Harry Flashman: the unrepentant bully of Tom Brown’s schooldays, now with a Victoria Cross, has three main talents – horsemanship, facility with foreign languages and fornication. A reluctant military hero, Flashman plays a key part in most of the defining military campaigns of the 19th century, despite trying his utmost to escape them all.
Many have marvelled at General Napier's daring 1868 expedition through the treacherous peaks and bottomless chasms of Abyssinia to rescue a small group of British citizens held captive by the mad tyrant Emperor Theodore. But the vital role of Sir Harry Flashman, V.C., in the success of this campaign has hitherto gone unrecorded.
Flashman's undeserved reputation for heroism renders him the British Army's candidate of choice when it comes to skulking behind enemy lines in Ali Baba attire. After all, who but the great amorist could contemplate navigating a land populated by hostile tribes and the loveliest (and most savage) women in Africa, from leather-clad nymphs with a penchant for torture to a voluptuous barbarian queen with a reputation for throwing disobliging guests to her pet lions?
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There are certain authors whose very names are an absolute guarantee of quality, and George Macdonald Fraser has long been one of those. His Flashman books are much loved, and the exploits of his engaging rogue have been delighted readers for years. But is Flashman on the March up to the customary Fraser standard? After all, the number of Flashman books is now legion, and even the author’s most dedicated admirers would admit that some Flashman outings (while diverting enough) have lacked the freshness of the early books. It's good to report, therefore, that Flashman on the March is almost vintage Fraser, with all the elements that have won him an ironclad following largely in place. There are, of course, two elements that make these books such fun: the vivid and pungent historical detail (always effortlessly integrated, and never self-consciously laid on as in so many historical novels, serious or otherwise); the author's refusal to be politically correct (the Flashman books have always played fast and loose with the accepted views of morality and society, and their bawdy, amoral charms are refreshing in an age in which such things are looked at askance -- even if Fraser, like Frederick Forsyth, is far better encountered in his entertaining books rather than in his more splenetic role as pundit).
Here, that least heroic possessor of a Victoria Cross, Sir Harry Flashman, finds himself catapulted into a highly dangerous assignment in Abyssinia: he is to rescue British prisoners from a demented emperor. Abyssinia (as seen through Fraser's highly colourful imagination) is a land of lethal seductresses, terrifying warriors and a jawdropping female monarch whose idea of what she should feed her lions is… unorthodox. It's up to Flashman (as so often before) to triumph over insuperable odds by the most unlikely methods. Needless to say, untrammelled sexual activity is firmly on the menu. If you're a George Macdonald Fraser fan, or a Flashman fan, what are you waiting for? --Barry ForshawReview:
'The Flashman Papers do what all great sagas do – winning new admirers along the way but never, ever betraying old ones. It is an immense achievement.' Sunday Telegraph
‘Not so much a march as a full-blooded charge, fortified by the usual lashings of salty sex, meticulously choreographed battle scenes and hilariously spineless acts of self preservation by Flashman.’ Sunday Times
‘Not only are the Flashman books extremely funny, but they give meticulous care to authenticity. You can, between the guffaws, learn from them.’ Washington Post
‘A first-rate historical novelist’ Kingsley Amis
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