Flashman, the foreign correspondent’s role model: Victorian England’s foremost rotter would have made a great journalist

Ronald E. Yates is an author of award-winning historical fiction and action/adventure novels, including the popular and highly-acclaimed Finding Billy Battles trilogy.

Today I am sharing a column that appeared recently in The Economist. Written by an unnamed foreign correspondent, it takes a sardonic and self-effacing view of foreign correspondents by suggesting that Victorian England’s foremost rotter would have made a great journalist. As with all satire, there may be more truth here than we hacks care to admit. Enjoy. (Ron Yates)

From The Economist, Dec 24, 2016

REBELS had captured the dam that supplied electricity to Kinshasa and turned off the lights in the Congolese capital. Now they were marching on the city. Panic reigned. Pro-government thugs were going around lynching suspected rebel spies. Some they hacked to death. One they tossed off a bridge and shot as he bobbed in the river.

A city under siege, full of power-drunk kids with Kalashnikovs, is no place to be. Your correspondent was there and feeling frightened. Which reminded him of one of the great cowards of English literature. He asked himself: in this situation, what would Flashman do?

For readers who have not yet met him, Flashman was the villain of “Tom Brown’s Schooldays”, a pious novel about life at a British boarding school published in 1857. The author, Thomas Hughes, portrayed him as a bully who roasted small boys over open fires but ran away sniveling from anyone bigger than him.

A century later, a Scottish journalist called George MacDonald Fraser wondered what happened to Flashman after he was expelled from school. He answered his own question with a series of wickedly comical historical novels. In Fraser’s telling, the adult Flashman was every bit as horrible as the schoolboy, but through sheer luck and sleazy charm became one of the most decorated heroes of the Victorian era: Brigadier-General Sir Harry Flashman, VC, KCB, Legion of Honour, San Serafino Order of Purity