Burnham, drawn by Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts

From the Reviews

"There’s almost too much for one book, let alone one life. . . . Mr. Kemper’s narrative is rich, detailed, and pitch-perfect, with the witty and wonderful skipping off every page." --Maxwell Carter, Wall Street Journal

"Here is a splendid book about an amazing life. If this work were not history, it might seem an overly ambitious adventure novel whose hero deserved a multi-volume series. . . . A less skilled author might have turned Burnham into a cartoon hero, but Steve Kemper understands his subject and his period. . . . A fine writer has crafted an outstanding book about an astonishing life." --Clyde A. Milner, The History Book Club (Club Recommendation)

"Armchair adventurers may find no better book this season than Steve Kemper's exhilarating biography of Frederick Russell Burnham . . . The extent of Burnham's travels, the number of places he lived, the number of gold mines he prospected, the armed conflicts for which he volunteered his services as an expert scout — these all provide gist for a narrative that, like Burnham, never stays long in one place." --Claude Peck, Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Burnham lived a life of astonishing adventure . . . In Kemper's sure and enthusiastic hands, Burnham storms through the pages of this rousing volume, outwitting determined foes and collecting mining and ranching interests on two continents that never seemed to pay off as expected. . . . Thrilling adventures presented with the flair they deserve." --Kirkus* (Starred Review)

"Frederick Russell Burnham, whose life was so full of derring-do and fearless exploits that, lacking historical record, one would assume him to be myth." --Jonah Ogles, "Frederick Russell Burnham Is the Most Interesting Man in the World," Outside magazine

"A rollicking, gripping portrait of Frederick Russell Burnham (1861–1947), a highly skilled military scout, outdoorsman, marksman, and prospector, whose legendary survival skills helped inspire the creation of the Boy Scouts." --Ingrid Levin, Library Journal

"A brilliant biography of a Westering man whose life would have been remembered by all who have studied and written about the West, except for the fact that the arc of his life, which reads like a Jack London adventure, stretched well beyond the borders of the American West in time and scope." --Stuart Rosebrook, True West

"Monumental biography on Frederick Russell Burnham, every chapter of which could inspire a thrilling novel on its own. . . . Burnham remains a contradictory yet magnetic figure. Congratulations to Steve Kemper for giving him the superb biography he deserves." --Historical Novel Society

"Journalist Kemper (A Labyrinth of Kingdoms) admirably resurrects the larger-than-life figure of Frederick Russell Burnham (1861–1947) in an account chockfull of adventures that feel ripped from dime-store novels." --Publishers Weekly

"An inherently fascinating and impressively researched biography of the colorful life and adventurous times of a truly remarkable man . . . written with an engaging perspective from beginning to end by a biographer who has a true gift for narrative storytelling." --Micah Andrew, Midwest Book Review

"' A rich and exceptionally detailed account . . . a book as adventurous as its subject." --Frederick Schoemehl, Tombstone Epitaph

“Takes readers on a real expedition of an extraordinary life . . . The book is a wonderful exploration of an incredible person, largely forgotten - as well as a journey into a time long past.” --Robert Wells, Expedition News

A life crammed with adventure and military daring on violent frontiers across the American West, Africa, Mexico, and the Klondike.

Burnham’s amazing story resembles a newsreel mashed up with a Saturday matinee thriller. H. Rider Haggard, author of many best-selling exotic tales, remarked, “In real life he is more interesting than any of my heroes of romance.”

Burnham, one of the few people who could turn Theodore Roosevelt into a listener, was once world-famous as “the American scout.” His expertise in woodcraft, learned from frontiersmen and Indians, helped inspire another friend, Robert Baden-Powell, to found the Boy Scouts. His adventures included Apache wars and range feuds, booms and busts in mining camps around the globe, explorations in remote regions of Africa, and death-defying military feats that brought him renown and high honors.

Failure and tragedy streaked his life as well, but he was endlessly willing to set off into the unknown and chase history’s leading edge, where the future felt up for grabs and values worth dying for were at stake. Steve Kemper brings a quintessential American story to vivid life in this gripping biography.

Burnham at age 20 in Arizona Territory

Burnham's memoir, 1934 edition

Burnham's revolver, a Remington Model 1875, caliber .44-40, used in the American West, Africa, and Mexico.


An excerpt from A Splendid Savage
An Excerpt from A Labyrinth of Kingdoms
An Excerpt from Code Name Ginger
An Excerpt from Code Name Ginger
National Geographic Traveler
National Geographic
Environment: Yale
National Geographic Adventure
BBC Wildlife
The Ecologist
Environment: Yale
On the Trail of the Mysterious Explorer, Colonel Percy Fawcett
from Twain's World: Essays on Hartford's Cultural Heritage