The cad and bully of Tom Brown’s School Days became the reluctant hero of Victorian England and his adventures, both official and unofficial, filled twelve splendidly crafted novels.
And we knew there were more to be published if only MacDonald Fraser had lived to tell the tales.
Perhaps he left notes detailed enough for another author to revisit Flashman in the future, but for now it would be a brave writer who believes he (or she) could could match MacDonald Fraser’s gift for story-telling.
But that isn’t to say that there isn’t yet life in the Flashman family in bringing history to life as Robert Brightwell demonstrates with Flashman and the Sea Wolf.
The Flashman of the title appears to be the original Flashman’s uncle Thomas who is encountered leaving school in 1800 at the start of what is to be a glorious military career.
After the opening chapters illustrate life in Georgian London, the real action begins when he is ordered to Spain on a secret mission to lure the Spanish fleet out of Cadiz.
There he falls in with Thomas Cochrane, one of the most successful and unconventional naval commanders of his time who the French nicknamed Le Loup des Mer, or the Sea Wolf of the title.
The bulk of the book follows Flashman’s escapades on board Cochrane’s ship, The Speedy, which despite its small size captured, destroyed or drove ashore 53 Spanish ships in little more than a year, including the 32-gun frigate, El Gamo.
There is an arch-villain to in Flashman’s life, of course, in the shape of Colonel Abrantes, an aristocratic Spaniard with a fine line in torture and torment. You can picture him twisting his moustache and laughing his wicked laugh.
Flashman and the Sea Wolf is self-published and the first Kindle only book I’ve read. That shows in shoddy proof-reading here and there, but doesn’t detract from a rattling good yarn about a period of history of which I knew little.
If I have a criticism, it is that Thomas Flashman isn’t quite the anti-hero that his nephew was to become. Indeed, he is often brave, resourceful and to have a conscience, and if he would rather avoid battle than not, well he wouldn’t be the first or last old soldier to think that way.
And it would be a minor criticism because it took MacDonald Fraser three or four volumes to get truly into his stride with Flashman and there is no reason why Brightwell shouldn’t do the same.
MacDonald Fraser set the bar high, so I give Flashman and the Sea Wolf four stars out of five but I did thoroughly enjoy the read and look forward to future volumes.
Flashman and the Sea Wolf Kindle edition is available from Amazon for £1.95.