Tag Archives: Underground Railroad

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

24 Comments

Filed under Neglected History, Neo-Pulp, Pulp Heroes

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. 

Flash for FreedomThe 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

34 Comments

Filed under opinion