Blood and Thunder by Hampton Sides


Before there was a western book genre, there were the “Blood and Thunder” dime novels. The star of many of these fictitious works was Kit Carson. Hence, what better name for a historical look at this legend of the American West? While this book is about much more than one man, Kit Carson is the central character in Blood and Thunder: An Epic of the American West.

Kit Carson was a man who always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. The number of historical events that he meandered into and influenced is shocking. He was the guide for Captain Freemont, who would go on to become the first Republican Presidential candidate. He took part in the Mexican American War, as well as many Indian Wars.

This book leads you through the major events of his life. However, it is far more than a biography. It covers other American icons in great detail, including some Native Americans. Here are some of the people you will learn about in this book.

The Stars of Blood and Thunder.

President Polk

It’s doubtful that any President accomplished more in less time than President Polk. However, he was a terrible President in my opinion. You’ll learn about his illegal aggression towards Mexico to start the war. Kit Carson even manages to have a run in with this President. I told you, he’s everywhere.


Narbona was a Navajo Head Man. While Navajos didn’t have chiefs, Narbona was as close as anyone came to fitting the bill. He was a great warrior. However, he was also a diplomat. In this book, he could be viewed as Carson’s co-star.

General Kearney

The Mexican American war was an unsavory episode in American history. However, General Stephen Kearney was one of the few bright spots. In Blood and Thunder, you’ll learn about how he conquered New Mexico without firing a single shot. Furthermore, you’ll learn about his later rendezvou with Kit Carson, and how Kit saved his bacon at Mule Hill.

Captain Freemont

He was the son-in-law of Thomas Hart Benton, the influential Missouri Senator. Freemont went on to be a Republican Presidential candidate. However, he doesn’t come across as a great person in this book. He seems to have been a self promoter who road the coattails of his father-in-law and his more capable wife.

Blood and Thunder

Kit Carson is presented as a sympathetic character. However, he did some things that are hard to like. Moreover, viewing him through the lense of his era, he seems like a good guy who did some great things. And a few bad ones.

Navajo History in Blood and Thunder

It’s no secret. The United States horribly mistreated the native inhabitants of the continent. The Navajo were no exception. As you learn about the war perpetrated against them, it will anger you. The long walk to Bosque Redondo was an atrocity. However, their ultimate return to their native land as told in Blood and Thunder is a captivating and emotional story. This entire book would be worth it for that chapter alone. However, you do need the long background story for context.


I highly recommend this book. It is very informative. It is very entertaining. There are no dry and boring sections. Furthermore, the narration by Don Leslie is extraordinary. If you’re a fan of American history, you’ll love it. Moreover, if you’re into the American west, it’s a must read. This is a historical book that reads like an action packed western.

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