Saturday, April 23, 2011

A look back at George MacDonald Fraser

Wonderful writer, veteran of WWII, creator of Harry Flashman. Got to thinking about him today, and thought I'd post something I wrote a few years back. First, on the subject of preparedness:
In Royal Flash he's been enticed into a trip and he's packing, when he runs into a quandary over a pair of pistols:
But I pondered about taking them. The truth was, I didn't want to believe that I might need them.

I knew, as I hesitated with those pistols in my hands, that if I took them I should be admitting the possibility of my own sudden death or maiming in whatever lay ahead.

And experience has taught me that, as with all weapons, while you may not often need it, when you do you need it badly.

From Flashman and the Mountain of Light, Flashman is making a list of good and bad points about his situation:
If I were a praying man, the Almighty would hear from me in no uncertain terms, and much good it would do me.
Being a pagan(attached C of E) with no divine resources, I shall tread uncommon wary and keep my pepperbox handy.

And later, when he’s sneaked out of his quarters in answer to a summons, and finds himself in a tavern in enemy territory:
I’d settle for you alongside this minute, thinks I, as I surveyed the company: villainous two-rupee bravos, painted harpies who should have been perched in trees, a seedy flute-and-tom-tom ban accompanying a couple of gyrating nautches whom you wouldn’t have touched with a long pole, and Sikh brandy fit to corrode a bucket. I’ll never way a word against Boodle’s again, says I to myself; at least there you don’t have to sit with your back to the wall.

He wrote about his and other peoples experiences in WWII(Quartered Safe Out Here, MacAuslan in the Rough, The General Danced at Dawn), all good books. And then, at the end, the Daily Mail published his Last Testament, which included
In the Nineties, a change began to take place. Reviewers and interviewers started describing Flashman (and me) as politically incorrect, which we are, though by no means in the same way.

This is fine by me. Flashman is my bread and butter, and if he wasn't an elitist, racist, sexist swine, I'd be selling bootlaces at street corners instead of being a successful popular writer.

But what I notice with amusement is that many commentators now draw attention to Flashy's (and my) political incorrectness in order to make a point of distancing themselves from it.

It's not that they dislike the books. But where once the non-PC thing could pass unremarked, they now feel they must warn readers that some may find Flashman offensive, and that his views are certainly not those of the interviewer or reviewer, God forbid.

I find the disclaimers alarming. They are almost a knee-jerk reaction and often rather a nervous one, as if the writer were saying: "Look, I'm not a racist or sexist. I hold the right views and I'm in line with modern enlightened thought, honestly."

They won't risk saying anything to which the PC lobby could take exception. And it is this that alarms me - the fear evident in so many sincere and honest folk of being thought out of step.
I think little of people who will deny their history because it doesn't present the picture they would like.

My forebears from the Highlands of Scotland were a fairly primitive, treacherous, blood-thirsty bunch and, as Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote, would have been none the worse for washing. Fine, let them be so depicted, if any film maker feels like it; better that than insulting, inaccurate drivel like Braveheart.
I loathe all political parties, which I regard as inventions of the devil. My favourite prime minister was Sir Alec Douglas-Home, not because he was on the Right, but because he spent a year in office without, on his own admission, doing a damned thing.

This would not commend him to New Labour, who count all time lost when they're not wrecking the country.

I am deeply concerned for the United Kingdom and its future. I look at the old country as it was in my youth and as it is today and, to use a fine Scots word, I am scunnered.

And the part that probably caused a lot of pants-wetting and outrage, and would have had some idiot threatening him with jail if he weren't dying:
Whether the public can be blamed for letting them pursue their ruinous policies is debatable.

Short of assassination there is little people can do when their political masters have forgotten the true meaning of the democracy of which they are forever prating, are determined to have their own way at all costs and hold public opinion in contempt.

I feel I speak not just for myself but for the huge majority of my generation who think as I do but whose voices are so often lost in the clamour.

We are yesterday's people, the over-the-hill gang. (Yes, the old people - not the senior citizens or the time-challenged, but the old people.) Those of ultra-liberal views may take consolation from this - that my kind won't be around much longer, and then they can get on with wrecking civilisation in peace.

The man could write, and didn't give a damn if someone was outraged or had hurt feelings from his words.

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