... the school bully? George MacDonald Fraser (April 2nd, 1925 - January 2nd, 2008) answers that question for one of the most famous bullies in literature. "Flashman" is the book which kicks off the series of books in which Fraser lets us know what happened next in the life of the Bully from Thomas Hughes' "Tom Brown's Schooldays". Harry Paget Flashman is the anti-hero of this series of books, and it all starts here as Flashman takes up the narrative, after correcting Hughes on one important manner and proceeds to tell the story of the rest of his life. This volume, the first of "The Flashman Papers" series, deals with the years 1839 - 1842 and takes us from dealing with being kicked out of Rugby through his service in the first Anglo-Afghan War.
Fraser does a wonderful job of taking Thomas Hughes' school bully and creating a life consistent with someone who never grows out of the same type of behavior. The narrative is humorous and from a character perspective open and honest, as who would know better than Harry Flashman the cowardly actions he takes throughout his life, and the undeserved rewards which he is given. The key to the story though is that Fraser is true to the character as defined by Hughes. Although certainly a despicable character, he does have the ability to use his charm, and he has an incredible amount of luck which prevents most people from finding out his serious deficiencies of character.
One fairly minor point which detracts slightly from the overall effort is that there are a few too many references back to Hughes. It suits its purpose well at the start of the book, but becomes unnecessary and in some cases interrupts the narrative when it occurs later in the book. This minor deficiency is more than made up for in the artful historical lessons, complete with footnotes, which Fraser teaches in the telling of the story. The reader is having enough fun that they fail to realize that they are getting a fairly decent description of historical events and key figures in the disastrous result of the British Army's occupation of Kabul.
If you enjoy history, and don't mind reading from the perspective of a despicable character, and perhaps occasionally rooting for him, then "Flashman" may be a good choice for you. I am looking forward to reading his continuing adventures in "Royal Flash", the second book in the series. This one rounds up to five stars.