The Black Count by Tom Reiss
Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo

81%

42 Critic Reviews

The most interesting passages of "The Black Count" are those on slavery and the ways in which the rights of black and mulatto citizens, whether in the sugar colonies or on mainland France, came to be granted, withdrawn, then partially granted again...
-Wall Street Journal

Synopsis

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, because his son, the novelist Alexandre Dumas, used it to create some of the best loved heroes of literature.

Yet, hidden behind these swashbuckling adventures was an even more incredible secret: the real hero was the son of a black slave -- who rose higher in the white world than any man of his race would before our own time. 

Born in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), Alex Dumas was briefly sold into bondage but made his way to Paris where he was schooled as a sword-fighting member of the French aristocracy. Enlisting as a private, he rose to command armies at the height of the Revolution, in an audacious campaign across Europe and the Middle East – until he met an implacable enemy he could not defeat.

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.  

 

About Tom Reiss

See more books from this Author
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 makes his home in New York City.
 
Published September 18, 2012 by Crown. 434 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Travel, War, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
icon10
Peak Rank on Mar 08 2015
icon2
Weeks as Bestseller
Bookmark Counts:
2
Want to Read
Add Critic Review

Critic reviews for The Black Count
All: 42 | Positive: 38 | Negative: 4

Kirkus

Good
on Jun 15 2012

A rarefied, intimate literary study delineating a roiling revolutionary era.

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol... | See more reviews from Kirkus

Publishers Weekly

Good
on Jun 25 2012

Reiss capitalizes on his subject’s charged personality as well as the revolutionary times in which he lived to create an exciting narrative.

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol... | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

NY Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Leo Damrosch on Sep 14 2012

...thanks to Reiss we now know that Dumas grandpère was even more interesting.

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol... | See more reviews from NY Times

Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Nigel Jones on Sep 28 2012

Reiss has written a swashbuckling tale of his own.

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol... | See more reviews from Guardian

Publishers Weekly

Good
Reviewed by Tina Bennett on Jun 25 2012

Reiss capitalizes on his subject’s charged personality as well as the revolutionary times in which he lived to create an exciting narrative.

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol... | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

Wall Street Journal

Above average
Reviewed by Caroline Moorehead on Sep 14 2012

The most interesting passages of "The Black Count" are those on slavery and the ways in which the rights of black and mulatto citizens, whether in the sugar colonies or on mainland France, came to be granted, withdrawn, then partially granted again...

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol... | See more reviews from Wall Street Journal

Wall Street Journal

Below average
Reviewed by Caroline Moorehead on Sep 14 2012

Despite Mr. Reiss's impressively thorough research, the general remains a shadowy figure on the sidelines of history... Repeatedly, the author must turn to speculation.

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol... | See more reviews from Wall Street Journal

NPR

Excellent
Reviewed by Drew Toal on Sep 19 2012

That a former slave could rise on his merits so far, so fast some seven decades before Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation is a truly amazing story, one that needs no literary embellishment.

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol... | See more reviews from NPR

Examiner

Good
Reviewed by Rosetta Codling on Jul 28 2013

Tom Reiss’ work provides another means to augment and complete the circle of Caribbean history. This is a book that I will treasure.

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol...

Washington Times

Below average
Reviewed by Aram Bakshian on Oct 08 2012

He deserves to be remembered for what he was, not as the mythical figure that his son fantasized and Mr. Reiss has passed on to us in inflated form.

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol... | See more reviews from Washington Times

Christian Science Monitor

Good
Reviewed by David Holahan on Nov 21 2012

Reiss has written a remarkable and almost compulsively researched account of a man who played a critical, if largely overlooked, role in the French Revolution.

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol...

The Boston Globe

Excellent
Reviewed by Madison Smartt Bell on Oct 06 2012

The raw material is extremely promising for a thrilling historical epic, sweeping through the French Revolution at home and abroad, and the Napoleonic Empire that followed.

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol...

BookPage

Good
Reviewed by John T. Slania on Oct 01 2012

The Black Count is a thoroughly researched, lively piece of nonfiction that will be savored by fans of Alexandre Dumas. But The Black Count needs no partner: It is fascinating enough to stand on its own.

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol...

BookPage

Excellent
Reviewed by John T. Slania on Oct 01 2012

The Black Count is a thoroughly researched, lively piece of nonfiction that will be savored by fans of Alexandre Dumas. But The Black Count needs no partner: It is fascinating enough to stand on its own.

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol...

The Seattle Times

Good
Reviewed by Tyrone Beason on Nov 16 2012

...we now have a monument to the lives of both Dumas and his adoring son in the pages of "The Black Count."

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol...

The Washington Post

Good
Reviewed by Joanna Scutts on Nov 02 2012

...a new monument recently appeared in Paris: an enormous pair of slave shackles, which honor him as a symbol, not as a man. This remarkable book stands instead as his monument.

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol...

We Love This Book

Excellent
Reviewed by Andre van Loon on Sep 18 2012

The Black Count is narrative history at its best, highly focused around colourful episodes and dynamic characters. Reiss is a knowledgeable guide...

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol...

Bookmarks Magazine

Good
Reviewed by Jon on Sep 16 2012

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.

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol...

Daily Kos

Good
Reviewed by Susan Grigsby on May 06 2013

Although it was originally recommended as a book that contained parallels between today's society and that of France a little over two hundred years ago, I found myself enchanted by the history that Tom Reiss painstakingly reveals.

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol...

Mail Online

Excellent
Reviewed by Christopher Hudson on Nov 15 2012

This brilliantly researched book...deserves a film treatment all of its own.

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol...

Large Print Reviews

Good
Reviewed by Harry S. Chou on Oct 11 2012

From beginning to end, The Black Count is a riveting book that more often than not reads like a novel rather than a tradition biography. Alex led a remarkable life, and he lived, and fought, during a pivotal period in world history. This biography provides keen insights into the life of a man that has been relegated to the back page of history...

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol...

Paste

Good
Reviewed by Don Schanche Jr. on Feb 27 2013

...this story of The Black Count stands out. Through persistent, skillful efforts as a historian and sleuth, Reiss has produced a gripping account of General Alex Dumas.

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol...

Time Magazine

Excellent
Reviewed by Lev Grossman on Dec 04 2012

...The Black Count is one of those quintessentially human stories of strength and courage that also sheds light on the flukey historical moment that made it possible.

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol... | See more reviews from Time Magazine

Literary Review

Good
Reviewed by Jonathan Keates

The Black Count has its own moving narrative thread, made compelling by Reiss's impassioned absorption with the general's fate.

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol...

Socialist Review

Excellent
Reviewed by Gaverne Bennett on Dec 01 2012

...we all owe Reiss a great debt. For in this biography you will discover that the first great civil rights and abolitionist movement in the west was not in Britain or the US in the 1800s, 1860s or the 1960s, but in France, reaching its zenith between 1791 and 1804.

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol...

Book Oxygen

Good
Reviewed by Paul Sidey on Sep 20 2012

Thomas-Alexandre may have been written out of history, but Reiss makes a persuasive case for his extraordinary, swashbuckling and ultimately tragic life being an inspiration to his novelist son.

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol...

Schaumburg Township District Library

Excellent
Reviewed by NonFiction Librarian on Sep 27 2012

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.

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol...

Devourer of Books

Excellent
on Sep 18 2012

If you have even the vaguest interest in Alexandre Dumas, the French Revolution, Napoleon Bonaparte, or the history of slavery and race relations, The Black Count is a must-read. Highly recommended.

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol...

The Literary Omnivore

Above average
Reviewed by The Literary Omnivore on May 29 2013

While Reiss can get away from his subject at times in favor of shinier anecdotes, The Black Count remains the riveting story of Alex Dumas, born a slave in the Ancien Régime, who became a general to rival Napoleon himself.

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol...

Everyday eBook

Good
Reviewed by Dr. Edward J. McNamara on Dec 05 2012

Fortunately, his son ultimately helped pick up the cause in literature, just as Tom Reiss has through his research and excellent storytelling about this real-life superhero. A remarkable true story, packed with adventure.

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol...

http://blogs.slj.com

Good
Reviewed by Angela Carstensen on Sep 25 2012

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.

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol...

Wordsmithonia

Good
Reviewed by Ryan on Nov 08 2012

This will be a book I lend out, though I'm normally hesitant about doing so. This will be a book that stays on my shelves for years to come.

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol...

Chrisbookarama

Above average
Reviewed by Chris bookarama on Oct 04 2012

Not only is The Black Count well researched with attention to detail, but full of heart and humanity. It’s hard to believe that this was the life of a real person and not a character in a Dumas novel. Even if biographies aren’t your thing, give The Black Count a try.

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol...

Suvudu

Good
Reviewed by Matt Staggs on Jan 18 2013

If you like adventure stories at all, you should take George R.R. Martin’s lead and pick up this incredible biography.

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol...

Suvudu

Good
Reviewed by Matt Staggs on Sep 10 2012

...The Black Count, explores the the amazing, unlikely life of this dashing man who would find fame on the battlefield and immortality in his son’s fiction.

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol...

Book Kvetch

Good
Reviewed by Rebecca G. Aguilar on Sep 21 2012

The Black Count by Tom Reiss is a highly worthwhile read about General Alex Dumas, inspiration for the heroic characters created by his son Alexandre Dumas in The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers.

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol...

https://lareviewofbooks.org

Below average
Reviewed by Robert Zaretsky on Jul 19 2013

Moreover, if Reiss is looking for delicious ironies, here are two: not only does Dumas’s pettiness lead to his fatal relationship with Napoleon, but Reiss does with Kellermann (and Gallaher) what Reiss accuses Napoleon of doing to Dumas: he airbrushes them from history.

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol...

http://www.jonosbookreviews.com

Excellent
Reviewed by Jono on Jun 28 2013

We now have The Black Count to bring this remarkable man to life. If you like rip-roaring adventure stories with illuminating history thrown into the mix, this fine book is a “Lire Absolument!”

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol...

Lis Carey's Library

Excellent
Reviewed by Lis Carey on Feb 19 2013

Reiss gives us a fascinating and lively account of this amazing career, Dumas' origins, rise, and eventually fall from favor as Napoleon's star ascended. An additional delicious piece of this story is the impact that Alex Dumas (the form of name he most frequently used) had on his only son...

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol...

David Forsmark

Above average
Reviewed by David Forsmark on Dec 09 2012

The Black Count is a fascinating and compelling read, though not as novelistic as many recent bestselling historical biographies. A meticulous researcher and historian, Reiss takes far less literary license than has become the norm. This leaves his subject still shrouded in mystery and somewhat remote.

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol...

Louisville Free Public Library

Good
Reviewed by Rob on Dec 12 2013

Through the excellent writing of Mr. Reiss, the captivating journey of Thomas-Alexandre is told, and it is through this story that certain aspects of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, which may not be terribly familiar to the reader, are conveyed, and the context and impact of this time may be better and more fully understood.

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol...

The Urban Politico

Good
on Feb 14 2013

Once you become familiar with the General's story, his feats of derring-do, his struggles against racism...it becomes very apparent that his son the novelist loved him dearly and put bits and pieces of him in just about everything he wrote.

Read Full Review of The Black Count: Glory, Revol...

Reader Rating for The Black Count
85%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 575 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


Rate this book!

Add Review

Reader reviews & activity

Terri McGinty

Terri McGinty 5 Sep 2013

Added the book to want to read list

Mazie

Mazie 5 Sep 2013

Added the book to want to read list

×