Reviews of American Character

American Character is a colorful and compelling account of a man who was, at various times, an author, an archeologist, a newspaperman, a photographer, a poet and an early advocate for the rights of Indians, whom he insisted on calling ‘First Americans.’ ….Thompson concedes that Lummis is not well-loved by historians, who have complained about his ‘self-glorifying purple prose,’ faulted the accuracy of his writing and reporting, and declared him to have been ‘a poseur, a lecher and a drunkard.’ But American Character is an earnest effort to rescue Lummis from such disrepute and to restore him to a respectable place in history….

‘His eccentric behavior and ostentatious outfits were partly the mark of a savvy salesman who depended on a precarious stream of revenue from books and freelance articles to make ends meet,’ writes Thompson in his own verdict on Charles Fletcher Lummis. ‘But it was also a form of personal protest against silly prejudices toward people who are different, which was at the root of the racism and xenophobia that Lummis spent his life fighting.’ ”

Los Angeles Times (March 7, 2001)


“Thompson … paints an honest, vivid portrait of a man whose life was nothing short of cinematic.  Charles Lummis … did more than capture the spirit of the Southwest at the turn of the century, he preserved its dignity and Native American traditions, even while his own dignity was called into question as a result of personal scandals and financial woes….  Thompson exalts Lummis’s vital accomplishments without covering up any of his flaws.  The result is a compulsively engaging and spirited biography of a man as colorful as he was influential.”

Publisher’s Weekly (Feb. 12, 2001)


“A century ago, almost everyone recognized the name Charles Fletcher Lummis journalist, poet, author, photographer, editor of Out West magazine, and advocate of Indian rights. Today he has been largely forgotten. In a well-written biography that draws on Lummis’s personal papers and many books and articles, as well as other archival sources, Thompson rescues Lummis from undeserved obscurity and places him in the context of his era. Thompson shows how a flair for publicity and journalism in college led Lummis to undertake a walk across the country in 1884-85, resulting in his settling in Los Angeles and becoming a tireless promoter of the Southwest. This led to a period of residence in the Isleta Pueblo and his espousal of Indian rights and a friendship with Theodore Roosevelt. An important work; recommended for libraries with an interest in the Southwest, journalism, and Native Americans.”

Library Journal

Winner of the Western Writers of America
2002 Spur Award for Best Biography.

coverbig“Thompson’s biography is immensely readable, and informative to boot.”
New Mexico Magazine (Nov. 2001)


“It is one of the most enjoyable biographies I have ever read.”

Alibi (Albuquerque) (July 26, 2001)


“Thompson’s Lummis is a man out of time, an indefatigable 19th century adventurer whose beliefs in cultural diversity have become the shared values of our day. California too quickly forgets its heroes… It’s time for a rediscovery of the passionate, prescient and utterly endearing C.F. Lummis.”

San Francisco Chronicle (June 24, 2001)


“As a man, a scholar, a promoter, and a visionary, Charles Fletcher Lummis continues to fascinate lovers of the American West. This fascination is further intensified by Mark Thompson’s detailed and vivid new biography.”

Dr. Kevin Starr, State Librarian of California


“Entertaining and informative enough to please general readers, Thompson’s biography of Lummis will appeal to those interested in western and early civil-rights history.“

Kirkus Reviews (Feb. 1, 2001)