Tag Archives: George MacDonald Fraser

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 wideview10. 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? “ 

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.”

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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FLASHMAN NOVELS: SIXTH TO TENTH 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 through 10th 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 – 10th 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 could start out running for a seat in Parliament but wind up fleeing England over a gambling scandal, 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 status as a hero of two wars and an amphibious campaign against Borneo pirates 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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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 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

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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

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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

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