There are certain figures throughout history who have had a significant impact on key periods in history but remain relatively obscure. General Alex Dumas is one such figure. Not only was he one of the top generals in the post-revolution French Army, ranking even higher than Napoleon Bonaparte at one point in time, his influence on certain pre-revolutionary politics regarding slavery and the status of former slaves is remarkable. That he was forgotten by history is due more to the adage to that history is written by the victors than to any of his own failings. His story is as inspiring as it is frustrating that he was subject to the whims and jealousies of a megalomaniac.
With a subject matter as interesting as General Dumas, it would be easy to dismiss the author’s contribution to the novel. After all, Dumas’ story practically writes itself with his participation in some of the key moments in European history. However, to do so would be to ignore Mr. Reiss’ significant skill as a researcher and writer. His use of primary sources within the narrative provides an authentic note while the layout of each chapter is meticulous in its detail and organization. The flow of the story is exceptional, and a reader has no problems following the multiple historical characters that appear throughout the story.
To call Alex Dumas’ story stranger than fiction is an understatement. His prolific talents and accomplishments, his unique situation as a successful son of a black slave in an increasingly white world, as well as the conspiracies and jealousies directed towards him all create a story that is better than most fictional novels. Combined with Mr. Reiss’ exquisite writing and careful research, there is no confusion as to why The Black Count has won countless awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography.