MacDonald Fraser, author of Flashman novels, dies aged 82

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

1947-1969: Journalist

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

News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Extras
indybest
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Travel
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
travel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Sport
football
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home