It's almost a century and a half since Harry Flashman first sprang into the nation's consciousness, stealing the show in Thomas Hughes' Tom Brown's Schooldays. From the outset, he was clearly the most valuable man in the book--in his dashing ruthlessness, definitely sexier than that simpering Tom--and it was clear to everyone that he would go on to great things--a glittering military career and the Victoria Cross, no less. Thank goodness that the great man saw fit to pen his memoirs before his death in 1915. We owe a debt of gratitude to George MacDonald Fraser, to whom the papers were entrusted after they appeared in a tea-chest in 1966, for his quite remarkable devotion to their conscientious editing.
Flashman and the Tiger, the latest gleanings from the manuscript treasures, comprises three gems. The longest by far is a novella entitled "The Road to Charing Cross" (1878 and 1883-4), in which Harry helps out a "human ferret", Times correspondent Henri Blowitz, to get a remarkable scoop at the Congress of Berlin, only to find himself rewarded by a nasty encounter with Bismarck. In "The Subtleties of Baccarat" (1890 and 1891), Harry helps Bertie the Bounder (that's the future Edward VII to you) deal with a case of suspected "stake-padding" by a senior military man; while in "Flashman the Tiger" (1879 and 1894) our hero is "in Zulu country" on the path of "Tiger" Jack Moran (thanks to Fraser's fastidious endnotes, properly identified as an assassin in the employ of Sherlock Holmes's nemesis, Moriarty.)
It's all tremendous stuff. Flashman devotees will be heartened to hear that their hero has lost none of his bluster, wit and fire, but these later memoirs do hint at the possible twinges of age. As he observes sadly, "You think twice about committing murder when you're over seventy." --Alan Stewart