Thursday, January 03, 2008

RIP George MacDonald Fraser

By Cernig

George MacDonald Fraser, author of the Flashman novels, has died of cancer aged 82.

He wrote the first novel of the Flashman Papers in 1969 after he quit as assistant editor of the Glasgow Herald.

The book imagines what happened after Flashman - the bully in Thomas Hughes's Tom Brown's Schooldays - was expelled from Rugby for drunkenness.

Eleven more novels were to follow in the series, during which Flashman - the most lily-livered hero in Victorian England - fornicates and brawls his way round the empire, provides Abraham Lincoln with his "you can't fool all the people all the time" quotation, and accidentally starts the charge of the Light Brigade.

Each novel purports to come from packets of autobiographical notes discovered in the Sixties.

Fraser - who proudly pointed out that a third of the first book's American reviewers believed the Flashman papers to be real - said his antihero's appeal was hardly surprising.

"People like rascals, they like rogues," he told the BBC in 2006. "I was always on the side of the villain when I was a child and went to the movies. I wanted Basil Rathbone to kill Errol Flynn."
He was one of my personal favorites and a massive influence on another, Terry Pratchett, who once described the Flashman books as his own preferred reads. His books were erudite, witty and possessed of a wry dose of realism about life as well as being laugh-aloud funny. He'll be sorely missed.