Pulitzer Prize Awardees for General Nonfiction


Empire of the Summer Moon (2010)

Written by S.C. Gwynne

In the tradition of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, a stunningly vivid historical account of the forty-year battle between Comanche Indians and white settlers for control of the American West, centering on Quanah, the greatest Comanche chief of them all.

S. C. Gwynne’s Empire of the Summer Moon spans two astonishing stories. The first traces the rise and fall of the Comanches, the most powerful Indian tribe in American history. The second entails one of the most remarkable narratives ever to come out of the Old West: the epic saga of the pioneer woman Cynthia Ann Parker and her mixed-blood son Quanah, who became the last and greatest chief of the Comanches.

Although readers may be more familiar with the tribal names Apache and Sioux, it was in fact the legendary fighting ability of the Comanches that determined just how and when the American West opened up. Comanche boys became adept bareback riders by age six; full Comanche braves were considered the best horsemen who ever rode. They were so masterful at war and so skillful with their arrows and lances that they stopped the northern drive of colonial Spain from Mexico and halted the French expansion westward from Louisiana. White settlers arriving in Texas from the eastern United States were surprised to find the frontier being rolled backward by Comanches incensed by the invasion of their tribal lands. So effective were the Comanches that they forced the creation of the Texas Rangers and account for the advent of the new weapon specifically designed to fight them: the six-gun.

The war with the Comanches lasted four decades, in effect holding up the development of the new American nation. Gwynne’s exhilarating account delivers a sweeping narrative that encompasses Spanish colonialism, the Civil War, the destruction of the buffalo herds, and the arrival of the railroads—a historical feast for anyone interested in how the United States came into being.

Against this backdrop Gwynne presents the compelling drama of Cynthia Ann Parker, a lovely nine-year-old girl with cornflower-blue eyes who was kidnapped by Comanches from the far Texas frontier in 1836. She grew to love her captors and became infamous as the "White Squaw" who refused to return until her tragic capture by Texas Rangers in 1860. More famous still was her son Quanah, a warrior who was never defeated and whose guerrilla wars in the Texas Panhandle made him a legend.

S. C. Gwynne’s account of these events is meticulously researched, intellectually provocative, and, above all, thrillingly told. Empire of the Summer Moon announces him as a major new writer of American history. This book was a finalist of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction. (Copyright © Scribner/Simon & Schuster. All rights reserved.)

Source:  Simon & Schuster, Inc.

S.C. Gwynne is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared extensively in Time, for which he worked as bureau chief, national correspondent and senior editor from 1988 to 2000, and in Texas Monthly, where he was executive editor. His work has also appeared in the New York Times, Harper’s, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, California Magazine, The Boston Globe and many other publications. Prior to his career in journalism, Gwynne was a French teacher and an international banker.

He is the author of Selling Money (1993) about his years as an international banker and The Outlaw Bank (1986) about the $20 billion BCCI bank fraud. The Outlaw Bank was named one of Business Week Magazine’s Top Ten Books of the year. In May 2010, his book Empire of the Summer Moon spent four months on the New York Times top 10 Bestseller list. The book was later a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and won the Texas Book Award and the Oklahoma Book Award.

Gwynne has a bachelor’s degree in history from Princeton University and a master’s Degree in writing from Johns Hopkins University. He lives in the Lost Creek section of Austin, Texas with his wife Katie, an artist, and his daughter.


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