Thursday, 10 January 2008

Flash Men and Likely Lords

Last week, British literature lost one of its very finest comic writers, when the author George MacDonald Fraser passed away at the ripe old age of eighty-two.

For those unfamiliar with the writer in question, Fraser was a writer and journalist, who found considerable fame and fortune with the publication of his Flashman novels.

In these brilliantly funny books, Fraser took the simple conceit of plucking the unlikeable character of Harry Flashman from Thomas Hughes' Victorian novel, Tom Brown's Schooldays, and then developing a whole new series of adventures for the bullying rascal, chronicling his life after being expelled from Rugby school on account of his drunkenness.

In the first of the series, we catch up with Flashman as he becomes a soldier caught up in the midst of the British retreat from Kabul in the first Afghanistan war (1839-42). Despite the horrors taking place around him, Flashman still delights in drinking and sex, whilst trying to save his neck during the conflict by any cowardly means possible.

The book deftly combined painstakingly researched historical fact with high farce and bawdy comedy, a mixture that proved to be extremely alluring to the public. After the success of his solo debut, Flashman went on to get embroiled in Custer's Last Stand, the Indian Mutiny, and the Charge of the Light Brigade, amongst other notable events over the course of the series, which spanned twelve books in total.

I only started reading the astonishing tales of the Victorian rogue and bounder last summer, which may surprise readers of my other blog, The Astonishing Adventures of Lord Likely, in which I chronicle the astonishing tales of another Victorian rogue and bounder.

It was through Lord Likely that I discovered Flashman, (as opposed to the other way around), when I was directed to the Flashman books by fellow blogger Scaryduck, who suggested the two characters might be related. I didn't have a clue what he was talking about, so set about getting hold of a copy to see for myself.

Upon picking up the first novel in the series, my heart sank. Not because it was awful, or depressing - it was truly excellent - but because it seemed everything I was trying to do with Likely had already been done - and much better - by Fraser. The cover alone (above) seemed to capture the very essence of Lord Likely better than I could have ever managed.

Upon reading the novel, however, I realised that there were differences. The first obvious one was that Flashman was a regular guy, whilst Lord Likely is, well, a lord. Secondly, Flashman was a terrible coward and reluctant hero, while Likely is much more proactive, seeking out adventure and intrigue to alleviate the boredom bought about by the tedious routine of his aristocratic duties. Finally, Flashman is much more of a solitary character (save his wife, Elspeth), while Likely rarely travels anywhere without his long-suffering man-servant, Botter.

Of course, Fraser's work was much more rigourously researched, while the Astonishing Adventures favour crudity, farce and slapstick over historical accuracy. And I need not point out that Fraser's writing is much better than mine, but then again Likely's cock is undoubtedly bigger than Flashman's.

I was relieved to discover these differences. I hadn't set out to ape the exploits of Harry Flashman, nor rip-off George MacDonald Fraser. If anything, I'd set out to pay homage and parody Sherlock Holmes and Charles Dickens. As well as making dozens of penis jokes.

Happily, there is room enough for both takes on the Victorian hero in this world, and in fact reading Flashman has encouraged me to up my game and try harder. Why, I even did some actual research for Lord Likely's American Adventure! I used books and everything. Whatever next?

So I continue the adventures of Lord Likely unabated and more inspired. In fact, in the very latest episode, I have even had his lordship meet Harry Flashman, as a small tribute from one humble blogger, to a master of comic writing who paved the way for whippersnappers like me to stomp noisily all over it, treading mud all over the beautifully paved metaphorical path.

Mr. Fraser, sir, I raise a glass of brandy to you. Cheers!

- Fanton.

8 comments:

Lord Andrew of Goulding said...

Sir,

you cannot compare the two!

Firstly, Flashman is a 20th Century literary creation, while Lord Likely's "tales" are the true and entirely factual diary of a priapic English aristocrat.

Secondly, as you point out, Likely almost certainly has a bigger dick &

Thirdly, Fraser's character would never have thought to come copiously all over Queen Victoria's face. Indeed, Likely has inspired me to wish to do so similarly to newsreader Melissa Theuriau.

I rest my case (I'm spent),

ADG

nursemyra said...

great cover art

Fanton said...

Lord Goulding, I thank you for your spirited defence. I presume that's spirits I can smell on your breath?

Nurse Myra, the Flashman books always have lovely artwork. Look them up on Wikipedia or Amazon to see what I mean.

Beenzzz said...

Yes, Lord Likely does have a much larger manhood than this cad, Ratman was it? Oh, yes flashman. Does that name reflect his performance between the sheets?
I raise a toast (booze not bread) to Lord Likely!

Scaryduck said...

Hooray for taking my advice!

Sadly, there are now going to be huge gaps in the Flashman story because GMF selfishly went and died before finishing the job.

For example, did he ever get stuck up Queen Victoria?

We will never know.

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