Monday, January 07, 2008

George Macdonald Fraser

Tom Brown's School Days is a famous book set in the context of Tom's experience at an English boys boarding school. In that book, a boy named Flashman makes a minor appearance as a bully and cad. Forward to 1968 and Flashman makes his literary debut as a self-penned chronicler of some of the epic events of English and World history during the 19th century. Flashman is everywhere from the Crimea to the American Civil War, apparently saving the day and playing a material role in the events in question. At the same time he manages to bed over 400 women (while also maintaining a marriage to a nymphomaniac), is routinely captured, tortured (in some unlikely ways) and escapes. Through complete incompetence and cowardice he always manages to end up looking like the hero.

The entire series of books was based on G M Fraser finding a collection of memoirs at a house sale and it written in the first person narrated by Flashman. They are all hilarious and historically accurate but with respect to Flashman entirely fiction. Fraser made up the entire story of Flashman's travels through British History but what a ride it was. Each book included a sizable addendum that noted the significance of the events, places and people mentioned in each episode. As someone interested in history, these sections were almost as interesting as the fictional work that preceded.

At 82, Fraser died this week after a year long battle with Cancer. As the Times puts it "There will be no more Flashman books chronicling the the life of Brigadier-General Sir Harry Paget Flashman, VC, outstanding Victorian soldier, coward, bully, womaniser, cad, bounder and hugely admired all-round bad egg." Times

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