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Blood and Thunder: An Epic of the American West Audio CD – Abridged, Audiobook

4.6 out of 5 stars 617 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Although delivering little in the way of new information, Sides, an Outside magazine editor-at-large and bestselling author (Ghost Soldiers), eloquently paints the landscape and history of the 19th-century Southwest, combining Larry McMurtry's lyricism with the historian's attachment to facts. Inevitably, Sides's main focus is the virtual decimation of the Navajo nation from the 1820s to the late 1860s. Sides depicts the complex role of whites in the subjugation of the Navajos through his portrait of Kit Carson—an illiterate trapper, soldier and scout who knew the Native Americans intimately, married two of them and, without blinking, participated in the Indians' slaughter. Books about Carson have been numerous, but Sides is better than most Carson biographers in setting his exploits against a larger backdrop: the unstoppable idea of manifest destiny. Of course, as counterpoint to the progress of Carson and other whites, Sides details the fierce but doomed defense mounted by the Navajos over long decades. This culminated in their final, desperate "stand" during 1863 at Canyon de Chelly, more than a decade after a contingent of federal troops—operating under a commander whose last name of "Washington" seems ironic in this context—killed their great leader, Narbona. (Oct. 3)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Hampton Sides's Blood and Thunder is more ambitious in its sweep than his acclaimed Ghost Wars (2001), a World War II history. His recounting of harsh frontier life and the violent clashes among the Navajo, the Spanish (Mexican), and the U.S. Army offers a gripping epic while enlivening many of the era's remarkable figures, from soldiers to trappers, farmers, Indians, and pioneer women. Critics especially praised Sides's nuanced discussions of the Navajo and other Native American tribes, as well as his inclusion of maps that chart key routes and conquests. A few critics cited some factual errors, tangential discussions, and omissions of some key historical figures, but overall it's clear that "Sides knows how to tell a good story" (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel).

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Product Details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Random House Audio; Abridged edition (October 3, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553756818
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553756814
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 6.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (617 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #646,416 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Blood and Thunder is a blockbuster! With this sweeping and comprehensive history, Hampton Sides vividly and engagingly retells the story of James K. Polk's and the nation's drive to absorb the West and expand America from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Along with this outsized and bold tale of conquest and manifest destiny, Sides generously presents us with a whole constellation of people and events, such as the deliberately provoked (by the U.S.) Mexican-American war, the jarring clash of Native-American and Anglo cultures, the life of the great leader of the Navajos, Narbona, and his awful death, the relentless and brutal efforts of the US Army at eradication of the Navajos and other tribespeople, the coming of the Civil War to New Mexico, and the creation of one of America's first pop heros, Kit Carson. Through newspapers and trashy pulp fiction westerns, known at the time as "blood and thunders," a larger than life western Indian killer and superhero was born, which had nothing whatever to do with the real person. But Americans needed such a hero as Kit Carson to entertain them and to make them feel safe in venturing far away to the west. Sides focuses in on Kit Carson's real life as if it were almost representative of an entire era.

The historian Sides is scrupulously even-handed in the telling of this tale and spares us no details, proving that history is often a messy business where sometimes the bad and good intermingle in the same person and event, and one can perhaps never know the whole truth. Nowhere in this work is this more clearly shown than in the person of Christopher Carson, the quiet, unassuming, and illiterate central figure in this drama who had an urge at a young age to take off to parts unknown.
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Format: Hardcover
Hampton Sides has given us a multi-faceted examination of the men and forces involved in the conquest of the American West and the way of life of its original settlers.

At the center is Christopher "Kit" Carson, who was a pivotal figure in the events and whose life has been so distorted by legend most today have little inkling of just how complex an individual and how heroic--in the true sense of the word--the man really was.

There are also telling portraits of others: President James Polk, engineer of Manifest Destiny, who believed it was his nation's biblical right to seize real estate all the way to the Pacific, no matter who else might claim the land; Stephen Watts Kearny, father of the U.S. Cavalry and one of the most underrated officers produced by this country, who Polk used to spearhead his land lust; the equally ambitious John C. Fremont and his father-in-law, Sen. Thomas Hart Benton, the apostle of Manifest Destiny; the energetic and interesting Brig. Gen. James H. Carleton, whose well-meaning dream of a refuge for the Navajo led them to Bosque Redondo and near extinction; the great Navajo leaders Narbona, Manuelito and Barboncito, and many others.

Diminutive in stature, Carson was--as Sides describes him early on: "...a lovable man...loyal, honest, and kind. In many pinpointable incidents, he acted bravely and with much physical grace. More than once, he saved people's lives without seeking recognition or pay. He was a dashing good Samaritan--a hero, even."

In the very next paragraph, Sides says, "He was also a natural born killer."

Carson was all of that. A humble man, a brave man, loyal to his friends, a demon to his enemies. He was a man of his times, yet stood head and shoulders above many of his contemporaries.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a beautifully written book that takes epic form in retelling the settling of the American southwest from 1820 through the 1860s. From the Mexican war to the removal of the Navajo from Canyon de Chelly, Hampton Sides writes an engaging account of the results of manifest destiny, showing both sides, warts and all. The white man, while seeming noble in purpose, is shown to have been lacking in honor, and while the Indians were certainly shafted time and again they had many of their own faults. Central to this story is the famous mountain man Kit Carson, a man of many contradictions: though extremely intelligent he was also illiterate; he could speak many of the native languages, understood the Indian ways, and even had Indian wives but he also participated in the slaughter and removal from their lands of these same Indians. The book also includes engaging portraits of many of the important figures of this time period: Stephen Watts Kearny, John Fremont, the Navajo warrior Narbona, and Senator Thomas Benton. the Author is even handed and fair in portraying all those involved. This book proves that truth is stranger than fiction. Speaking of fiction, I also recommend Across the High Lonesome set in the modern American west.
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Format: Hardcover
I will get to my review shortly, but please first drive to your closest bookstore, or click above on Amazon.com and order this book. It is just a marvelous must read. Why? There are a number of reasons. To begin with I am a big fan of Hampton Sides' book Ghost Soldiers about Bataan and a Japanese prison camp rescue. This new book is in part a biography of Kit Carson and an overall history of the Navaho, the Mexican American War and the taking of the west by manifest destiny. The key to both books, I think, is Sides ability to explain the cultural roots of both sides and the conflict. You could not condone the Japanese behavior but could in fact understand it. In his new western history you find the Navaho not to be so lovable and the Americans not so honorable. Throughout this history lesson is the story of the simply amazing and contradictory life of the illiterate, Kit Carson. Sides is not only a great and entertaining writer but a marvelous story teller that makes you want to turn the pages faster and faster. This volume is full of material for more than 100 films. And it even can serve somewhat as another example of Americas compelling need to fight wars of liberation.

I found it amazingly relevant that the Mexican War was our nation's first war of choice. Fought to support manifest destiny and to bring democracy and freedom to Mexico. That once defeated the Catholic Church supported a revolt of insurgency against American rule which was crunched after its violent backlash. President Polk for good or bad certainly changed the map of history, and you can certainly see why many Mexicans feel California was stolen for $11 million dollars.
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