03 January 2008

RIP: George MacDonald Fraser

George MacDonald Fraser OBE
2 Apr 1925 - 2 Jan 2008

ZUI this article from the International Herald-Tribune:
George MacDonald Fraser, author of the "Flashman" series of historical adventure yarns, died Wednesday, his publisher said. He was 82.

Fraser died following a battle with cancer, said Nicholas Latimer, director of publicity for Knopf, which will release Fraser's latest work "The Reavers" in the United States in April. Latimer was unable to provide details of where Fraser died. He lived on the Isle of Man, off the coast of northwest England.


Born in Carlisle, northern England in 1925, Fraser served as an infantryman with the British Army in India and Burma during World War II, and in the Middle East after the war. He worked as a journalist in Britain and Canada for more than 20 years before turning to fiction.

Fraser was the author of screenplays including "The Three Musketeers" (1973), an adaptation of his novel "Royal Flash" (1975) and the James Bond movie "Octopussy" (1983).

Fraser also wrote several works of nonfiction, including a wartime memoir, "Quartered Safe Out Here," "Steel Bonnets: The Story of the Anglo-Scottish Border" and "The Hollywood History of the World."

And this from The Telegraph:
George MacDonald Fraser was born at Carlisle on April 2 1925. His father was a doctor, his mother a nurse. George was educated at Carlisle Grammar School and Glasgow Academy, where his performance as Laertes was distinguished by his unscripted defeat of Hamlet in the pair’s duel.

In 1943 he joined the Border Regiment and served as an infantryman in North Africa and with the "Forgotten" Fourteenth Army in Burma. He was eventually commissioned in the Gordon Highlanders. Some of his finest writing is contained in his graphic recollections of his Burma service, Quartered Safe Out Here (1992), in which the affectionate portrait of his Cumbrian comrades demonstrated his keen eye for character and acute ear for dialogue.

John Keegan, in The Sunday Telegraph, justly called it "one of the great personal memoirs of World War II".

And this, from The Independent:
The Flashman series is based on the bully character of Thomas Hughes' Victorian classic Tom Brown's Schooldays grown up and serving as an officer in the Army, fighting, drinking and womanising his way around the British Empire.

Each of the novels purports to come from packets of faux-autobiographical notes – the Flashman Papers – discovered in the 1960s. When the first instalment of these entirely fictional memoirs, created by MacDonald Fraser, first appeared in the US in 1969, around a third of its 40 reviewers believed they were a genuine historical find. One reviewer said that the works were "the most important discovery since the Boswell Papers".

Although many found Flashman's 19th-century racism and sexism distasteful, the books sold in huge numbers and MacDonald Fraser was praised for his attention to historical detail. He published the final book in the series in 1994.

I've never read any of the Flashman books (there are twelve), but I love the stories about Private McAuslan, "the dirtiest soldier in the Army": The General Danced at Dawn, McAuslan in the Rough and The Sheikh and the Dustbin.

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