The Official Flashman {and George MacDonald Fraser} Thread

Any Flashman or Fraser fans out there? I think the Flashman series is probably one of the greatest pieces of historical fiction ever written, and certainly the most entertaining. My first edition of the original novel has pride of place on my crowded shelves.

Where to start? The concept is brilliant, the writing is first-rate {Fraser has a superb prose style}, the research is breathtaking, and Flashman is one of the all time great literary characters, in his dual life as hero and villain. Without over-analysing, I love the way Flashman, by being a complete outsider through his illusory reputation, manages to get such a balanced perspective on the 19th century {a favourite period of mine}, the good and the bad, without the books being polemical or the character seeming anachronistic. Oh, and they’re unbeatable for good dirty fun.

Favourites? Flashman’s Lady {probably the best book about cricket and piracy ever written}, Flash For Freedom! {if only for Fraser’s account of the 19th century slave trade}, and Flashman And The Redskins {the amount of research that must have gone into this book is mind-boggling, and yet it reads so easily}. Oh, and Flashman At The Charge. And Flashman In The Great Game. And…oh, all of them really.

Sadly, Fraser’s in his eighties now and there are so many Flashman adventures he’s referred to that may never get written - I’m just hoping he manages to complete the oft-alluded to account of Flashy’s exploits on the Union and Confederate sides in the Civil War. Being a New Zealander, too, I would love to learn if he was ever involved in the Maori Land Wars. We know he got to Australia {another untold story}, and it’s not that far to NZ…

I like the Flashmans where he gets into corners of the 19th century I didn’t know much about - the very first one, about the First Afghan War, is a good example. In some ways, the Maori Land Wars might be more interesting than the US Civil War. Having said that, I think Flashman at the Charge is probably my favourite. It’s a shame he isn’t going to finish the series.

GMF also wrote the greatest pub trivia story of all time, plus a very good golf short story, which can both be found in Macauslan in the Rough.

Hello, Waccoe. Yeah, the McAuslan stories are great too. Also highly recommended is Quartered Safe Out Here, a more serious memoir of his WW2 service fighting the Japanese as a 19 year old in the Burma campaign.

I believe April 2005 will see the publication of Flashman on the March which will cover Abyssinia 1868. has it for pre order. No word on US publication yet.

Not a lot to add to the OP, as I’ve raved about the Flashman series myself in previous threads. I’ve definitely learned a lot about 19th century world history in a pretty painless and entertaining way from Sir Harry’s accounts of his exploits. I think I like best how even-handed Fraser is. The British, exemplified by Flashman, are beastly and exploitative and ignorant and prejudiced and treat the natives like domestic animals everywhere they go. Which is, pretty much, the way native peoples treat themselves and each other. The outcomes of battles, campaigns, and empires turn on minor, apparently meaningless events that just happen to occur along the way, and these more often than any heroic action by anyone are what determines the course of history. Rarely, an individual can act in a way that’s courageous, noble, high-minded or whatever and succeed in changing the course of events, but more often than not they just get swept away in the tide of chance or ridden down by the mob. And sometimes, an individual motivated by the most abject cowardice, greed, or self-preservation bobs up to the top looking like he’s just done the most noble thing possible, and reaps unjustified reward and credit for it. It’s hard to find much fault with Fraser’s assessment of how the world actually works, even if you don’t want to like it. That Fraser can make such a realistic/pessimistic view of the world consistently entertaining and frequently extremely funny is a testament to his ability as a writer.

Count me among the Flashman fans. Let’s just say that the novels add a bit of flair to my lectures on Imperialism.

I don’t care how old GMF is. I demand that he not die until he writes the story of the US Civil War! :smiley:

Here, here! We also haven’t heard about Australia, the Phillipines, and a number of other adventures. I proposed that GMF be prohibited from dying until he’s covered every single minute of Sir Harry’s life.

Another Flashman fan checking in. The entire series is one I can reread and still enjoy. Not only does Fraser work Flashman into plausible historic situations, he recently did it with fictional characters as well, when a down-in-his-luck Flashman got misanalyzed by Sherlock Holmes.

Well, even if the next volume isn’t about Flashy and the Civil War, at least it’s a new book, which has been long in coming.

Know what? I can do without the Civil War book. He’s already done the buildup to it (*Flash for Freedom!) * and the beginning of it (Flashman and the Angel of the Lord). I suspect Fraser doesn’t have enough left to say about it to make a book equal in entertainment value to his others.

If he feels the urge to do another one, I’d like to read about Flashy going to Khartoum to save that damfool glory-hunting Gordon, while finding the spare time to roger all the Mahdi’s principal wives and daughters and Mrs. Gordon too. But Fraser’s old, probably tired, and may simply be bored with the character, and if so, it’s probably best to let it go.

If you haven’t yet, check out his Black Ajax. It brings the origins of professional sports to life in a way no standard history book could.

There was another recent thread on Flashman that got me interested in checking out the series. Could someone tell me what the first book is? I had trouble searching at Amazon, becuase they didn’t really set out the order of the books, and it seemed like several were out of print.

Thanks in advance.

The first book is, unsurprisingly, Flashman. Best to read them in order of publication. Enjoy!

The first one is simply called Flashman(!), which is both the first one GMF wrote and the first in chronological order, covering the Afghan War of 1841/42 (I think). Thereafter, the order in which the books were written is not chronological - eg the next events in his life were covered in Flashman’s Lady, which was something like the sixth book written. Don’t think it really matters what order you read them in.

Thanks, both of you. Searching Amazon again, the closest thing I found was entitled: Flashman: From the Flashman Papers, 1839-1842, and mentions Afghanistan. I assume this is the correct one? I’m a bit of a completist, so it’s important to me to start off with the first book.

That’s the one. I have found that it is better to read them in the order they were published. That way you get to see the footnotes pages grow longer and longer with each new book! :smiley:

The “Flashman” series is a beautifully-concocted blend of fiction and history (with really well-done research by GMF). I get as much enjoyment out of reading the footnotes as the rest of the book!

And as has been suggested already in this thread, if you’ve gone through the Flash series, don’t miss his more-or-less autobiographical “MacAuslan” books; and his utterly excellent story of his WW2 experiences in Burma, “Quartered Safe Out Here;” one of the most readable (and at times, thought-provoking) military memoirs ever.

GMF has become quite reactionary and bitter, if his last autobio book is anything to go by. Did anyone else get that feeling from “Light’s on at Signpost?”

I adore his “Pyrates” book. It reads like the best pirate movies mushed together, with silliness. The ending is a bit abrupt, but it is a fun ride.

Yep. I got the feeling that he has turned into a crotchety old coot.

Still hope he lives forever and writes the whole time, though. :smiley:

Another big fan… my vote for favorite book goes to Flashman and the Great Game. But I like them all.

Another straight history book of GMF’s worth checking out is “The Steel Bonnets”.

One more thing:

Yeah, I wasn’t a big fan of The Light’s On At Signpost, either: mostly a collection of curmudgeonly diatribes against the state of the world today, with some old movie reminiscing tacked on - Oliver Reed was a great guy when he wasn’t an obnoxious drunk, that kind of thing. Probably his weakest book.

Far , far better is The Hollywood History Of The World, in which he basically surveys world history from prehistoric times to now as it’s been depicted in movies, interspersed with a lot of anecdotes about his experiences as a Hollywood screenwriter: he finds in favour of a lot of historical movies for providing audiences with indelible visual images of what different eras looked and felt like. It’s fairly lighthearted, hugely informative, and enormous fun.

Another vote for The Pyrates, too: I’ve been banned from reading this book in bed because it just makes me laugh out loud - it’s every pirate book and movie cliche there ever was crammed together in this burlesque homage to the genre. I have a sneaking suspicion that someone involved in making Pirates Of The Caribbean owes a debt of inspiration to this book - if you like pirates or pirate movies, track it down and read it. Ye’ll not be disappointed, by the powers, an’ ye may lay to that - strike me dumb else. Aye, wi’ a curse.

I’m relatively new to the Flashman books being only aboput half way through Royal Flash, but love every minute of reading the books. They are not belly laugh funny, but they do raise a wry grin from time to time.

As history is not my strong point, although I love this period of history, I even googled the list of pre-1900 VC holders to see if there was actually a Gen. Harry Flashman VC. Alas there was not.

I think that novels that try to place a protagonist at key points in history rarely work, but these do, probably due to the good quality research and great footnotes, but also good characterisation. I look forward to spending my pennies on the rest of the series.