George MacDonald Fraser
back in a flash
Fraser is best known for his Flashman Papers series, which takes place in the middle of the 19th century. The books pretend to be the memoirs of one Harry Flashman. Flashman was the school bully in a book entitled Tom Brown's School Days that book records that he was expelled from Rugby School for drunkeness. Fraser feigns that he was a real person, and carries his career forward from that time.
I'm almost embarassed to recommend these books; Harry Flashman is a bounder, a coward, a cad, a man of nasty habits and no principle except "Harry first!" He joins the British Army, and by lying, cheating, licking boots, and being in the right (or wrong) place every time manages to participate in many of the great events of the 19th century. He was at the Charge of the Light Brigade, and had very insulting things to say about his commanding officers (but not to their faces). He was involved in the Sepoy Mutiny in India. He helped sack the Summer Palace in China. He was at Little Bighorn with General Custer. He was at Harper's Ferry with John Brown. He knew Otto von Bismarck when he was nobody, and regretted it. He was (much against his will) supercargo on a slave ship and brother-in-law to Geronimo. He fought in the American Civil War...on both sides (although that book hasn't been written yet).
Fraser embroiders the facts, obviously, but uses footnotes to clue us in on where he's telling the truth and where he's stretching it--always maintaining the illusion that he's just the editor of Flashman's memoirs. Some of the volumes in the series are Flashman, Royal Flash, Flash for Freedom, Flashman in the Great Game, and Flashman at the Charge.
The General Danced at Dawn, MacAuslan in the Rough, and The Sheikh and the Dustbin are books about life in a highland regiment just after World War II. The books are semi-autobiographical; the narrator, Lt. Dand MacNeill, is a thinly disguised Fraser. The books also feature Private MacAuslan, J., the dirtiest soldier in the world. Much less scurrilous than the Flashman novels, they read very well aloud. I gave copies to my dad, who loved them.
His other fiction includes The Pyrates, an enjoyable romp on the Spanish Main, Mr. American, which takes a gunslinger from American and places him in Edwardian England, and Black Ajax, the (true) story of a black boxer who fights in England in Harry Flashman's father's day.
In addition, Fraser has written (at least two) non-fiction books, The Steel Bonnets and Quartered Safe Out Here. The Steel Bonnets is a history of strife on the border between England and Scotland in the century leading up to the coronation of James I as king of both countries. As the result of constant warfare, a bandit society developed that straddled the border. It's a fascinating book, humorous and horrifying by turns. Quartered Safe Out Here is a memoir of Fraser's service as a private soldier with the British Army in Burma during World War II. An entertaining read, it complements the Dand MacNeill/Private MacAuslan books.
The Flashman Papers