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Sad News

I've just read the news about the passing of author George MacDonald Fraser.

What a rotten way to kick off a new year. Fraser will never be admitted to the august halls of High Literature, but if there was ever a more entertaining storyteller, I don't know his name. GMF wrote some fine screenplays and some terrific stand-alone novels, but he will be best remembered for the Flashman books, his delightful series of historical swashbucklers featuring Queen Victoria's most dubious hero, that notorious cad, bounder, and coward, Harry Flashman. I loved Flashie the first time I encountered him in the pages of FLASHMAN, way back around 1973 or so, and for more than thirty years it has always been an occasion for rejoicing when Fraser discovered another "packet" of Flashman's unexpurgated memoirs. The arrival of a new Flashman book always meant that I had to stop whatever I was doing, drive to the nearest bookstore, snatch it up, bring it home, and sit down at once to read it. It saddens me to think that won't happen any more.

Flashman was always great fun, and somehow managed to be an utterly original character, despite being "borrowed" from another book (TOM BROWN'S SCHOOLDAYS). And Fraser knew how to keep you turning pages. He was the best writer of pure adventure in our times, a modern day Dumas. I'll miss him and Harry both. Roger on, lads.


( 29 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 3rd, 2008 06:13 am (UTC)
I found GMF because of your recommendations, George. So thank you for that.

And fuck 'high literature.' Life is pain, we get it. I'll have a beer with Flashman any day.
Jan. 3rd, 2008 06:52 am (UTC)
If 'high literature' means I'm probably going to hate myself halfway through the book for attempting to read it then piss on it.

I'd rather be entertained than enlightened.
Jan. 3rd, 2008 06:51 am (UTC)
What I liked about Flashy was his honesty about himself. He never, ever rationalized the rotten things he did.

I also always thought that in some cases, he was too hard on himself. If I'd found myself charging at the head of the Light Brigade at Balaklava, despite not even being part of that unit, I'd think I had a Heaven-sent right to be absolutely terrified.

Jan. 3rd, 2008 06:53 am (UTC)
Flashman at the Charge
What I will always remember about Flashman at the Charge was that he was farting violently as he thundered towards those guns.
Jan. 3rd, 2008 09:30 am (UTC)
Re: Flashman at the Charge
That fit in with his Apache name, "He who rides so fast the winds break behind him"
Jan. 3rd, 2008 11:44 am (UTC)
Re: Flashman at the Charge
That was the day I fell in love with Flashman, when, at the tender age of ten, I found that book in the library and just sat down and started to read.

That was well over thirty years ago, and I've been an adorer of George MacDonald Fraser ever since.

*lifts cup of coffee to him*
Jan. 3rd, 2008 07:49 am (UTC)
Very sad news. I read the entire series in 2006 on your reccommendation and thoroughly enjoyed all of them. Especially memorable were Flashy fighting the 'giant dwarf of Afghanistan', chucking a nake girl out of a carriage to lighten the load and make good his escape from a bunrch of Russians and his righteous fury during the Indian Mutiny. I'm very sorry we'll never find out what Flashy got up to in the American Civil War (a much-referred-to-but-never-seen part of his life).

Whilst it's sad to read of Fraser's passing, it is intriguing and heartening to know that a Flashman TV series is in development by the makers of Sharpe and Hornblower. Hopefully this project will continue (Fraser was attached as a producer and possible writer) and will introduce Flashy to a whole new generation of readers.
Jan. 3rd, 2008 03:25 pm (UTC)
There was a film version of Royal Flash, with Malcolm McDowell in the title role, which I saw years ago and remember being lots of fun.
Jan. 3rd, 2008 03:31 pm (UTC)
we'll never find out what Flashy got up to in the American Civil War

That was my first thought when I saw this entry.

High literature or not, Flashman is one of the first series I name when somebody wants to read historical fiction that's heavy on the history.
Jan. 3rd, 2008 08:17 am (UTC)
Very sad news indeed! Like others here, I got turned on to Flashman from your recommendation, and fell in love with the series. Every time discussions turns towards good historical fiction, I've followed suit to praise Fraser.

He'll be sorely missed.
Jan. 3rd, 2008 09:35 am (UTC)
I read the Flashman books from my local library, picking them up with Asimov, Heinlein and Clarke. Flashy's self-interest and cynicism was a great balance for the idealism I picked up from those others, and his world was as exotic, dangerous and rewarding as theirs.
I'll miss Mr Fraser, grumpy, brilliant and compasionate as he was.
Jan. 3rd, 2008 10:06 am (UTC)
I actually read GMF years before I discovered your own work, both Flashman and MacAuslan: but I still have plenty of his stuff left to read. It's sad that there won't be more, though. :(
Jan. 3rd, 2008 10:08 am (UTC)
Oh, crap. I've thoroughly enjoyed the Flashman books since, I don't know, the late 1970s I think. My reaction to a new Flashman was exactly what you describe.
Jan. 3rd, 2008 01:02 pm (UTC)
He may not make it into the Canon, but when critics talk about high quality historical fiction, he'll be mentioned along with Patrick O'Brian. Both rank up there with Dumas, Weyman, and Scott.
Jan. 4th, 2008 02:24 am (UTC)
Well Flashman did make it into a cannon once...
Jan. 3rd, 2008 01:10 pm (UTC)
I actually like McAuslan better than Flashman, but in any case Fraser was one of my favorite writers. He will be missed.
Jan. 3rd, 2008 01:28 pm (UTC)
Gah... not good news =(

The passing of an author is always saddening. Fortunately they live on in pages and shelves around the world, something that many people will never be able to achieve -- so it's not all doom and gloom I suppose. Fraser and Flashman were two Englishman (if you consider Fraser English and not Scottish) that I've respected for many years. This truly is a shame.
Jan. 3rd, 2008 05:50 pm (UTC)
Fraser was as Scottish as they come.

He spent part of World War Two in a Highland regiment.
Jan. 3rd, 2008 02:22 pm (UTC)
That is sad. I really liked him. :(
Jan. 3rd, 2008 03:08 pm (UTC)
It is always sad when a person with both the imagination and the courage to write leaves this world. His screenplays were amazing works of art.
Jan. 3rd, 2008 03:22 pm (UTC)
I note that GMF did manage to get one last novel out before he passed, THE REAVERS (not a Flashman tale, alas!), which was published a couple of months ago in the UK. Looks like it had a mixed reception though.

Jan. 4th, 2008 04:20 pm (UTC)
I'm currently reading this and not finding it as good as either the Candlemass Road or the Pyrates. But still fun...
Jan. 3rd, 2008 04:47 pm (UTC)
I actually found GMF through his beautifully hilarious book The Pyrates, but I have loved all the stuff I've read of his since. Hearing that he is dead makes me very sad :(

Edwin Thomas has recently started writing books in the same tone of the Flashman stuff, but dealing with more post-Trafalgar Napoleonic naval stuff. Although the most recent one was set in America. They're quite fun.
Jan. 3rd, 2008 05:01 pm (UTC)
That is very sad, I myself very much enjoyed the Flashman novels.

Although it's funny that you compare him to Dumas, because in my opinion his best work was his screenplay for the 1973 adaptations of the Three Musketeers/The Four Musketeers directed by Richard Lester.
Jan. 3rd, 2008 05:51 pm (UTC)
Sad news indeed, no more Flashman books.

My favourite however is "Mr. American" although Flashie makes his last appearance in it.
Jan. 3rd, 2008 06:01 pm (UTC)
Something I've been wondering about lately, actually, and this post bring it to mind. Have you ever read Robert E. Howard? And if you have, what do you think of his style? I've just recently got into his work, as my lovely wife bought me the Conan collection for Christmas.
Jan. 3rd, 2008 06:13 pm (UTC)
My first introduction to Fraser was actually the Steel Bonnets, so not his fiction at all, and that's how I still think of him.
Jan. 3rd, 2008 08:20 pm (UTC)
That is horrible news. I am a big Flashman fan and Fraser was a great storyteller. At least he lived a very long and productive life. RIP.
Jan. 4th, 2008 04:41 am (UTC)
I loved GMF, Flashman, and all his works. I heard about his passing this morning on the BBC. All I could think was that he'd had some mighty good innings, and kept us all pretty happy up through to the end. He had decades to make his mark, and he certainly made it on me: his script for Richard Lester's THE THREE MUSKETEERS comes miles closer than any other attempt to capture the bawdry & irreverence of Dumas (oddly lacking in all other film versions), and the movie had a huge effect on me at an impressionable age. And his non-fiction work THE STEEL BONNETS, about the Scots Border reivers, was a great followup to Dorothy Dunnett's fiction about them. (Do you like Dunnett, too?)

Oh - and thank you *so much* for the lovely shout-out on your new "Dragons" update page! Happiness. Thanks for being so honest about the tough things an author goes through, too. And good luck.
( 29 comments — Leave a comment )


George R.R. Martin
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