Tag Archives: George MacDonald Fraser

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

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Neglected History, Neo-Pulp, Pulp Heroes

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 4That’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

2 Comments

Filed under Neglected History, Pulp Heroes

FLASHMAN NOVELS: SEVENTH PLACE

Alan Bates -better Flashman than MalcolmFor 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 seventh place if I had done a list of my Top Seven Harry Flashman Novels.

flashman and the redskins 27. FLASHMAN AND THE REDSKINS (1982)

Time Period: Part One – 1849-1850, Part Two – 1875-1876

The Flashman novels jump around to different periods of the fictional Harry Flashman’s life. This book covers his adventures with the Forty-Niners on the way to the California gold fields as well as his much later involvement in the Sioux Uprising.

Favorite Book Blurb: “The West is just wild about Harry!” (It came long before “See what I did there?” was a thing, but the sentiment still applies.) 

NOTE: Once again Fraser used the structure of a swashbuckling, guns-blazing adventure story to cast his critical eye on some of the Great Names and Great Events of the 19th Century. Get ready for another generous helping of “History Noir” as only George could write it: by blending fact, fiction and satirical subtext in a way which scandalizes BOTH the political right AND the left.

And as always when viewed against the backdrop of history’s major atrocities the amoral carnal and monetary pursuits of that British blackguard Harry Paget Flashman look almost harmless by comparison.  

flashman and the redskinsSynopsis: The plot of Flashman and the Redskins picks up immediately after the end of Flash For Freedom (1971). Still stranded without funds in 1849 America our antihero returns to the welcoming arms – and bed – of brothel madam Susie Willink. That voluptuous MILF has been bitten by the Gold Bug and invites Harry to join her and her stable of prostitutes as part of a wagon train headed to California.

Soon the expatriate British Cavalry Officer is traipsing across the continent alongside the young Kit Carson himself. Harry, Kit, Susie and their wagon train wind up negotiating with and/or fighting Pawnee, Arapaho and other assorted tribes of Native Americans as well as combating cholera, thirst and hunger along the way. Continue reading

6 Comments

Filed under Neglected History, Pulp Heroes

FLASHMAN ITEM: “SO HOW WOULD I HAVE HANDLED HIS CIVIL WAR ADVENTURES?”

Battle Cry of Flashman Shadow RidersI guess technically this could have been one of my Ask Balladeer segments. Some readers and fellow Harry Flashman fans reacted to my speculative look at what George MacDonald Fraser might have had in mind for Flashman’s U.S. Civil War adventures by asking me how I’d have handled it. Some were just curious, others were ticked off that I dared to criticize what I saw as Fraser forcing Harry into WAY too many Civil War incidents. So here we go with how I’d have handled it:

Last time around I said my prospective title would be The Battle Cry of Flashman as a play on The Battle Cry of Freedom.  I’d have stuck to Fraser’s original references in the first few Flashman Papers, references that limited Harry’s involvement to part of 1862 and part of 1863. I would also have avoided having Harry – a British Cavalry Officer – outrightly joining American armies.   

Selleck 2THE SET-UP: In February or March of 1862 Flashman has been back in England with his wife Elspeth since the spring of 1861, following his involvement in the Taranaki War in New Zealand.

Queen Victoria’s government is pondering whether or not to recognize the Confederate States of America, which broke away from the Union nearly a year earlier. The fate of nations hangs on this. Official recognition of the Confederacy may well enable them to win, just like the original 13 Colonies were helped against England by recognition from France. Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under Neglected History, Pulp Heroes

THE BATTLE CRY OF FLASHMAN: LOST FLASHMAN PAPERS

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

Kevin Kline Flashman-type pic bigProjected Title: THE BATTLE CRY OF FLASHMAN

Time Period: Part of the United States Civil War

NOTE: The title is a play on the famous Civil War ballad The Battle Cry of Freedom. That title was also used for one of Bruce Catton’s examinations of the conflict.

The Story: Personally I think a collection of short stories would be the only way of reconciling all the scattered and varied references made to Flashman’s Civil War adventures in other novels. From those other Fraser writings we know that Harry somehow wound up serving on both sides of the war but ultimately won a Medal of Honor for his service in the Union Army.

Further complicating things is the fact that the author mentioned how Flashman left and re-entered the U.S. multiple times during the war after his initial involvement starting at some point in 1862.  Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under Neglected History, Pulp Heroes

FLASHMAN AND THE KINGS: LOST FLASHMAN PAPERS

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

Flashman for Flashman and the KingsProjected Title: FLASHMAN AND THE KINGS 

Time Period: The Taranaki War (1860-1861)

NOTE: The title refers to the Maori King Movement, which began during this period and whose descending line of a designated “King of Kings” has survived to this very day with the current Maori King in New Zealand.

From 1860-1861 the Maori Kings aka the Maori King Movement proved to be the most battle-savvy and politically shrewd opponents the British would face until the First Boer War of 1880-1881. If the native inhabitants of other regions around the world had been this proficient and coordinated, the Colonial Powers of the European and Muslim Empires might have been dealt such massive setbacks that the course of history would be fascinatingly different.    

The Set-Up: As of the finale of Fraser’s Flashman and the Dragon we readers were left guessing exactly what Harry was being dragged into by blonde, luscious Phoebe Carpenter and her husband.

New ZealandIn Flashman and the Dragon the Carpenters were shown to be smuggling guns to the Taipingi rebels in China, so my speculation would be that they were also involved in smuggling guns to the Maori forces in New Zealand. The Taranaki War had been raging between the Maori and British colonial troops since March of 1860.

The Carpenters had been posing as Christian Missionaries as cover for their smuggling operation in FATD so they might well have been using that same cover for their dealings with the Maori King Movement. Flashman’s standing as a storied, active duty British Colonel could be exploited to their advantage through their extortionate hold on our antihero.

FATD ended in October of 1860. The Taranaki War lasted until March 18th of 1861 so Harry could be on hand for the last several months of the conflict. As usual he might well end up with undeserved military honors from his misadventures, caught up in the martial action while striving to free himself from his entanglement with Phoebe and her husband.   

The Story:   Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Neglected History, Pulp Heroes

FLASHMAN IN THE OPIUM WAR: LOST FLASHMAN PAPERS

Flashman cutFor Flashman Down Under click HERE  Balladeer’s Blog moves on to another Harry Flashman adventure referred to but never completed before George MacDonald Fraser’s death.

Projected Title: FLASHMAN IN THE OPIUM WAR

Time Period: Late in the Second Opium War in China (1859- 1860)

The Setup: In Flashman and the Dragon (1985) readers learned that our antihero Colonel Harry Paget Flashman had been serving in Hong Kong and mainland China long enough to become fluent in the language. Flashman in the Opium War would detail Harry’s adventures in the closing period of the Second Opium War up until the start of the Anglo-French military expedition to Peking.

The Second Opium War is still an incredibly controversial conflict from Queen Victoria’s reign. Even at the time passions ran very much against the war AND against the fact that HMG was seen as accommodating the opium trade in Chinese ports.

Hong KongTo the most critical eyes – then and now – the Empire seemed to be facilitating the market in opium so that certain British businessmen could get rich and if the drug’s use had a very negative, epidemic downside for the Far Eastern customers, that was callously perceived to be a fringe benefit.

As I say, that is the most critical view. More sympathetic figures point out that in the 1800s the world did not have the same derogatory view of the drug trade as now and the drug trade was LEGAL in the Far East. If it hadn’t been British merchants making money off the opium trade then any gaps would have been filled by the Chinese merchants who had been dealing in drugs for centuries.

The Story: Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under Neglected History, Pulp Heroes