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George Macdonald Fraser


And other extracts from The Flashman Papers

Book review by Anthony Campbell. Copyright © Anthony Campbell (2005).

This, the eleventh volume in the Flashman series, consists of one novella and two short stories. All three describe events in the twilight of Flashman's career, when he is advanced in years and less sprightly than he once was. They are therefore to be recommended mainly to Flashman aficionados, of whom I am certainly one; newcomers to the series would be best advised to begin with the earlier volumes.

In the longest piece, The Road to Charing Cross, Flashman finds himself unwillingly embroiled in a plot devised by his old enemy Bismarck to prevent the assassination of the Austro-Hungarian Emperor, Franz-Josef. His adventures are enlivened, as usual, by some amatory encounters. The story is rather slow to get off the ground but it perks up considerably once the plot is under way. The climax is a dramatic duel in an abandoned saltmine.

The second piece, The Subtleties of Baccarat, concerns a famous scandal about an allegation of cheating at cards which culminated in a court case in which the Prince of Wales was involved. Flashman and his wife Elspeth play a part in events and their actions provide a possible explanation for what actually occurred.

The final story, Flashman and the Tiger, recounts Flashman's attempt to murder Colonel Moran (the eponymous "Tiger"), whom Flashman had encountered 15 years earlier during the Zulu wars (this episode is narrated in flash-back). Fraser is playing cat-and-mouse with the narrative convention here, because Moran is actually a character in Conan Doyle's The Return of Sherlock Holmes, and indeed Holmes and Watson put in a personal appearance at the end of the story. This is a bit cheeky on Fraser's part; he did something somewhat similar in an earlier book, where Flashman claims to have described one of his adventures to the novelist Anthony Hope who subsequently wrote it up as fiction in The Prisoner of Zenda. But that is different from introducing fictional characters into what is, purportedly, a factual account. I think this was a mistake.

%T Flashman and the Tiger
%S And other extracts from The Flashman Papers
%A Fraser, George MacDonald
%I HarperCollins
%C London
%D 2000
%G ISBN 0-00-651367-0
%P 319 pp
%K fiction
%O paperback edition

13 July 2005

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