Started Flashman on the March this afternoon. I see now what might have irritated some of George MacDonald Fraser's more curmudgeonly readers in his Amazon reviews.
Here's from his Foreword, introducing a book that puts the fictional Flashy into a historical expedition sent out by the British Government to rescue British citizens from captivity and torture at the hands of mad King Theodore of Abyssinia in 1864:
But if he bore no share in the campaign proper, Flashman's was still the vital part on which success or failure hung -- the intelligence mission which was to take him into a series of fearful perils (some of them new even to him) in a war-torn land of mystery, treachery, intrigue, lonely castles, ghost cities, the most beautful (and savage) women in Africa, and at last into the power of a demented tyrant in his stronghold at the back of beyond. All of which he records with his customary shameless honesty, and it may be that along with the light he casts on a unique chapter of imperial history, he invites a comparison with a later and less glorious day.Perhaps a little too close to the bone, eh? A bit too pointed.
For Flashman's story is about a British army sent out in a good and honest cause by a government that knew what honour meant. It was not sent without initial follies and hesitations in high places, or until every hope of a peaceful issue was gone. It went with the doubt that it was right. It served no politician's vanity or interest. It went without messianic rhetoric. There were no false excuses, no deceits, no cover-ups or lies, just a decent resolve to do a government's first duty: to protect its people, whatever the cost. To quote Flashman again, those were the days.