|General Thomas-Alexandre Dumas by Olivier Pichat c1790s|
His full name - his father was a Marquis, his mother Marie-Cessette Dumas was a slave - was Thomas-Alexandre Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie. He was abandoned by his father (who sold his Mother and Alex's siblings back into slavery when he left San Domingue - classy guy!) when he returned to France after failing to make his fortune as a planter.
|Chevalier Saint-George by Mather c1787|
Alex, unsurprisingly, jettisoned his father's name and used his mothers' slave name and he soon became as well known as his tutor for his skills on a horse and with a sword. In fact there were stories about Dumas' prodigious strength, speed and skill, including one which related his ability to lift a horse of the ground with the strength of his thighs.
During the revolution a regiment of black soldiers was formed by Saint-George, it was called the American regiment, (also known as La Legion Noire) although most of the soldiers were from the Caribbean, blacks were known, generically in France at this time as American. Dumas joined as a private aged 24, and by 31 was General in Chief of the Army of the Alps. Dumas served under Napoleon who was jealous of his height and his prowess on the battlefield. Indeed during the Wars in Egypt, the locals assumed Dumas was the French leader. Clashes with Napoleon led to Dumas' return to France from Egypt in 1799, on a rather dodgy vessel, and when this ship ran aground the King of Sicily took Dumas prisoner. Then Dumas languished in a dungeon for two years. On Dumas' release, Napoleon still refused him his rightful pension and Dumas and his young family struggled in poverty.
But really, apart from Dumas' astonishing rise through the French military, his amazing achievements, what is most interesting to me is Dumas' own son.
Of course you know the name. Alexandre Dumas, best selling writer - still in print close to two hundred years later.
Alexandre didn't know his father long, Thomas died when the boy was just 4 years old. But Alexandre heard all the tales, and he wove them into his own, brand new stories, so well loved they are all still in print and consistently on our screens whether as films or TV; The Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo, to name a few.
Blade and Bone is a romp, a homage to The Count of Monte Cristo and to The Three Musketeers. It was a chance to write Ezra and Loveday again, two characters who wouldn't let me forget them after Sawbones. It was also a homage to those swashbuckling adventures with fabulous costumes I loved from Sunday afternoons on the telly when I was a kid. And a book for me aged 12 who wished someone like me might show up in those shows.
|Portrait of a Hunter in Landscape by Guaffier, thought to be Thomas-Alexandre Dumas|
Blade and Bone is published by Walker Books out October 6th