MacDonald Fraser, author of Flashman novels, dies aged 82
Thursday 03 January 2008
The novelist George MacDonald Fraser, author of the popular Flashman series of adventure stories, has died after a long battle against cancer.
The 82-year-old former soldier worked as a journalist for The Herald newspaper, then known as The Glasgow Herald, for many years.
He also wrote screenplays and a memoir of his experiences as an infantryman in the Burma campaign, but it is for his semi-historical novels based around Sir Harry Flashman that MacDonald Fraser will be best remembered.
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.
Other novels include the McAuslan stories, a series following the fortune of a Scottish army regiment and starring Private J McAuslan, "the dirtiest soldier in the world".
The author Kingsley Amis said he was "a marvellous reporter and a first-rate historical novelist".
PG Wodehouse also praised him: "If there was a time when I felt that watcher-of-the-skies-when-a-new-planet stuff, it was when I read the first Flashman," he said. MacDonald Fraser, who lived on the Isle of Man, was awarded an OBE in 1999 for a literary career that included a number of screenplays including the Bond movie Octopussy.
At The Glasgow Herald he worked as a sub-editor and in the features department, and rose to become deputy-editor. Murray Ritchie, 66, was taught journalism by MacDonald Fraser as a cub reporter on the Dumfries Standard in the 1960s. The retired journalist, who was in his late teens when MacDonald Fraser took him under his wing, said last night: "He used to give us lessons in how to sub-edit and how to write. He was a very respected and very considerate person and showed an interest in younger journalists. And he was a brilliant journalist. He was a superbly gifted writer, he wrote with such clarity, and was a good editor."
Referring to MacDonald Fraser's departure from journalism in the 1960s, Ritchie added: "I think he was quite critical of changing standards in journalism, when management took over from editors.
He said of his novels: "It may be tripe but it's my tripe and I do urge other authors to resist encroachments on their brain-children and trust their own judgment rather than that of some zealous meddler with a diploma in creative punctuation who is just dying to get in to the act."
He was born in Carlisle on 2 April 1925 and served with the Army in Burma and India during the Second World War, a period of his life described in his book Quartered Safe Out Here. The Light's On At Signpost gives an insight into his screenwriting days and his views on modern politics.
Life and times
1925: Born in Carlisle
1930-40s: Carlisle Grammar; Glasgow Academy
1943-7: With Border Regiment in Burma
1953: Daughter, Caro, also a novelist, born
1964-1969: Deputy editor of 'Glasgow Herald'
1969: First of 20 Flashman novels published
1974: First screenplay, 'Three Musketeers'
1983: Screenplay of Bond film 'Octopussy'
2008: Died of cancer
- 1 If you're not already angry about the migrant crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
- 2 David De Gea: Manchester United goalkeeper's £29m move to Real Madrid off - because paperwork 'not done in time'
- 3 Pansexual: What is it - and when did the term gain popularity?
- 4 A Chinese journalist has appeared on state television 'confessing' to causing the stock market chaos
- 5 Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
Miley Cyrus calls out hypocrisy of women’s nipples being taboo
The man who sold Minecraft to Microsoft for £2.5 billion says it's made him miserable
Nazi 'gold train': Fire engulfs suspected location of vehicle in Poland
Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
Isis releases graphic video showing four Shia 'spies' being burned alive in Anbar, Iraq
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn's 'Alice In Wonderland' politics
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
UN investigating British Government over human rights abuses caused by IDS welfare reforms
£30 - 38k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a digitally focussed Account Man...
£23000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion, this digital ...
£16500 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's leading...
£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity exists ...