Thursday, January 03, 2008

George MacDonald Fraser dies

No sooner do I write about cads and bounders than George MacDonald Fraser, whose appropriation of Thomas Hughes's Harry Flashman has given us one of fiction's greatest bounders, dies. If you're a fan, any further praise would be superfluous; if you're not, then what are you waiting for? Get reading.

Still, by way of a small tribute, here are three favourite things about Flashman.

1). The sledge chase in Flashman at the Charge. A breathless, dramatic chase through the frozen Russian steppes as the wolves close in and the sinister Russians get ever closer to the fleeing Flashman. So, naturally, at the moment of greatest tension he heaves his lady friend over the side of the sledge to create a diversion.

2) John Charity Spring: a psychotic slave-trader and captain of the slave ship Balliol College, prone to explosions of terrifying violence and quoting from the classics. The latter are, if anything, more alarming than the former.

3) The tantalising gaps in Flashy's record. Like any great storyteller, Fraser knew that some things were best left to the imagination. The second book – Royal Flash – begins "If I had been the hero everyone thought I was, or even a half decent soldier, Lee would have won the battle of Gettysburg and probably captured Washington." By further hints and asides we learn Flash fought on both sides in the Civil War, having been blackmailed by Lincoln into taking part. Of course, we'd love to learn more, alas we never will – unless there's another packet of the memoirs waiting to be discovered in GMF's attic?



Blogger Quink said...

This will irritate the moobies off you.

12:31 pm  

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