Monday, 14 January 2008

Flashman and the Grim Reaper

Taking a leaf out of everyfuckingbody else's book I've decided to be serious for once.

No I haven't, you daft cunts. Being serious is for losers. For buggers who have lost the will to live. I can however reveal that I sank a few swift ones last night in memory of one of my heroes who recently kicked the bucket, pegged out, or otherwise had his sporran hung on the flagpole.

Yes - George MacDonald Fraser has died.

I don't know if he's got much of a name outside these British Aisles, but he did write the screenplay for the Three Musketeers (and its sequel the erm Four Musketeers) so anyone who has more than a passing acquaintance with Raquel Welch's filmography - who actually watched the credits at the end instead of just goggling at her tits - might have heard of him.

But to me he was like the god, or maybe the Antichrist of humorous literature. When I first picked up a volume of his "McAuslan" stories it was like a dirty great fucking flashbulb went off in my head. It was just a collection of semi-autobiographical, semi-fictional anecdotes about life in the British Army after the second world war, from the point of view of a young officer charged with looking after a tatty platoon in garrisons across the Middle East, but it was written with such effortless ease, and the foibles of the characters - particularly the shambling anarchic BFG-like figure of Private McAuslan - were sketched with such vivid joy that I was instantly converted.

He was most famous for his "Flashman" series of books though. I don't know if you've read the nauseating "Tom Brown's Schooldays", a Victorian novel about upper-class boarding school life which prates about the virtues of chastity, abstinence, and generally "playing the game", but GMF took the antihero out of this ancient potboiler - the eponymous Harry Flashman - and wrote about what HIS career might have been like instead. In Tom Brown Schooldays, Flashman was the sneering bully, the cowardly cad, who made poor virtuous young Tom's life a misery, but who finally got his come-uppance. Virtue triumphed. In GMF's books Flashman shagged, blustered and drank his way into the upper echelons of global society and died a General at a ripe old age.

Each of Flashman's adventures has a meticulously-researched and largely factual historical setting, with the addition of this one fictional character who reveals what was probably the true plot beneath the glossy stories of the British Empiah that were touted throughout the reign of Queen Victoria. Flashman is a cad, a dashing bounder who doesn't give a fuck and lives life on the edge, like it should be lived. A sort of Victorian Keith Richards. Well worth a read, anyway. You might even learn a bit of history along the way.

It wasn't until a couple of years ago that I discovered that George MacDonald Fraser was born in Carlisle. Fuck me! Not only a literary hero, but born on my own doorstep! I found this out when I went to Tullie Hoose one day to show my Granny a good time - the old dear don't think much of drinking down at the Twisted Wheel on her birthday - and there was this exhibition about the Border Reivers on, with dirty great quotes from GMF's book on the subject plastered all over the walls. I was shanned to think I had been admiring this cunt's writing for a couple of years when I could have been knocking on his door, asking for tips.

Of course it turned out that the bastard had since emigrated to the Isle of Man but it had me going through the phone book for a while.

And now he's gone. But that won't stop me sinking a few more in his memory this evening. It would be nice to think I might leave a literary legacy like that behind.

Ha! And I said I wasn't going to get serious.

This blog was mirrored from MySpace
I was feeling lugubrious at the time

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