George MacDonald Fraser, the author of the great series of “Flashman” adventure spoofs, has died. He was 82. Flashman was the name of the chicken-hearted bully in Tom Brown’s Schooldays, the old Victorian moralizing classic, and Fraser had the wonderfully subversive idea of writing about him, putting him in other classics, such as The Prisoner of Zenda, and throwing in real-life conspiracies and characaters, including Otto von Bismarck and Lola Montesz. The “Flashman” books were delightful demonstrations that cowardice, swaggering bluster, good looks, skirt-chasing, high-born connections and a tremendous capacity for booze will succeed where honesty and hard work would only get you killed.
If you never read a single one of Fraser’s dozens of books, you still owe him a debt of gratitude: He wrote the romping screenplay for Richard Lester’s brilliant 1973 adaptation of The Three Musketeers with Oliver Reed, Michael York and Faye Dunaway.