Sunday, July 03, 2011

Flashman on the March: A hero's credentials

Last week's endorsement in this space by Gary Corby was just the most recent recommendation I'd received of George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman series of comic historical adventures, but it's the one that pushed me over the edge to try them myself (though I'm starting not at the beginning, but with Flashman on the March, last of the twelve books).

The series takes Flashman, the scapegrace schoolboy of Tom Brown's Schooldays (1857), and puts him in the middle of just about every British military engagement of the nineteenth century and a number of American ones. The books, published between 1969 and 2005, won praise for their historical accuracy,  and here's what P.G. Wodehouse had to say: “If ever there was a time when I felt that ‘watcher-of-the-skies-when-a-new-planet’ stuff, it was when I read the first Flashman."

Flashman needs no more praise after an endorsement from P.G. Wodehouse, so I'll confine myself to a few items from the biographical note appended to the beginning of Flashman on the March. (The books purport to be Flashman's diaries):
"FLASHMAN, Harry Paget, brigadier-general, V.C., K.C.B., K.C.I.E. ... Order of the Elephant, Denmark (temporary) ... San Serafino Order of Purity and Truth, 4th class ... occasional actor and impersonator. Hon. mbr of numerous societies and clubs, including ... hon. pres. Mission for Reclamation of Reduced Females ... (performed first recorded `hat trick,' wickets of Felix, Pilch, Mynn, for 14 runs ... )"
Yep, I can see why Wodehouse liked this guy. I think I will, too.

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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10 Comments:

Blogger Bill Crider said...

This is a wonderful series, all right. And when you finish it, you should also read Fraser's PYRATES, another terrific book.

July 03, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Many thanks. It looks like a lot of fun so far.

July 03, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Bill, crime fiction that I find fun often reminds me of the pirate movies I enjoyed when I was young, so Pyrates could be right up my alley. I've always wanted to tie some scurvy dog to a yard arm, or to say, "I'll keelhaul ye!"

July 03, 2011  
Blogger Gary Corby said...

A fine choice!

You've probably already been exposed to some George MacDonald Fraser: he wrote the script for the Bond film Octopussy. One of Fraser's biggest fans was a chap named Charlie Chaplin.

But most important of all...Flashman is a hero for our times.

July 04, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Just before my little brother shipped out for Afghanistan with the British Army I sent him Flashman (the first book). When you read that one you'll appreciate the joke.

Actually it was especially funny since he was a naval intelligence officer seconded to the army and as I and many members of the family pointed out Afghanistan is quite some distance from the nearest ocean.

He has now read all the Flashman books and short story collections.

July 04, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Gary, my preliminary research on Fraser revealed that he had worked on one or two other Bond movies as well.

Flashman may be a hero for our times and for theirs, too. I remember being impressed when reading Peter Lovesey's Bertie and the Seven Bodies that Lovesey could poke affectionate fun at the countryhouse mystery while at the same time writing entirely convincingly in the style he was making fun of. I think Fraser may do something similar.

July 04, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I saw the Chaplin endorsement. That was impressive, but not as impressive as the one from Wodehouse. I mean, Wodehouse!

July 04, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, I knew one of the early Flashman books was centered on Afghan campaigns. Flashman on the March includes a reference or two Afghanistan, including one to how difficult and elusive a military target it is.

July 04, 2011  
Blogger Mack said...

I love this series. I wish Fraser had been able to write the volume where he explains how Flashman served on both sides during the American Civil War

Flashman also makes an appearance in Mr. American. And there is Black Ajax in which Flashie's father plays a small role.

Fraser wrote the screenplay for my favorite of the Three Musketeers movies (The Three Musketeers, 1973, and The Fourth Musketeer, 1974). A terrific cast.

July 07, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Mack, I think Flashman may have served both sides in other conflicts as well. Flashman on the March contains enough references to his earlier adventures that I feel as if I know the character though I've read just the one book.

I hope to enlarge my stock of Flashmans later this evening.

July 07, 2011  

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