Flash for Freedom!
First edition cover
|Author||George MacDonald Fraser|
|Cover artist||Arthur Barbosa|
|Publisher||Barrie & Jenkins|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|LC Class||PZ4.F8418 Ro PR6056.R287|
|Preceded by||Royal Flash|
|Followed by||Flashman at the Charge|
Presented within the frame of the supposedly discovered historical Flashman Papers, this book describes the bully Flashman from Tom Brown's School Days. The papers are attributed to Flashman, who is not only the bully featured in Thomas Hughes' novel, but also a well-known Victorian military hero. The book begins with an explanatory note detailing the discovery of these papers and also discussing the supposed controversy over their authenticity. A reference is made to an article in The New York Times from 29 July 1969, which puts these claims to rest. Fraser hints that the article supports the papers' authenticity, although the opposite is true.
Flash for Freedom begins with Flashman considering an attempt at being made a Member of Parliament and continues through his involvement in the Atlantic slave trade, the Underground Railroad, and meeting a future president, detailing his life from 1848 to 1849. It also contains a number of notes by Fraser, in the guise of editor, giving additional historical information on the events described.
From Dahomey to the slave state of Mississippi, Flashman has cause to regret a game of pontoon with Benjamin Disraeli and Lord George Bentinck. From his ambition for a seat in the House of Commons, he has to settle instead for a role in the West African slave trade, under the command of Captain John Charity Spring, a Latin-spouting madman. Captured by the United States Navy, Flashman has to talk his way out of prison by assuming the first of his many false identities in America. After a visit to Washington, D.C., he escapes his Navy protectors in New Orleans and hides in a brothel run by an amorous madame, Susie Willinck. He is again taken into custody, this time by members of the Underground Railroad. Travelling up the Mississippi River with a fugitive slave ends badly once again, and the rest of the story has Flashman as a slave driver on a plantation, a potential slave himself, and a slave stealer fleeing from vigilantes; on the run, he meets, and is assisted by, Abraham Lincoln (still a junior congressman at the time). Eventually he ends up back in New Orleans at the mercy of Spring. This story is continued in Flashman and the Redskins.
At the end of the novel, Flashman claims that his escape with Cassy across the Ohio River was the inspiration for the anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, with the names altered and the story focusing on the slave Cassy rather than Flashman.
- Harry Flashman - The hero or anti-hero
- Morrison - His father-in-law
- Captain John Charity Spring - The formidable and eccentric captain of the Balliol College, a slave ship owned in part by Morrison. He continually utters Latin phrases (conveniently translated by Fraser).
- Lady Caroline Lamb - A slave transported by the Balliol College whom Flashman "covers" and teaches some English, giving her the name of a famous British aristocrat.
- Susie Willinck - A New Orleans madame with whom Flashman hides out on his escape from the Naval authorities.
- Cassy - A slave who helps Flashman escape from his imprisoners in Mississippi.
- George Randolph - A rebellious slave whom Flashman is ordered to transport to Cincinnati. Randolph is presumed dead after falling overboard, but turns up alive at the end of the novel.
- Benjamin Disraeli - The future Prime Minister, who Flashman calls a "cocky little sheeny".
- Lord George Bentinck
- Fanny Locke
- William Ewart Gladstone
- King Gezo - King of Dahomey. Spring deals with him for slaves.
- Dahomey Amazons - The army of King Gezo who butcher a small number of Spring's crew.
- Abraham Lincoln - Future President of the United States. Flashman describes him as "an unusually tall man, with the ugliest face you ever saw, deep dark eye sockets and a chin like a coffin" and says, "just why I liked him I couldn't say; I suppose in his way he had the makings of as big a scoundrel as I am myself".
Fraser says the idea for the climactic trial sequence came from his wife.
- George MacDonald Fraser, The Light's On at Signpost, HarperCollins 2002 p309