you do in heaven, my poor child?

-I'm going there to kill God, who killed Daddy.”
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“GENERAL,
I have learned that the jack ass whose business it is to report to you upon the battle of the 27th [the 27 Nivôse, i.e., January 16] stated that I was only in observation throughout the battle. I don't wish any such observation on him, for he would have shit in his pants.
Salute and Brotherhood!
ALEX. DUMAS”
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