Category Archives: Pulp Heroes

FLASHMAN NOVELS: TENTH PLACE

Flashman faceFor Balladeer’s Blog’s Number One Harry Flashman Novel click HERE .

For background info on George MacDonald Fraser’s infamous anti-hero Harry Paget Flashman you can also click that link. 

Royal Flash main10. ROYAL FLASH (1970)

Time Period: The Revolutions of 1848 (1847-1848)

Favorite Book Blurbs: “Just when the Revolutions of 1848 are sweeping across Europe … Just when the masses are rising up against their ages-old masters … Just when no throne seems safe from the emerging wave of egalitarianism … Yes, just when being a monarch is synonymous with being a marked man, guess who should find himself forced into masquerading as a certain pompous, blue-blooded boor? Who else but the incomparable Harry Flashman!” 

Royal Flash 3“Horse riding, sword fighting, brawling, drinking and humping, Harry is always in the thick of 19th Century history! This time the lusty scoundrel is tangled up in political intrigues involving Otto Von Bismarck, Lola Montez, Karl Marx and the Schleswig-Holstein Question. One misstep on Flashman’s part could alter the course of European history!”

NOTE: Please don’t judge this novel based on the god-awful movie adaptation from 1975. For the role of Harry Flashman you need a handsome, charming British version of James Garner. Alan Bates would have made a much better Flashman than Malcolm McDowell in my opinion, but he was instead cast as Rudi Von Starnberg (I could picture the 1975 Timothy Dalton as Rudi to Bates’ Flashman.)  

And yes, I know George MacDonald Fraser worked on the screenplay but in my view Director Richard Lester overdid the goofiness level on the movie, just like he did with Superman III. Instead of shooting for Anthony Valentine’s Raffles series crossed with Tom Jones and Barry Lyndon, Lester treated this like a British Don Knotts movie. Or, God forbid, Jerry Lewis.

Lola MontezSynopsis: Harry Flashman, fleeing a police raid on a gambling establishment he was frequenting, winds up meeting the legendary real-life adventuress Lola Montez, one of the few women to tug at Flashman’s heart, not just his man-parts. During their romantic nine-day wonder of wild love-making and tempestuous quarreling, Harry also winds up clashing with future statesman Otto Von Bismarck in clubrooms, on the hunt and on the riding range.

Following a bitter breakup with the lovely Lola as well as outdoing Bismarck on the social circuit, Flashman little dreams that the vengeful duo will team up and use him as a sacrificial pawn in political intrigues. When Lola uses her overwhelming beauty and dazzling personality to wrap King Ludwig of Bavaria around her little finger (as historically DID happen) she summons Harry to Munich, supposedly to bury the hatchet and join her stud-line of lovers on the side.   Continue reading

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PULP HERO THE NYCTALOPE: MORE BLOG POSTS WILL BE COMING

nyctalope-1Balladeer’s Blog’s posts about neglected Pulp Heroes like the Nyctalope, G-8 and His Battle Aces and others have proven enduringly popular over the years. My work on the then-obscure Moon Man from the 1930s caught the eye of author Greg Hatcher, who was kind enough to thank me for my synopses of all 38 original Moon Man stories AND to send me a copy of his story in the 2014 collection of new Moon Man (and other hero) tales by modern authors. 

Since I’m as vain as the next guy I’ll even thank Mr Hatcher again for his kind November 2013 note that read in part: “I was writing to thank you for your invaluable index (Of Moon Man stories). I literally couldn’t have done it without your scholarship to fall back on … I thought the least I could do was let you have mine in advance as a thank-you, and also let you see the afterword where you and your blog are acknowledged.” 

Anyway, writing a blog isn’t JUST about getting death-threats and such. You sometimes hear from very kind-hearted people like Greg Hatcher.

nyctalope-2This brings us back to the Nyctalope, the neglected bionic French Pulp Hero created in the VERY early 20th century by France’s sci fi icon Jean de la Hire. My review of some of the Nyctalope novels in the original French predated a couple of the recently published English language translations and assorted readers were wondering when I would finish the whole series, like I did with G-8, Silver John and Northwest Smith.

Rest assured my reviews of The Moroccan Sphinx, The Amazons of Everest, Voyage of the Nyctalope, The Nude Sorceress, Assassination of the Nyctalope and The Mysterious Skeleton are forthcoming … Just like my completion of the Son of the Black Mass samurai films & novels, The Flashman Papers and other items. Hopefully we’ll all still be alive by then. 

FOR MY ORIGINAL NYCTALOPE ARTICLE CLICK HERE

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FLASHMAN NOVELS: SIXTH TO NINTH PLACE

Flashman 1st novel 5Balladeer’s Blog’s original reviews of The Top Five Harry Flashman Novels were such a hit I followed it up with bonus reviews of what I consider the 6th, then 7th, then 8th, then 9th novels. It may be a few weeks until I finish any of my reviews of the remaining books in the series so here’s quick links to the 6th through 9th place selections.

Flashman and the Mountain of Light 2SIXTH PLACE

FLASHMAN AND THE MOUNTAIN OF LIGHT (1990) – Time period: First Sikh War (1845-1846) Harry’s bed and battle adventures during the First Sikh War. The Mountain of Light of the title refers to the Koh-I-Noor (“Mountain of Light”) Diamond, at that time in the possession of the Maharani Jeendan of the Punjab. CLICK HERE 

flashman and the redskins 2SEVENTH PLACE

FLASHMAN AND THE REDSKINS (1982) – Time period: 1849-1850 and 1875-1876 This novel deals with Flashman’s escapades with the Forty-Niners on the way to the California gold fields during the Gold Rush. Features Pawnee, Arapaho, Sioux and Apaches. The second part finds Harry reluctantly (as always) involved in the Sioux Uprising including Little Big Horn and its aftermath. CLICK HERE 

flashman 1st novelEIGHTH PLACE

FLASHMAN (1969) – Time period: 1839-1842  The novel that started it all follows our favorite British blackguard from his infamous expulsion from Rugby for drunken misconduct, to his purchase of an officer’s position in the British Cavalry, his marriage to Elspeth and finally his peril-filled exploits in the First Afghan War. CLICK HERE  Continue reading

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FLASHMAN NOVELS: NINTH PLACE

For Balladeer’s Blog’s Number One Harry Flashman Novel click HERE . For background info on George MacDonald Fraser’s infamous anti-hero Harry Paget Flashman you can also click that link.

Flash for Freedom9. FLASH FOR FREEDOM (1971)

Time Period: 1848-1849

Favorite Book Blurb: “Only Harry Flashman, that swashbuckling gremlin in the works of 19th Century history, could start out running for a seat in Parliament but wind up fleeing England over a gambling scandal, extortionately shanghaied onto a criminal slave ship, clashing with one of the African kings selling his own people to slavers, conning the American government, reluctantly working for the Underground Railroad and ultimately facing down a pack of southern slave-hunters side by side with a young Congressman named Abraham Lincoln.”  

Synopsis: Wealthy John Morrison, Flashman’s hated father-in-law, still has Harry under his thumb money-wise. Morrison decides he wants a Member of Parliament in his control and figures Harry’s war hero status will make him a can’t-miss candidate.

Flash for Freedom 2For his part our scurvy protagonist gleefully anticipates all manner of graft money and getting to vote to send other people off to war for a change rather than being sent himself. With Morrison’s financial backing, Flashman finds himself in the political arena – an arena where other people are more skilled at cheating than he is.

Harry being Harry he also finds himself snogging in the grass with the real-life Fanny Locke (later famous as Fanny Duberly) and trading parlor-room insults with the likes of Benjamin Disraeli and Lord George Bentinck. At length a card-game scandal coupled with a charge of violent assault wind up forcing Flashman to flee the country for a few years.

Flash for FreedomWith very few transportation options open to the on-the-lam scoundrel, Harry ends up on an outbound ship owned by his father-in-law but finds that he has once again gone from the frying pan into the fire. To Flashman’s great shock he learns that the ship he’s stuck on is a slaver – and that the illegal trade is a large part of John Morrison’s shady fortune.

Amid all this bad luck fate at last smiles on our protagonist when a crew-member that he befriends turns out to be an undercover Royal Navy Officer assigned to infiltrate and bring down Morrison’s sizable slaving operation. That officer – Lieutenant Beauchamp Comber – has clandestinely assembled a mound of incriminating evidence against Morrison and his agents.        Continue reading

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BLACK PANTHER: PANTHER’S RAGE

 

Black PantherHere’s Balladeer’s Blog’s examination of Don McGregor’s 1973-1975 Black Panther story Panther’s Rage. I’m no comic book expert but in my opinion Panther’s Rage surpasses much of the work done by the overrated and overpraised Alan Moore.

As always, since I’m neither a liberal nor a conservative I was surprised by some of the intense political reactions to my reviewing this Black Panther story. Many people who call themselves conservatives seem to think this Marvel Comics character has some connection to the hate group called the Black Panthers.

Actually this figure came BEFORE the Black Panthers. In fact Marvel flirted with changing the character’s name a few times – once to just simply “the Panther” and once to “the Black Leopard” – to keep their character separated from the racist hate group.

Erik Killmonger

“Memes … memes, everywhere.”

On the other side many people who call themselves liberals huffed and puffed indignantly that I was covering a 13-part story written by (GASP) a white guy about a black character! Hey, a white guy even CREATED the character. I wonder if that invalidates the Black Panther entirely in their narrow minds.   

Anyway, here are chapter by chapter links to my review –

ONE: PANTHER’S RAGE – Prince T’Challa, the Black Panther, returns to his isolated African kingdom of Wakanda to try to put down a violent rebellion led by a Wakandan calling himself Erik Killmonger. CLICK HERE 

TWO: DEATH REGIMENTS BENEATH WAKANDA – The Black Panther battles Venomm, the supervillain in charge of Killmonger’s operation tunneling toward Wakanda City while simultaneously mining and stealing the nation’s vibranium reserves. CLICK HERE 

THREE: MALICE BY CRIMSON MOONLIGHT – Killmonger sends a super-powered woman called Malice to help Venomm escape from the Royal Palace’s prison on the same night that T’Challa is undergoing his renewal of the Panther Herb ritual. CLICK HERE   Continue reading

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FLASHMAN NOVELS: EIGHTH PLACE

flashman 1st novel 2For Balladeer’s Blog’s Number One Harry Flashman Novel click HERE . For background info on George MacDonald Fraser’s infamous anti-hero Harry Paget Flashman you can also click that link.

Reaction to my list of The Top Five Harry Flashman Novels continues to come in, with readers wanting more Flashman reviews.

Here’s my take on the novel which would have been in eighth place if I had done a list of my Top Eight Harry Flashman Novels.

flashman 1st novel8. FLASHMAN (1969)

Time Period: 1839-1842

Favorite Book Blurb: “In the Nineteenth Century the British Empire needed a hero. Instead, it got Harry Flashman.” 

Synopsis: This very first installment of The Flashman Papers kicks off with our antihero’s notorious expulsion for drunken misconduct from Rugby School in 1839. (The sport was named for the school, not vice versa.)

After a thorough chewing-out by the real-life Doctor Thomas Arnold, the 17 year-old Harry Flashman is sent home to endure another dressing-down from his angry father. After young Harry seduces his father’s live-in tart Judy, the elder Flashman decides to get his trouble-prone son out of his hair through that old British custom of buying him an officer-ship in the army.

Flashman 1st novel 5That’s what our protagonist wanted in the first place, and the Guv-nor buys Harry a post as a Cornet (Second Lieutenant for us Yanks) in a Cavalry Regiment. The unit selected by the ever-calculating Harry has just returned to England after years overseas, so Flashman assumes he won’t be sent to war while enjoying the benefits of a gentlemanly life of riding, sporting and letting his dashing uniform help him attract ladies.       

Things don’t turn out the way Harry planned, thanks to his fondness for boozing, whoring and gambling. And thus begins a career of swashbuckling historical adventures which slip this black-hearted rogue into pivotal moments of the Nineteenth Century.

Like James Garner’s Bret Maverick character from 1950s television, Flashman brags about being a coward who’d rather avoid violence but the demands of adventure fiction always put Harry, like Bret, in situations that require conduct above and beyond the call.

flashman 1st novel 3Sword in hand, pistol at his side and a long line of beautiful ladies on his arm, Harry spends the next three years getting swept up in the feuding in Lord Cardigan’s Cavalry unit, the Rebecca Riots in Wales, Scotland’s labor revolt and ultimately the long string of British military disasters in the First Afghan War.  Continue reading

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FLASHMAN ON THE GOLD COAST: LOST FLASHMAN PAPERS

For Flashman Down Under, Flashman in the Opium War & Flashman and the Kings click HERE   Balladeer’s Blog now moves on to another Harry Flashman adventure referred to but never completed before George MacDonald Fraser’s death.

elmina castleProjected Title: FLASHMAN ON THE GOLD COAST

Time Period: Third Ashanti War (1873-1874)

The Setup: Queen Victoria’s Empire – specifically the British Gold Coast – bought the Dutch Gold Coast from Holland in 1871. The nearby Ashanti People of Africa had been at peace with the Dutch for over 200 years but were wary of their “new neighbors” and were protective of their enormous wealth in gold. They invaded the British Gold Coast in May, 1873.  

flashman shieldIn June the advance of the Ashanti was halted at Elmina and back in England Her Majesty’s Government made plans to send additional troops to the Gold Coast to deal with the situation. By August 13th General Garnet Wolseley was chosen to lead the army.

The Story: Wolseley, personally familiar with Flashman from the Crimean War and the Great Mutiny, would draft the reluctant Colonel-on-Half-Pay into his campaign. Sir Harry’s knack for picking up languages and his years of experience as a colonial officer would convince Wolseley of our hero’s fitness for this type of warfare, no matter what excuses Flashman would try to use.  Continue reading

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