Balladeer’s Blog’s reviews of my picks for The Top Five Harry Flashman Novels are still getting more than their share of attention. (Click HERE )
That being the case, here’s another of my speculations on what we readers missed out on with those Harry Flashman adventures referred to but not completed before author George MacDonald Fraser passed away in 2008.
(For Flashman in the Opium War & Flashman and the Kings click HERE For Flashman on the Gold Coast click HERE For Flashman of Arabia click HERE For Flashman’s Guiana click HERE and for The Battle Cry of Flashman click HERE)
Projected Title: FLASHMAN DOWN UNDER
Time Period: The early period of the Australian Gold Rush (1851-1852)
The Set-Up: The “Forty-Niner” section of Flashman and the Redskins ended in the Spring of 1850 with Harry and Kit Carson riding off into the sunset. Our antihero planned on at last completing his journey toward the California gold fields after all his misadventures along the way.
The Potential Story: Some members of the Australian outlaw gangs who would achieve large-scale fame during the Aussie Gold Rush got their start as failed prospectors turned criminals during the California Gold Rush. Once word got around about the Victoria finds many of the Australians abandoned California and sailed home hoping to strike it rich there.
After the thrilling Jornada del Muerto Desert finale to Flashman and the Redskins Harry was already in New Mexico so presumably he would have made it to California with at least half of 1850 still to go. Our protagonist’s usual boozing, gambling and whoring could easily have gotten him entangled in some way with a few of the shadier Aussies in the Golden State at the time.
Once word reached California about Australia’s very own Gold Rush, Harry could have boarded a ship for Down Under either along with some of the Cali Aussies OR trying to slip away from them for his usual reasons – having slept with some of their women, conning them out of money, etc.
Arriving in Australia, it’s safe to assume Flashman would still disdain the thought of actually working to strike it rich and would have settled in at first trying to con money from successful prospectors or winning it from them at the card-table. (In Flash for Freedom Harry mentioned playing cards in Australia with bags of gold dust as the stakes.)
Eventually the blackguard might have slyly joined up with Gold Commissioner John Richard Hardy’s mounted force assigned to collect prospectors’ licensing fees, maintain order and ensure fair play was observed while the Gold Rush raged … which with Harry is like having the proverbial fox guard the henhouse.
Some of the mounted officers were suspected of taking bribes of various forms from prospectors to look the other way if their license wasn’t fully paid or was illegitimate. Abusing their official position to help smuggle out gold from certain claims or help conceal a lucrative strike from other prospectors was among the additional wrongdoing sometimes attributed to a few of those same men.
Flashman surely would have warmed to abusing his position like that, Captain Renault in Casablanca style. He might have even found himself reluctantly pressed into service by Hardy, delighted at having “the hero of Piper’s Fort” on hand. That reluctance would fade, of course, as Harry began taking advantage of the situation.
And we know from Flashman’s casual remarks in other stories that his presence in Australia during the Gold Rush was publicly known. He even wrote – in bowdlerized form – about his travels Down Under and in America, at the behest of his friend Sir Richard Burton, the real-life explorer.
Gold-digging and social-climbing beauties soon flocked to the region, too, intent on pairing up with some of the nouveau riche prospectors, and Harry would certainly have found those women a pleasant diversion. The Bendigo Ladies were known for serving as “a gentleman’s wife” for extended periods at certain prices.
Further complications could have arisen if Harry’s path eventually crossed once again with some of the Aussie outlaws or desperadoes that he ticked off back in California.
For that or other reasons Flashman would likely have somehow ended up participating – against his will, of course – in the real-life robbery of the ship Nelson. Twenty-five thousand Pounds (In 1850s money) in gold were stolen by a gang of 22 violent men while the vessel was at Hobson’s Bay. A few of the robbers were convicts who had just escaped from Van Diemen’s Land and that escape could be another incident Harry was forced to abet.
The gang used swords and firearms and had boarded the ship after stealing some rowboats from the docks. Most, but not all, of the men were subsequently captured and the gang’s flight could be another event described up-close and personal by our favorite British blackguard. Flashy could even give us readers details about the suspected mastermind of the operation: a shady Melbourne businessman who successfully got away after paying the brigands a cut rate for the stolen gold.
The robbery of the Nelson happened in April of 1852, leaving plenty of time for Harry and any accomplices to flee the authorities (maybe even by heading into the Outback), wrap up his Aussie adventures and still get back to England in time for the Crimean War in Flashman at the Charge.
Of course the backdrop to it all would be the usual for a Flashman tale: the grittier and uglier side of human nature, here taking the form of the goldfield violence, crooked gold assessors with their rigged scales, outlaw gangs and the tragic misfortunes suffered by the only thing standing between the Empire and this bullion bonanza: the native inhabitants.
As ever, Harry’s many offenses would wind up seeming trivial compared to history’s real-life atrocities like the fate of the Aborigines, letting the character retain his charm no matter how low he stoops.
P.S. Yes, my fellow Flashman fans, I know that Harry’s old flame from Royal Flash, the real-life Lola Montez, toured the Australian gold camps, but she did not arrive Down Under until August of 1855 by which point Harry was heavily involved in his Crimean-War Era exploits. +++ (Originally published at Balladeer’s Blog July 12th of 2018)
FOR MY BONUS SIXTH PLACE FLASHMAN NOVEL CLICK HERE
FOR MY DETAILED SPECULATIONS ABOUT FLASHMAN’S ADVENTURES IN THE THIRD ASHANTI WAR CLICK HERE
FOR HARRY FLASHMAN’S ENCOUNTERS WITH ABRAHAM LINCOLN IN THE NOVEL FLASH FOR FREEDOM CLICK HERE
FOR MY LOOK AT THE TOP SEVEN ROBERT LUDLUM NOVELS CLICK HERE
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