Tag Archives: book reviews

MARVEL’S BLACK PANTHER: WAR BETWEEN WAKANDA AND ATLANTIS

Black Panther and VenommWith Marvel’s Black Panther in theaters right now Balladeer’s Blog will take a look at an angle of Prince T’Challa’s run that is a bit overlooked. Panther’s Rage has been covered extensively as have other aspects of this Avenger’s career.

I will be taking a look at the war between the Black Panther’s kingdom of Wakanda and the Sub-Mariner’s realm of Atlantis in the pages of The Defenders in the summer of 1980. 

Throw in Foolkiller to this already volatile mix plus a potential shift in the balance of the world’s vibranium reserves and stir.  Continue reading

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FLASHMAN: LINKS TO MY TOP FIVE

Royal Flash posterWOW! Reaction to my Top Five Harry Flashman Novels blog post continues to amaze me! I’m always glad to share my odd enthusiasms with others so it’s been great to bring The Flashman Papers to the attention of new readers. Here in one convenient post are the links to my individual reviews of the Top Five and to my brief look at Flashman’s encounter with young Abraham Lincoln in Flash for Freedom

Flashman's Lady 25. FLASHMAN ON THE MARCH (2005) – Setting: Abyssinian Military Expedition of 1867-1868    CLICK HERE   

4. FLASHMAN AND THE DRAGON (1985) – Setting: Anglo-French Military Expedition to Peking in 1860    CLICK HERE 

3. FLASHMAN’S LADY (1977) – Setting: Campaign against the Borneo Pirates and captivity by Queen Ranavalona of Madagascar, 1844-1845    CLICK HERE 

2. FLASHMAN IN THE GREAT GAME (1975) – Setting: The Great Mutiny in India, 1857-1858    CLICK HERE   

Flashman at the ChargeAND 1. FLASHMAN AT THE CHARGE (1973) – Setting: The Crimean War, 1853-1856    CLICK HERE

*** FOR MY BRIEF TAKE ON HARRY FLASHMAN’S ENCOUNTERS WITH ABRAHAM LINCOLN IN FLASH FOR FREEDOM (1971) – CLICK HERE 

*** FOR MY LOOK AT THE TOP SEVEN ROBERT LUDLUM NOVELS CLICK HERE 

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ABRAHAM LINCOLN AND HARRY FLASHMAN

abraham-lincoln-pictureBalladeer’s Blog’s recent look at my Top Five Harry Flashman Novels was a hit. Combine that with the upcoming Presidents Day Holiday on Monday and let’s take a look at one of the other Flashman novels for future president Abe Lincoln’s interactions with George MacDonald Fraser’s infamous antihero Harry Flashman.

In 1971’s Flash for Freedom, set in the second half of 1848 and early 1849, one of the historical figures that Harry encounters is the young Abraham Lincoln when Abe was just a Congressman. Flashman himself – like Lincoln – has not yet achieved the fame that will be his in later life.

Alan Bates -better Flashman than MalcolmThe pair first meet in the fall of 1848 in Washington, DC, when Harry – a Cavalry Captain in Queen Victoria’s army – is trying, Bret Maverick-style, to pass himself off as a Royal Navy Lieutenant named Beauchamp Comber. (Don’t ask.) Abe senses something off about the scurvy Brit and uses seeming politeness mixed with alarming insinuations to set Flashman on edge, terrified that he’ll be exposed.

The author George MacDonald Fraser handles this section very cleverly as Lincoln comes across like a homespun Sherlock Holmes, chewing up Harry’s lies and spitting them out on the b.s. pile. Harry/ Beauchamp counters with an observation that Abe isn’t entirely on the level, either, masking his obviously calculating nature behind a facade of folksiness.

The two part on reasonably friendly terms, but Lincoln smilingly makes it clear that he knows Flashman/  Comber is conning everyone about being a naval officer. However, Abe also makes it clear that whatever the rascal is up to it doesn’t seem to pose any harm to him, so he shrugs it off and goes on his merry way. 

The second meeting between the future President and the future Sir Harry comes in the very early months of 1849 in the novel’s thrilling finale. A convoluted set of circumstances have led to Lincoln being at just the right place at just the right time to face down a pack of Fugitive Slave Hunters in order to save Harry and a female slave that Flashman is smuggling to freedom in Canada. 

The next day a bedridden Harry is recovering from wounds received during this adventure. He’s staying at the home of an acquaintance of Lincoln, and Abe has been visiting the ailing Englishman, sitting in a bedside chair. They’ve had a lengthy conversation during which Lincoln has made it clear that he now knows who Harry really is and Flashman asks why Abe continues to cover for him.

By way of an answer Lincoln muses aloud about the various newsworthy escapades that “Beauchamp Comber” has been having as a reluctant agent of the Underground Railroad. He also recaps the number of former slaves that Flashman has incidentally helped recently during his usual selfish pursuits. We join the narrative as Abe sums up:

“I don’t pretend to know why you’ve done these things and I don’t think I want to know. It’s enough for me to know that you HAVE done them, and that none of those unfortunates will ever wear chains again.”   

I started to make with the kind of simperingly compassionate noises that I thought would appeal to a man like Lincoln but he stopped me short with a raised hand and a wry smile before saying “Save it for the Recording Angel, Captain Flashman. I have a feeling you’ll need it on that day.” Continue reading

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THE DOOM OF LONDON (1892): ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION

Doom of LondonTHE DOOM OF LONDON (1892) – Written by Robert Barr. In the “far future” of the mid-Twentieth Century the narrator of this tale looks back at the catastrophe that hit London in the 1890s.

The premise is that our narrator is outraged by a piece written by a Professor Mowberry in which the professor ventures the opinion that the destruction of London was an overall beneficial event. His reasoning is that it got rid of millions of unnecessary people. Pretty callous attitude, unless you’re talking about getting rid of the Kardashians.

At any rate we readers are informed that in the mid-Twentieth Century fog has been completely done away with (?), preventing what happened to London in the 1890s from ever happening again. It turns out that what started out seeming to be nothing but the usual London fog was actually deadly gases unleashed from deep in the Earth by careless mining. Continue reading

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TOP FIVE FLASHMAN NOVELS: NUMBER FIVE

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.

Flashman on the March5. FLASHMAN ON THE MARCH (2005)

Time Period: The 1867-1868 Abyssinian military campaign and rescue mission.

This volume of The Flashman Papers is set right after Harry’s unsuccessful attempt to spirit away Mexico’s overthrown Emperor Maximilian before he could be executed. (Well it wasn’t Flashman’s fault. As history tells us, Maximilian DID refuse to escape with the conspirators who busted in to save his sorry butt.)

Synopsis: After a passionate farewell kiss from (the real-life) Princess Agnes Salm-Salm, Harry Flashman further raises the ire of his Austrian escorts by seducing a young, blonde and buxom Hapsburg aristocrat on the trans-Atlantic voyage with Maximilian’s coffin.

In Trieste, with the Austrians planning to unleash their wrath on Flashman as soon as the ceremony for Maximilian is over, our main character bolts for the British consulate. HMG is happy to have Sir Harry on hand and entrusts him to escort the notorious 100,000 Maria Theresa Thalers being sent to finance General Robert Napier’s upcoming Abyssinian Expedition.   

Flashman on the March 2That expedition is being launched to free British captives being held and tortured by the (historically) unhinged Emperor Theodore II of Abyssinia (Called Ethiopia today). 

Before Flashman knows it he’s caught up in a clash with Muslim slavers on the Red Sea, then breezing right along to the Eritrean port of Zula, embarkation point for the British campaign into Abyssinia.  

The author George MacDonald Fraser’s descriptive talents were in top form in Flashman on the March. As fans well know, Fraser creates scenes in the reader’s mind that surpass the biggest-budgeted cinematic blockbusters.

This particular tale lets him fully unleash his genius for seeming to take his audience to faraway planets while never leaving the Earth. Abyssinia/ Ethiopia feels menacingly alien and its hostile terrain might as well be on an orbiting asteroid as we get dragged into deadly danger with the reluctant Flashman.   

Harry and his Royal Marine escorts eventually catch up with General Napier far inland, and even though our protagonist officially turns over the shipment of Thalers he is still at Napier’s mercy in terms of papers and transit orders home to England. 

With the British forces – complete with 44 war elephants from India – moving more slowly than anticipated, Napier decides to send Flashman on ahead of the main army.

Harry’s orders: a) to rescue the hostages by any means necessary if the opportunity presents itself, if not, then b) to covertly keep tabs on the location of the hostages in case the Emperor decides to take them even further inland and c) to feel out Theodore’s many enemies in the war-torn country and try to recruit ad hoc allies to prevent the Emperor’s army from escaping.   

Kevin Kline good FlashmanFlashman’s guide, translator and fellow warrior will be the beautiful Ethiopian woman Uliba-Wark, half-sister to the country’s Queen. Uliba-Wark has a small domain of her own and is up to her neck in Abyssinia’s countless political and sexual intrigues & rivalries.

A running battle on horseback which leaves Harry and the warlike beauty as the sole survivors enroute to her castle is just a hint of the wild bed and battle action that lays ahead. I still go back and forth about placing Flashman on the March at number 5 or number 4.   Continue reading

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TOP FIVE FLASHMAN NOVELS: NUMBER FOUR

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.

Flashman and the Dragon4. FLASHMAN AND THE DRAGON (1985)

Time Period: Anglo-French Military Expedition to Peking – 1860

This volume from Flashman’s memoirs is set in China immediately after his adventures in the Second Opium War. Unfortunately those adventures are among the Flashman Papers that we’ll never get to peruse, since George MacDonald Fraser didn’t get a chance to cover them before his death in 2008.

Even if his estate allows other authors to complete the various Flashman stories that were alluded to but never completed in Fraser’s lifetime it just won’t be the same.

Note: The “dragon” of the title refers to the general Victorian Age label for China in its exotic, mysterious entirety. 

Synopsis: With the Second Opium War over, Harry Flashman is killing time as he awaits the ship that will take him home to England. A curvy, sultry blonde Missionary named Phoebe Carpenter uses her feminine charms to manipulate the ever-lustful Harry into running a shipload of opium to Hong Kong.

Flashman and the Dragon 2Or at least that’s what she TELLS him is being smuggled. It turns out instead to be an arms shipment for the Taipingi rebels who have split China into a blood-soaked Civil War for the past decade. Flashman doesn’t realize the true nature of the contraband he’s transporting until he’s forced to fight off a band of Macao pirates.

Thanks to some help from a sexy Chinese woman acting as a British agent our protagonist triumphs in the pirate attack. Unfortunately, when the British authorities subsequently board the vessel Harry is facing big trouble. For transporting weapons to belligerents in a war HMG has stayed out of he could be liable for years in prison or turned over to the Chinese for punishment if the Qing Dynasty insists.    Continue reading

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TOP FIVE FLASHMAN NOVELS: NUMBER THREE

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 the above link.

Flashman's Lady3. FLASHMAN’S LADY (1977)

Time Period: 1842-1845

The Flashman Papers jump around to various periods in Ol’ Flash Harry’s life. This particular novel covers our scurvy protagonist’s bed and battle adventures following his triumphant return from the First Afghan War all the way up to his pivotal role in a neglected Anglo-French action.

Along the way he clashes with London gangsters, battles Borneo Pirates and becomes a sex-slave/ military aide to an infamous African Queen. 

NOTE: This novel is called Flashman’s Lady not just because of his beautiful blonde wife Elspeth’s larger than usual role but because excerpts from her diary complement Flashman’s memoirs in this tale. As all Flashman fans know, Elspeth cheats on Harry just as much as he cheats on her but his ego inevitably prompts him to half-believe the outrageous excuses she uses to cover her affairs. She outdoes herself in this story.  

Flashman's Lady 2Synopsis: As the story begins Harry Flashman is still enjoying War Hero status and converting that fame into easier access to the bedrooms of various ladies. Presently the scoundrel finds himself pressed into playing on a Cricket team with some of his former classmates from Rugby School in Warwickshire.

Everyone tactfully avoids mentioning Flashman’s expulsion for drunken misconduct years earlier and he agrees. Always as physically strong as he is morally weak, Harry shines as his team’s Bowler (Pitcher for us Yanks) and leads them to victory. 

That kicks off a successful run for Flashman playing Bowler in a series of those quasi-official, no-American-who-has-ever-lived-can-understand Cricket matches like you find in Raffles stories. Harry being Harry he also begins making side money shaving points and throwing games in league with some London gangsters. Continue reading

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