First a word of warning. George MacDonald Fraser died in 2008. This book was published in 2011. In case you haven't yet worked it out, GMF this book isn't. That isn't to say that if HCT gets two decades in as a journalist or author, he couldn't be the next GMF, but that is a long way in the future.
The book describes the Iraq war through the eyes of a cavalry captain attached to the Commando brigade that led the landings on the Al Fawr peninsula in 2003. HCT based the book on his own experiences "- embellished only slightly for the enjoyment of the reader.
"Profits made from the sale of this book will be donated to 'Help For Heroes'".
The book itself was hardback, 240 pages £12.99. The dust cover paid homage to the covers of GMF's Flashman books. Sadly the artist, like the author, was not in the class of his predecessor. But he tried hard. I doubt that a good artist could make a painting of desert DPM look as sumptuous as Victorian cavalry uniform.
As stated, the story is that of a Queen's Royal Hussars captain in Iraq. The story is worth the telling and is well told. HCT knows his subject (there are footnotes to explain the military abbreviations and acronyms to civvies and those of us who served in simpler times with different TLAs). During my time, I knew a lot of cavalry captains and I have no reason to doubt HCT. Perhaps my biggest criticism is that a number of things that "Flashman" says and does, I'll suggest he has ingested rather more shit, snot and semen than he thinks he has. I do hope HCT does not have the same cavalier attitude toward his soldiers as Flashman has.
That said, these moments are entirely in the character of the Flashman we all know and remember with affection. Without the Flashman slant, it would have been another bog-standard reminiscence of the Iraq war (without taking anything away from the author and all those others who walked the walk and those who wrote them up. The Flashman slant does work brilliantly though and I thoroughly enjoyed the book, which as stated at 240 pages was over far too quickly. Personally I'd wait until it's out in paperback, but if you have missed Flashman, this is as good as you are going to get, maybe you won't want to wait and I couldn't blame you.
I did worry that by starting with the Iraq war, the author has little place else to go with his story, but in fact he has made available prequels in Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, NI and all the other places he has been. I do hope they come and I am sure I'll love them all. With the benefit of a week to mull this review over, I wonder whether it might have worked better as homage to MacAuslan rather than Flashman, but on balance, probably not.
This is very close to five Mushroomheads. That there must be so many of my generation who remember the Flashman of old and so many who know the modern army and Iraq. Yes, okay, to quote Janice Nicholls (Google it - I had to) I'll give it five.