Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo” as Want to Read:
The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Read Excerpt* *Different edition

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

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  10,327 Ratings  ·  1,593 Reviews

General Alex Dumas, is a man almost unknown today, yet his story is strikingly familiarbecause 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 e
Paperback, 432 pages
Published May 14th 2013 by Broadway Books (first published September 18th 2012)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Black Count, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Susan Schneider I got bogged down a little when the book turned to military strategies and battles, but overall, the almost-too-wild-to-be-true account of Dumas life…moreI got bogged down a little when the book turned to military strategies and battles, but overall, the almost-too-wild-to-be-true account of Dumas life is well worth the read.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Sep 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jason Koivu
Sep 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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

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

"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
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.

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
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
Oct 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
'Aussie Rick'
Oct 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: napoleonic
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
Anna Kļaviņa
My copy: ibsn The Black Count Glory, Revolution, Betrayal and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss9780099575139

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
Andrea (Catsos Person) is a Compulsive eBook Hoarder

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.
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
What rogues Alexandre Dumas' grandfather and great-uncles were!
Claire McAlpine
Sep 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, france
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
Oct 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Aug 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Alex Dumas, the subject of this biography, lead a very interesting life. Unfortunately, it would seem that there is not enough information on Dumas to fill a book. So, Reiss goes into considerable detail on the times he is describing--the French Revolution, Civil Rights in ancien regime France, etc. While many of these topics are also quite interesting, much narrative momentum is lost by the regular shifts from Dumas to these various topics and back again.
Rebecca Huston
This is the sort of book that I love to read. Full of history and surprises, I had never given any thought to race in Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries before. But in this tale of a soldier-aristocrat in revolutionary and Napoleonic France, race certainly matters in the life of Alex Dumas, a man who was born in what is now Haiti as the son of an aristocrat and an African-American woman. There are battles, ups and downs and his very remarkable son. Alexandre Dumas. All kinds of h ...more
Nov 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was like being up close and personal and inside historical wars, right alongside the heroic men revealing their heroics and failures. I never knew this side of France. I want more.
Jan 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-reads
I adore The Three Musketeers. Enough to have read Twenty Years After and The Vicomte de Bragelonne (though I admit to stalling out somewhere in the middle of Louise de la Valliere). Enough to have watched almost every film version, even that Disney debacle with Chris O'Donnell (though I admit to rooting for Richelieu in that, because one always roots for Tim Curry). Enough to have named the three miniature rose bushes that shared my first apartment with me Athos, Porthos, and Aramis. Enough so t ...more
Jul 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very well written and superbly researched biography and historical account of the life of Alexandre Dumas. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and learned much about French history that I didn't know previously.
Regina Lindsey
"I haven't forgotten any of the memories that you told me to keep. From the time I could think, your memory has lived in me like a sacred lamp, illuminating everything and everyone you every touched, even though death has taken it away!" At the age of four, Alexander Dumas lost his father, General Alex Dumas. Like many young children, the author Dumas, carries with him throughout his life, an idyllic image of his father. However, in this instance the idealism is supported by history, the esteem ...more
Dec 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Richard by:
The Black Count is an incredible history book.

Its subject is someone whose mere existence is fundamentally fascinating, and with engaging breadth and depth.

The précis can be grasped from the blurb, so I won’t bore you with that.

This staggeringly interesting yet hitherto under-appreciated man is obviously the nominal focus of the story, but that focus drifts quite widely. The racial politics of the era and of revolutionary France is a central theme, but the major villain, Napoleon, really only sh
This book is terrific! It makes boring history (The French Revolution? I'm pretty sure I slept through that in two different classes) awesome. By following the life of Alexandre Dumas, the father of Alexandre Dumas, and promising that this was the man who inspired some of that author's greatest literature, the book feels more relevant. Add to that the fact that this Dumas' life did not begin in France, but rather as the son of a slave in Saint-Domingue (Haiti) and one quickly realizes that this ...more
Besides having an exceedingly long title, I think the time was wrong for me to read this book. Wrapped up in other ideas and too much nonfiction reading on my plate, I had a difficult time getting into this book despite the fact that it is actually quite well written.

From the slave-run plantations of Sainte Domingue (now Haiti) through the French Revolution, the Dumas family is traced and linked to every vital episode of the era. The author tells the story of General Dumas and points out events
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • The Kings' Mistresses: The Liberated Lives of Marie Mancini, Princess Colonna, and Her Sister Hortense, Duchess Mazarin
  • Bolivar: American Liberator
  • Talleyrand
  • The Richest Woman in America: The Life and Times of Hetty Green
  • Napoleon: A Life
  • The Illustrious Dead: The Terrifying Story of How Typhus Killed Napoleon's Greatest Army
  • The Maid and the Queen: The Secret History of Joan of Arc
  • Dancing to the Precipice: Lucie de la Tour du Pin and the French Revolution
  • Embers Of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America's Vietnam
  • Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly, and the Making of the Modern Middle East
  • The Barbarous Years: The Peopling of British North America: The Conflict of Civilizations, 1600-1675
  • Queen of the Conqueror: The Life of Matilda, Wife of William I
  • Sisters of Fortune: America’s Caton Sisters at Home and Abroad
  • Danubia: A Personal History of Habsburg Europe
  • The Pirate Coast: Thomas Jefferson, the First Marines & the Secret Mission of 1805
  • Liberty: The Lives and Times of Six Women in Revolutionary France
  • Nancy: The Story of Lady Astor
  • Aristocrats: Caroline, Emily, Louisa, and Sarah Lennox, 1740-1832
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.
More about Tom Reiss...
“-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.”
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!
More quotes…