Flashman and the Sea Wolf

Flashman and the Sea WolfWhen George MacDonald Fraser died in 2008, he left behind countless readers who mourned not only the author’s passing, but also that of Flashman, his most enduring creation.

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.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

10 comments… Add yours
  • Jay from The Depp Effect 22nd May 2012

    Such a shame when a great writer dies. So sad, both for the people who love them for themselves, and those who love them for their output.

    I’ve seen the Flashman books in libraries for decades, and once did try one, but I couldn’t get into it. Maybe I should try again! But I got the impression that they were more about warfare and politics than the characters which isn’t for me.

    I’ve bought a few Kindle only books and they’ve been very readable. Then again, I’ve bought some which were not. They’re so cheap though, and I love discovering new writers, so it’s worth the risk!

  • Shooting Parrots 22nd May 2012

    The Flashman books are primarily about his reprehensible behaviour and escapades, but they also cover a great deal of interesting historical characters as well and are always entertaining.

    I think self-publishing and selling through Kindle is a great idea and will open up massive opportunities for new writers. I only wish I had the time and the talent to be one of them!

  • Elizabeth 23rd May 2012

    It’s worth pointing out to folk, Ian,that they don’t need to go to the expense of buying a Kindle if they want to try e-books. When I recently YP’s lovely e-book, as it was the first time that I’d entered the e-book world, I free downloaded the software onto my computer to read. I’m now convinced of the useability – something that I never thought I would be – and have bought a Kindle as a result. It will never do away with the pleasure I get from handling ‘real’ books, but has opened up a new avenue of enjoyment and reading material.

    The whole concept of e-books is a brilliant opportunity for writers to put themselves out into the market place and get feedback and encouragement on their work. Don’t sell yourself short as far as talent is concerned – you DO have the talent, Ian, and I, for one, am looking forward to seeing an e-book with your name on it. x

  • Elizabeth 23rd May 2012

    insert ‘visited’ in appropriate place!

  • Mr Parrot 23rd May 2012

    Thanks Elizabeth. I seem to have missed YP’s book somehow and will set about looking for it online. I first tried e-books on my PC and now on my newly acquired iPad, although I suspect I will get a Kindle as well when I’ve saved up my pocket money.

  • Trevor Rowley 24th May 2012

    Pardon my ignorance, but Flashman conjured up nothing more than Tom Brown’s Schooldays for me – school bully, roasting some poor unfortunate youngster within inches of a roaring fire or something like that. However, the name George MacDonald Fraser certainly rang a small bell so I went over to my modest book case and had a shufty. Sure enough, I came across my copy of “The Steel Bonnets – The Story of the Anglo-Scottish Border Reivers”. Sure enough, it’s by the same author, old GMF. I had to abandon the book a year or two back as it was just so heavy going (I got to page 271 out of 384). I must get back to it as it covers a period in history where my lot, the Armstrongs, were running riot with plenty more of the same kind (Grahams, Elliotts, Kerrs etc) in the “Debatable Lands”. This was the wild, uncharted area which was neither English or Scottish and where cattle stealing, blackmail and kidnapping were the order of the day. Being a particularly slow reader I would estimate I could have the book finished in a month or two, or three or…

  • Mr Parrot 24th May 2012

    You’re correct that GMF wrote several other books, including The Pyrates, a pastiche that was turned into a tv play, the comedy McAuslan series and The Reavers among others. But his Flashman books are probably the most loved. One of them, Royal Flash, was made into a film in 1975 starring Malcolm McDowell and Oliver Reed, although it was more farce than anything else.

    The true genius of GMF’s Flashman is that he created an entire biography of his ‘hero’ before he’d set pen to paper. They are also extremely well crafted and researched and among the best literature you’ll come across.

  • Trevor Rowley 24th May 2012

    Following your recommendation, Mr P, it would be churlish of me not to have a peep at some of the Flashman series.

  • Robert Brightwell 26th November 2012

    I just came across your blog post and so I thought I would drop you a line to thank you for your kind comments. I tried to proof read the first edition of my book myself as was not sure what interest there would be in the book to merit the cost of a professional editor. That was a mistake as you read what you think you have written instead of what is there and as sales were good I reissued after a professional edit – so shoddy proof reading should be a thing of the past.

    I have just published the second book in the series, Flashman and the Cobra, which is set in India during the second Mahratta wars, with Wellington and a host of other interesting characters from history. One of the joys of writing these books has been researching and uncovering little known but amazing people – and then weaving them into Flashman’s story. I think he is a little more of an anti hero in this but not so much that he loses the sympathy of the reader.

    Incidentally with the advent of publishing on demand, you can now organise print versions of your books with minimal initial outlay.

    • Mr Parrot 26th November 2012

      Thanks for dropping by Robert. I know exactly what you mean about proof-reading. Try as I might, this blog still has plenty of typos! I’m glad there is more to come from Flashman Snr and I’m off now to download it!


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