Thursday, November 18, 2010

Keith Richards Gives Me a Book Recommendation

Well, okay, he didn't ring me up with a "hey, mate, read this!"

But midway through this NYT review of his autobiography Life -- brilliantly skewered here -- he did, unwittingly, offer this biblio advice:

Mr. Richards, whose reading taste runs to naval history and the novels of Patrick O’Brian and George MacDonald Fraser ...

Stop the presses. Right. There.

First off, Keith Richards reads? Books? Who knew?

[Second off, there should be some pause to acknowledge what is perhaps the most strained lead-in since the dawn of language.]

Even more attention grabbing, though, is the previously unknown to me Mr. Fraser separated by only a conjunction from the brilliant Patrick O'Brian. Clearly, a trip to a library or bookstore was in order.

Or, far easier, with a nod towards the enabling of addiction, fire up the Kindle and do some shopping so painless that it doesn't require reaching for the credit card in the first place, although it insists upon the check book in the second.

As it turns out Mr. Fraser has written a series of novels based upon the premise that they are the memoirs of Harry Flashman, a shirking, cowardly, cad who nonetheless stumbles onto being the unwilling and unacknowledgeable catalyst for some major events of the 19th century. (Inexplicably, absent drooling stupidity, Amazon only has the last two of the dozen or so books available on the Kindle.)

Think of Ian Fleming's James Bond, in the negative, but, standing in the same part of the field as PG Wodehouse, is both better written and much funnier.

Coincidentally, within a couple weeks of Keith Richards leading me to Flashman via Kindle, I went from here to here to here to discover Christopher Hitchens is a Flashman fan.

Makes me wonder if everyone who reads has long known what I have just stumbled upon.


Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Susan's Husband said... [after being transmogrified from a post before the previous post that should posted after that post]

Uh, did you read Brothers Judd at one time?

November 18, 2010 6:09 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

November 18, 2010 6:11 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

For at least a little bit of that time; for whatever reason, it didn't register, and I remained ignorant.

November 18, 2010 10:35 PM  
Blogger Brit said...

I've read most of the Flashmans - very funny and, frankly, where I've learnt most of my history.

November 19, 2010 12:45 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...


He also wrote a book / series of short stories (hard to tell with the Kindle sometimes) called McAulson, which has as its title character "... the stupidest, dirtiest private the English Army has suffered since Agincourt."

Excellent all around, it also includes what is to my unpracticed eye some particularly outstanding football narrative.

November 19, 2010 8:58 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Fraser is, I believe, about the only novelist since Bulwer-Lytton to use footnotes/endnotes.

The history in the Flashman books is really pretty good, and he is a fine stylist.

November 19, 2010 12:12 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...


So instead of this being a recommendation to everyone else, it is a revelation to me alone.

November 19, 2010 4:51 PM  
Blogger Peter said...

I always wince whenever anyone brings up Flashman because, although I read them in my early twenties, I was half way through the second before I realized they were novels.

November 20, 2010 3:34 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

You weren't the only one.

Reading about Flashman in Wikipedia revealed some historians taking no small amount of time to catch on.

November 20, 2010 10:58 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Fans of O'Brian might want to check out lWilliam C. Hammond. I have not read him, but Naval Institute Press dropped a review copy of his second novel, 'For Love of Country,' through the transom Friday.

It's about Barbary Pirates and is said to be in the tradition of O'Brian and Forester.

And Henty and Sabatini, but nobody ever claims descent from them.

November 21, 2010 10:03 PM  
Blogger David said...

I have to say that I'm not a huge Flashman fan, although I understand why I should be. Every few years, someone I respect raves about them, I figure the fault must be mine, I go buy one and just can't get into it.

Oddly, I always buy the same one -- Flashman is recruited by Bismark because (a) he's the spitting image of somebody and (b) for some reason Bismark hates him.

November 24, 2010 10:15 AM  

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