countI did a lot of reading over the holidays, but mostly short fiction and my annual turn at A Christmas Carol.  However, I did have time to finish reading The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss.

The Black Count is a wonderful nonfiction account of a hero of post-revolutionary France and the inspiration for some of the great works of western literature: Alex Dumas, father of French novelist Alexandre Dumas.

About The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss: “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.”

There are so many reasons I loved this book.  First, as a big fan of Alexandre Dumas when I was a wee lad, it was great to see the real life inspiration for many of his most famous works.  Second, I learned so much not just about the subject, but about a time in history that is well known (Napoleon-era Europe) through a new lens: that of a black man who was a national hero in a western European country – well before slavery was abolished in the new world.

Mr. Reiss displays his great storytelling craft as he relates the results of his incredible and obviously exhaustive research which brings the world of Dumas to life. 

The Black Count is another example of a real life person living a life well beyond the imagination of the best of novelists – in this case, quite literally.

The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss is available from Amazon and other fine retailers.