Creator / George MacDonald Fraser
George MacDonald Fraser (1925 - 2008) was a British writer known for his humorous historical fiction. Best known for the Flashman
series, he also wrote the McAuslan
series (inspired by his military service in the 1940s, which also resulted in the non-fiction memoir Quartered Safe Out Here
), several stand-alone novels, and a history of the English-Scottish Border Reivers.
He also worked as a screenwriter, writing or co-writing the screenplays to the James Bond
, Richard Lester's The Three Musketeers
and sequels, and Lester's film version of Fraser's own Royal Flash
, among others.Not to be confused with
the Victorian fantasy author George MacDonald
Works by George MacDonald Fraser with their own trope pages include:
Other works by George MacDonald Fraser provide examples of:
- Author Appeal: There comes a time in the career of every British writer when athletics must be portrayed. Fraser has a brilliant talent for making sporting contests appealing to even the most disinterested reader, whether it's cricket, (in Flashman) boxing (Black Ajax), soccer, Highland games, or even golf (all in McAuslan). Justified as Fraser worked as a sports journalist before becoming an author.
- Barbarian Tribe: Scottish Bordermen in The Reavers and The Candlemass Road.
- Big Brother Instinct: In Quartered Safe Out Here the author meets in Burma an Old Soldier who had once been a Hired Gun. This man guards the author's winnings after a card game. The Author also learns that this particular man had been sending his pay home for twenty years to take care of his little brother.
- Blood Knight: The author met one of these in World War II. He was sent to an outpost to carry an anti-tank weapon (a PIAT) that the commander had ordered from headquarters, to blow up escaping enemy river barges. This commander was an eccentric sapper with a ragtag band of local mercenaries, and he absolutely loved killing Japanese.
- Deadpan Snarker: the author
- Due to the Dead / If You Die, I Call Your Stuff: A blend of both happens in Quartered Safe Out Here, after Corporal Little (real name Ike Blakeney) gets killed during the first attack on Kinde Wood. The remaining squad members each exchange a piece of Little's standard issue gear for one of their own, taking exceptional care not to claim any personal effects. The author, for instance, exchanges his own enamelled mug for Little's, as the latter's mug is less chipped. Forster claims Little's sewing kit, while Nixon gets Little's rifle.
- Funetik Aksent: Fraser has a knack for portraying the varied accents and dialects he'd been in contact with and skillfully differentiating them using this trope. For instance, in Quartered Safe Out Here, he does quite well depicting both the cockney of the Old Soldier in his section and the Cumbrian dialect spoken by almost all the other squad members. Likewise, in McAuslan, he separates the Glaswegian spoken by most of his unit and the Highland accents of the pipe-sergeant and the padre. The only characters to avert this seem to be people who've had the benefit of a rigorous education and therefore speak in RP, such as the Duke (nicknamed so because of his posh speech mannerisms) from Quartered Safe Out Here and the author himself.
- Hollywood History: Wrote a nonfiction book entitled The Hollywood History of the World commenting on the accuracy of various historical films. Surprisingly, Fraser generally defends the movies discussed as being accurate in spirit, if not details.
"There is a popular belief that where history is concerned, Hollywood always gets it wrong - and sometimes it does. What is overlooked is the astonishing amount of history Hollywood has got right, and the immense, unacknowledged debt we owe to the commercial cinema as an illuminator of the story of mankind."
— The Hollywood History of the World.
- That said, Fraser being Scottish himself, greatly despises Braveheart for its rather notorious mangling of historical facts, and in his later career he lamented how the Small Reference Pools of people tends to be derived from lack of knowledge about real history, with recent movies generally appealing to ignorance far more than the Epic Movie of the 50s and 60s.
- Kukris Are Kool: Fraser carried one through the Burma campaign. He said he preferred it to a machete.
- Money, Dear Boy: In his memoirs, Fraser describes receiving a temporary promotion as editor of his newspaper, only to be demoted when a more senior journalist took his job. Fraser could no longer support his family on a reporter's salary, and told his wife "I'm going to write our way out of this!" Flashman was the result.
- My Girl Back Home: Discussed in Quartered Safe Out Here.
- Nice Hat: The Australian-style bush-hats worn by Fourteenth Army, in preference to helmets despite the danger of shellfire. Even Bill Slim wore one.
- Pin-Pulling Teeth: In his WW2 memoir Quartered Safe Out Here, Fraser notes the dilemma of safety versus being able to pull the pins quickly. Fraser also notes that if a certain British actor (Victor MacLaglen) known for doing this trope in his movies had done so during his own army service, he would have left his incisors in Mesopotamia.
- Playing Against Type: The Candlemass Road and Mr. American are straightforward historical novels with few of Fraser's usual humorous touches (though the latter does feature an antiquated Harry Flashman as a supporting player).
- Political Correctness Gone Mad: GMF was simply not a progressive sort on this front. His later memoirs - Quartered Safe Out Here and Light's On At Signpost especially - are increasingly full of snark directed at political correctness. He is no knee-jerk, though. While he threatens throughout Quartered Safe Out Here to deliver a fiery politically incorrect opinion on the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, when he gets down to cases he notes with approval that the V-J Day 50th anniversary celebrations were mercifully free of moralizing on the subject. He also posits a hypothetical scenario in which he and his squadmates in Burma are presented with the full ramifications of the bombings and given the choice to drop the bombs or continue their ground war. Fraser theorizes that his comrades would grouse and moan at extreme length - and then prepare to march on up the road rather than see the bombs dropped.
- Fraser admits that even fifty years after the war, he still has misgivings about Japanese people because of his formative experiences during the war. At the same time, he states that upon watching old Japanese soldiers who survived the war being interviewed on TV, he also gets the sense that they're Not So Different. All in all, he's not a blind bigot, and is willing to let old enmities lie despite his gut reactions.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: Scottish and English Bordermen in Quartered Safe Out Here; they are actually referred to as "A martial race of men". Though it should be noted that the Border folk are "martial" in a particularly roguish fashion, capable of pilfering and stealing everything that isn't nailed down and then some while also being, in their own way, some of the most honorable and courageous people the author has ever met.
- As are most of the Indian Army troops mentioned in the Flashman series.
- Regency England: The setting of Black Ajax.
- The Scrounger: Fraser notes that troops from the England-Scotland Border tend to be this in comparison to troops recruited from elsewhere in the UK. Forster, one of his squadmates in Burma, stands out even amongst them as a scrounger extraordinaire (though the narrative never goes into much detail about it, making it more of an Informed Ability).
- Switching P.O.V.: Black Ajax is a faux-oral history of Tom Molineaux's boxing career, with each chapter narrated by a different character. Flashman's Lady also features sections narrated by the title character's wife Elspeth.