Wednesday, 20 August 2008

The Flashman novels of George Macdonald Fraser

With the recent dry weather the fishing has been a bit quiet so I thought I’d put pen to paper and give you the good oil on a writer that a bloke wouldn’t mind spending a bit of time with, and while book reviews are all well and good, I can’t help feeling that a bloke needs to get hold of a decent author that he can follow up on and get to know, because once you’ve enjoyed one book, if they’re any good, you’ll be wanting more in the same vein.

I see George MacDonald Fraser has recently passed on at the age of 82. A traditionalist, he was an outspoken patron of the British Weights and Measures Association which opposes compulsory conversion to the metric system, now there’s a man after me own heart.

George worked as a newspaperman after serving in a Border regiment under General Slim in Burma in 1945 (see Quartered Safe Out Here, below), and came to fame with the Flashman novels about the adventures of the villain of Tom Brown’s Schooldays, name of Harry Flashman.

Now Flashman is a real lad with the ladies and gets into plenty of scrapes, he writes in the first person so you feel like you’re right there with him whether it’s bedding Lola Montez, riding with Custer at Little Big Horn or at the charge of the Light Brigade. You can’t beat the clarity of writing, the historical accuracy and the way in which human weakness is portrayed in such familiar terms. George’s view of history as the escapades of cads and villains, is in my book a lot more plausible than the official accounts.

Flashman’s adventures as a soldier of the Queen, old Queen Vicky that is, are absolutely gripping, and you might learn a bit of history along the way. I don’t mind telling you if my old history teacher had brought the past to life with half the flair and skill that Flashman does, I might have ended up making a living from it, that’s how good he is, and if a bloke can do that well he’s all right in my book.

The one to start with is Flashman, then read the next eleven in any order you like; they’re all so good you won’t mind coming back and reading some again to fill in the gaps. And once you’ve read all the Flashman books, get your hands on anything else GMF wrote, like the MacAuslan stories about life in a Scottish regiment after the War.

But before we go I'll just add a note about Quartered Safe Out Here: a recollection of the War in Burma (1992); this is GMF's highly personal account of the Burma war, an unusual and possibly unique view of war in close-up: fearsome, sometimes appalling, often funny, and always a disturbing reminder of how the world and its attitudes to soldiers and soldiering have changed in 50 years. And this is how it starts, with a few words from one of our great British poets and writers from an earlier age, talk about bring back some memories! It's enough to make the hairs on the back of a bloke's neck stand up!
You may talk o' gin and beer
When you're quartered safe out here,
An' you're sent to penny fights an' Aldershot it,
But when it comes to slaughter
You will do your work on water,
An' you'll lick the bloomin' boots of 'im that's got it.
Rudyard Kipling, Gunga Din
So take my advice on this because I wouldn’t steer you wrong and give George and Flashy a go, you won’t regret it, class this as sae 5w40, easy driving, starts well any time but can handle some hard going as well.

Until next time it’s cheers from your mate Jacko and good reading.

see link for George_MacDonald_Fraser

The Flashman series constitute Fraser's major works. There are 12 books in the series, namely:
• Flashman (1969)
• Royal Flash (1970)
• Flash for Freedom! (1971)
• Flashman at the Charge (1973)
• Flashman in the Great Game (1975)
• Flashman's Lady (1977)
• Flashman and the Redskins (1982)
• Flashman and the Dragon (1985)
• Flashman and the Mountain of Light (1990)
• Flashman and the Angel of the Lord (1994)
• Flashman and the Tiger (1999)
• Flashman on the March (2005)

1 comment:

vicki said...

You are digging some classics out of the closet here!

All the World

Jaques -
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts...