Two major works of non-fiction appear this month, one a memoir, the other a biography: Salman Rushdie finally reveals how his life was shattered and imperiled in Joseph Anton, his compelling memoir (Random House). On Valentine’s Day 1989, Rushdie was informed that the Ayatollah had sentenced him to death (he learned what “fatwa” means) for writing The Satanic Verses, a novel deemed “against Islam.”
Rushdie recounts how he was forced underground, guarded 24/7, and how his ordeal became the most important battle for freedom of speech that the world had seen until then. How does a writer live, love, and continue to express himself when his words, his very thoughts become lethal?
Alexandre Dumas will be forever praised and admired for his magnificent swashbuckling novels The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers, et.al., but what few people know — that his novels were inspired by his own father Alex Dumas — is the thrilling subject of The Black Count by Tom Reiss (Crown).
Born to a black slave woman and a white French nobleman, Alex Dumas’s exploits became rich fodder for his son the novelist. Alone among his race, Dumas Sr. Rose from bondage to join the Army and eventually command thousands of soldiers. His principles set him against Napoleon, and he found himself thrown into a dungeon — setting the stage for for him to become the real Count of Monte Cristo. The Black Count is a book for any history lover who wants their swash buckled.
— Chris Avena