Insofar as Edmund Blackadder seems to be, at least loosely, based on Eddie the Bastard from King Lear, Rick Mayall’s “Flashheart” characters in Blackadder seem to be carbon copies of Lord Harry Paget Flashman. I’ve decided not to keep you abreast of the latest hardbacks, as I’m sure you don’t want to have the latest straight-to-hardback-never-in-the-library £18.99 Martin Amis novel recommended to you once a week. I can’t afford to review a book a week at that price and I doubt my fellow students can afford to read one, so I’m rating the bargain basement books that I have borrowed, blagged or found in a charity shop. That is why this week’s book was published in 1969.
I saw this book in Waterstone’s last year and the cover was exactly what I judged it by. Flash stands on the front leaf in full 19th Century military regalia, with an afghan concubine wrapped around his leg, and the cheeky smile of Rick Mayall himself. P.G. Wodehouse left his seal of approval on the cover too – this looked like my kind of thing. Gloriously anti-PC, Flashman somehow survives all of the British military exploits of the Afghan conflict from between1839 and 1842. Flash is a reinvention of the bully from Tom Brown’s Schooldays, he is fresh out of Rugby school (expelled, naturally) and the army seems to be the only way for him to get away from his drunken, sex-crazed, father and his unwillingly deflowered arranged bride. Flashman manages to stay alive despite the worst the war, or the Army, can throw at him, and his cowardice is his crowning feature. I would definitely recommend this book as a between set-readings read – you can pick it up on Amazon for £6, the uni bookshop for £8 (you’ll get it quicker, and it will have the personal touch), or you can do what I did and snap it up in a charity shop and pretend you’re doing your bit.
George MacDonald Fraser
£7.99 – Harper Collins