Tag Archives: Historical fiction

FLASHMAN’S GUIANA: LOST FLASHMAN PAPERS

Flashman faceFor Flashman Down Under, 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 

Balladeer’s Blog now moves on to another Harry Flashman adventure never completed before George MacDonald Fraser’s death.

Lee Horsley Flashman

IF HE WAS BRITISH, LEE HORSLEY WOULD HAVE MADE A PERFECT HARRY FLASHMAN.

Projected Title: FLASHMAN’S GUIANA

Time Period: 1876-1877

NOTE: The title Flashman’s Guiana is a play on “Booker’s Guiana,” as the colony of British Guiana (19th century spelling) was often sardonically referred to in the 1800s. That reference came about from the way the Booker business empire virtually ran the colony. From a 21st Century standpoint we might look on it in a sinister Weyland-Yutani way.

… Strictly for storytelling purposes, of course, if you’re a lawyer representing the Booker Group. Honest. Really. (Although after this latest merger I don’t know if anybody would still care.) Anyway, as you readers have requested, this time I’ll establish the action then go back to detail the setup.

crossed sabresThe Action: Sir Harry Flashman and his wife Elspeth visit British Guiana right after their American Tour ended in August, 1876. A combination of Her Majesty’s Government’s interests and Flashman’s own hunger for large amounts of filthy luchre to sustain his and Elspeth’s grand new lifestyle wind up launching the British blackguard into his latest adventure.

Sword and pistols in hand, Harry leaves Elspeth back in the capital city of Georgetown while he takes part in a covert search for gold in the jungle region disputed by Great Britain and Venezuela. Continue reading

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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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ALEXANDRE DUMAS: NEGLECTED NOVELS

Alexandre Dumas

“HELLO DERE!”

Alexandre Dumas pere is synonymous with swashbuckling historical adventures like The Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo and The Man in the Iron Mask.

His name became SO associated with swordplay and intrigue that even a Dumas novel like The Corsican Brothers, which in reality lacks any true action elements, has long been adapted as if it’s a swashbuckler. That has always involved altering the original story beyond recognition, which is why no two Corsican Brothers movies bear much resemblance to each other and can’t even seem to agree on a time period.

That’s a shame since plenty of other novels by Alexandre Dumas are loaded with action and historical intrigue yet have been largely overlooked when it comes to movies and television. 

GeorgesGEORGES (1843) – Published just one year before The Three Musketeers, this novel is not only a rollicking adventure full of action, romance and double-crosses but it deals with racial issues in such a way that you would have thought it would have been adapted for film four or five decades ago. The title character uses his sword to fight slavery!  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   For Flashman of Arabia 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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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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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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FLASHMAN: THE LOST ADVENTURES

Alan Bates -better Flashman than MalcolmBalladeer’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 )

Before I move on to review the other Flashman novels I decided to instead speculate – in total fanboy mode – 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.

Australian gold fieldsProjected 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.

Australian gold fields 2Once 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.)  Continue reading

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FLASHMAN NOVELS: SIXTH 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 sixth place if I had done a list of my Top Six Harry Flashman Novels.

Flashman and the Mountain of Light6. FLASHMAN AND THE MOUNTAIN OF LIGHT (1990)

Time Period: The First Sikh War (1845-1846)

The Flashman Papers jump around to different periods of Harry Flashman’s life and this novel details our main character’s adventures following the events in Flashman’s Lady, published in 1977. Flashman’s Lady came in 3rd place in my rankings.

NOTE: The Mountain of Light of the novel’s title refers to the Koh-I-Noor (“Mountain of Light”) Diamond, which at the time belonged to the rulers of the Punjab in India and which features prominently in the story.  

Synopsis: Queen Victoria’s least trustworthy Cavalry Officer, Harry Paget Flashman, is once again in the thick of things. A series of false starts to an all-out war have set things dangerously on edge in the Punjab, with a potential bloodbath in the offing if one false move is made.

Flashman and the Mountain of Light 2Harry being Harry, he STILL manages to find time for a brief fling with the wife of a fellow British Officer before getting thrust into the line of fire. And into the schemes and political machinations of the real-life Maharani Jeendan, her brother Jawaheer, the British East India Company and a fanatical real-life military sect called the Khalsa.

At the center of this tangled web, lurking like a thing alive, is the Koh-I-Noor Diamond, the Mountain of Light itself, passing from hand to hand – and in some cases navel to navel – while being coveted by nearly every figure in our story. Figures which include two real-life American mercenaries who partially inspired Kipling’s tale of The Man Who Would Be King.   

The title and savage action of this Flashman novel certainly put one in mind of H. Rider Haggard’s writings but the story’s account of hedonism and political intrigues at the Punjab royal court in Lahore is more along the lines of Robert Graves’ I, Claudius.

Jeendan and LalThe deliciously decadent Maharani Jeendan is our protagonist’s main bedmate in his latest sword and sex adventure, followed closely by Mangla, the Maharani’s beautiful, calculating slave who had – as history confirms – engineered events to secretly become one of the wealthiest women of the Punjab despite her condition of servitude.     Continue reading

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