Simon Bisson (sbisson) wrote,
Simon Bisson

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The Thursday Afternoon "I Can Breathe Again" Review: Flash For Freedom!

A secret history is a fictional story behind a real history. It's not an alternate history, where events diverge, it's one where they converge on the history-book story we all know. Except now we know that something different happened. One of the advantages for an author writing a secret history is the ability to tell the real story behind a classic piece of fiction, or at least the secret history that just may have inspired it. That's what George Macdonald Frasier did for The Prisoner of Zenda in Royal Flash, and what he does for Uncle Tom's Cabin in Flash For Freedom!.

Flashman is the bully from Tom Brown's Schooldays all grown up. All grown up into a cowardly, womanising rake, who's out for number one. He's the sort of character who wouldn't have looked out of place in The Bonfire Of The Vanities. And in this, the third volume of his memoirs, he's found himself on a bit of a sticky wicket. Having nearly killed a man in a fight, when (unusually) falsely accused of cheating at cards, he's forced out of the country by his father-in-law. Unfortunately the ship he's placed on is an illegal slaver, and he's about to see the infamous triangle trade at first hand. With a Latin-quoting captain, and a crew of misfits, this isn't a happy ship, and it's not long before things go terribly wrong, and the ship is arrested by an American patrol. Flashman is able to steal the identity of a dead British naval spy to save his skin, and he finds himself in antebellum Washington, posing as a British naval officer gathering intelligence against the illegal trade, meeting the young congressman Lincoln.

Finding himself forced to testify against his former crewmates, Flash runs for the Canadian border, only to be caught up in the activities of the Underground Railroad. Smuggling a man north, he panics, and ends up running out on his charge, leaving him for dead. Working as a supervisor on a plantation, he's found in flagrante with the farmer's wife and is sold as a slave. Escaping with a girl destined for a farmer's bed, they head north, running the ice across the Ohio, to fall in with Lincoln again...

This isn't the best of the Flashman books, but it's a quick and easy read - surprisingly as it deals with one of the nastier parts of our western history, one we often ignore. Still, it's worth reading.

(NB: I am now linking to Project Gutenberg for out of copyright books, along with Amazon for new books)
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