It is a known fact that in this world both good and bad people exist, and sadly, it is not always the former who succeed (in fact, more often than not it’s the latter). No book poses this simple truth of life quite like George MacDonald Fraser’s The Flashman Papers. A rascal and coward who will stop at nothing to save himself, Harry Flashman has delighted generations of readers all over the world. Flashman comes alive before the reader and it is hard to believe that Fraser did not imbue him with a bit of himself. However, Fraser’s life shows us that this is not the case.
Fraser was born in Carlisle, England in 1925. Though Fraser was as awe-inspiring a person as his characters are in print, his early years were spent like any other ordinary English boy. In 1945 however, his life changed drastically when he joined the army— his accounts of the war are among the best memoirs of World War II that exist. It was this flair for writing that enabled him to achieve the literary success that was to follow him upon the publication of The Flashman Papers.
Let us now take a glimpse of how Fraser the soldier became Fraser the author. When the war ended Fraser became an officer, serving in Egypt. But much to his chagrin he found that peacetime soldiering wasn’t for him and he decided to try his hand at journalism instead. When in 1969 he left his job at the Glasgow Herald he promised his wife Kathleen that he would write them out of their financial difficulties. With the instantly successful Flashman Papers he did exactly that.
The series follows the adventures of the rogue and ruffian Harry Flashman as he travels the world collecting laurels and accolades through no hard work of his own. By the end of the series, Flashman has successfully slept with 486 women and though this makes him a reprehensible cad, Flashman’s one virtue is his immense readability.
Though best known for The Flashman Papers, Fraser has written numerous other books including several non-Flashman novels, among them Mr. American; The Pyrates; and Black Ajax. With Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson, he wrote the screenplay for the James Bond film Octopussy, released in 1983.
For his work, Fraser received many honors, among them the Order of the British Empire in 1999.
Fraser died in 2008 of cancer, leaving behind an unparalleled legacy in his wake, full of books that are sure to delight future generations of readers.