I used to listen to Paul Harvey’s “The Rest of the Story” with relish. The tales he told were loaded with little known details that were intriguing and sometimes scintilatting.  He had such a delightful way of winkling out and describing the obscure part of a popular story that, when told, gave fresh meaning to the too-often  commonplace version. Little known facts and tidbits that helped clarify what actually did happen. I am presently reading two books that are addressing the same compelling need to learn more than than meets the eye.  One is about the real story behind the person inspiring Alexandre Dumas’ Count of Monte Cristo; the other is an account of how a small Christian church and its pastors within the small Vichy-French community of Chambon hid and ultimately saved hundreds of Jewish children from the Nazis. Both works offer a wealth of documented evidence that shows that the real people behind these narratives were hardly super human or heroic, just ordinary humans up against a major challenge that threatened to destroy their lives if they didn’t succeed.  In fact, it is more the run of unusual circumstances and the collective actions of the many, as opposed to the few,  that led to interesting and improbable outcomes. While I have yet to read a fictionalized account or novel about the efforts to rescue the Jews in eastern France, I now have a clearer idea as to how it actually happened, thus preventing my being hoodwinked into thinking that art usually mirrors history. Having become better acquainted with Tom Reiss’s well-researched “Black Count” after an earlier reading of “The Count of Monte Cristo”, I now understand better why the famous French writer Dumas chose to write a novel about the adventures and accomplishments of his legendary black father, French General Dumas. Here was a dashing young officer who had endured considerable racial discrimination and financial misfortune in the years leading up and following the French Revolution, and yet never forgot his aristocratic roots.His son, a celebrated novelist, used his father and grandfather’s struggles, displaced immigrants in a foreign land, as the inspiration for a classic tale about an aristocrat who swore revenge on those who had unjustly imprisoned for thirty years. This classic parallels the enormous efforts to defend the honor and preserve the family name. France, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, was a society going in two very different directions: one towards enshrining the principles of personal freedom and equality; the other towards repressing those values in the interests of promoting privilege and wealth. Like in the account of Vichy France, “Village of Secrets”, “Black Count” covers a similar critical moment when  French readers were encouraged to identify with a larger-than-life character looking for justice through revenge. If there is ever a novel published on the exploits of Pastor Trocme and his loyal band of courageous and determined followers I will have the benefit of knowing the bigger context in which it all happened, making any narrative all the more meaningful because I know the rest of the real story beforehand.