Friday, January 4, 2008

R.I.P. George MacDonald Fraser

It is with great sadness that I report the death of a cherished author, George MacDonald Fraser, on January 2nd, aged 82. His Flashman series features the cravenly, yet absurdly lucky, bounder and "hero", Harry Paget Flashman. The twelve titles are a wonderful way to soak up Victorian military history. Like Thomas Berger's Little Big Man, the Flashman books insert our military man and sometime spy in the middle of actual historical events with over-the-top results (i.e., gastric disturbance impels him to unwittingly lead the Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava).

"Flashy" rogers his way around the globe, collecting medals for unintentional bravery and generally blundering his way to a brigadiered generalhood. I feel the series just got better over time with greater nuances to Flashman's character and to that of his wife, Elspeth. I have read through the Flashman series once and daydream about digesting it again in the future during a long, lazy stretch of reading.

Flashman is responsible for a bit of family legend at Dan's expense. Two years ago, my loving spouse went to the local big box bookstore to pick up a copy of "Flashman on the March" (sadly, perhaps the last Flashman book ever, although there is some possibility of an Australian adventure) to surprise me as a gift. He was wearing his woodcutting outfit (large tuke on his head, several days worth of beard scruff, Army surplus coat, big mud boots) and waited politely in line for an available cashier. He then asked if the store had the latest "Flashman". There was a pause from the female employee, who then asked him to repeat his query. He said "Flashman" again a little more loudly. And repeated it. She then got very wide-eyed and backed away from the counter. I guess she thought he was wearing nothing under his funky outfit, so poor Dan just slunk away, rather humiliated. But I think George MacDonald Fraser would've gotten a kick out of that scene.

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