Fraser, George MacDonald 1925-2008 (Dand MacNeill)

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Fraser, George MacDonald 1925-2008 (Dand MacNeill)

OBITUARY NOTICE—

See index for CA sketch: Born April 2, 1925, in Carlisle, England; died of cancer, January 2, 2008, on the Isle of Man. Journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. Fraser managed to turn a nineteenth-century schoolyard bully into an engaging raconteur and immortal hero of romantic fiction. The character Harry Flashman, originally created by Thomas Hughes in Tom Brown's Schooldays in 1857, was reborn in 1969, when Fraser began to publish novels based on what he called "The Flashman Papers," purportedly the reminiscences of the Victorian hero. Flashman was no saint by any standards—a sexist, racist, womanizing, swashbuckling, lying, cowardly troublemaker, and Fraser never apologized for him. He believed that readers enjoyed tales about people who could habitually display brazen and unacceptable behavior and get away with it. Fraser's Flashman always seemed to appear at pivotal moments in history and save the day in heroic fashion, often despite his craven attempts to flee from the danger. Readers did seem to relish the adventures of this unrepentant daredevil. There were at least a dozen Flashman novels in all, from Flashman: From the Flashman Papers, 1839-1842 (1969) to Flashman on the March: From the Flashman Papers, 1845-46 (2005), and so realistic were Fraser's back-stories that, at least in the early years, even skeptical reviewers believed the character was real. Real or not, Flashman achieved immortality through the Internet, where numerous fan sites perpetuate his adventures. Fraser's own life was far less exotic than that of his hero. He served in the British Army during World War II, then worked as a journalist in English-speaking countries on both sides of the Atlantic. In the 1960s, as an editor of the Glasgow Herald, Fraser tired of journalism and thought he might escape the tedium by writing fiction. It worked, and except for a few nonfiction books, he never looked back. Fraser wrote several "non-Flashman" works, including the short-story collection The General Danced at Dawn (1970) and the novel The Reavers (2008). He wrote screenplays as well, including the 1983 adaptation of the James Bond novel Octopussy. Some of his writings may have appeared under the pseudonym Dand MacNeill. Fraser was decorated an officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1999.

OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Chicago Tribune, January 4, 2008, sec. 2, p. 11.

Los Angeles Times, January 3, 2008, p. B7.

New York Times, January 3, 2008, p. C12.

Times (London, England), January 2, 2008, p. 67.

Washington Post, January 4, 2008, p. B7.