I've recommended the Flashman series before; they are fantastic books about an absolute arse of a man named Harry Flashman, who tumbles his way through life as a coward and a crook, a sexist and a racist, a wholly detestable blighter, and inevitably ends up, as so many like him do (cough Bush cough), regarded as a great man. He is, like Chris Finch, a guy you love to hate.
Five days after we met, Mr. Shakes sent me a missive including the following, which was my first introduction to the odious Flashman—and his slightly more respectable architect, Mr. Fraser:
Mar 20, 9:12 PMTwo months later, on my birthday, I received a package from Mr. Shakes. It was a beat-up copy of the first book in the series, Flashman. I thought he had remembered my affinity for used books and picked up a second-hand copy for me; it was only when I opened it and saw the signed inscription from Fraser that I realized it was his own copy Mr. Shakes had sent.
Anyhow, swiftly on to Flashman. It's not high-minded, intellectual ambrosia, but it is very well written, funny and devilishly entertaining stuff. The books are set in Victorian times and concern the misadventures of an English anti-hero, the eponymous Flashman. Fraser borrowed the character from Hughes' "Tom Brown's Schooldays", in which Flashman was the school bully and general villain.
A more entertaining way to learn history has not been invented, as Flashy lies, cheats, steals, whines and screws his way to victory. Winning honours and medals aplenty, despite his being an inveterate coward.
I detect enough saturnine humour in your correspondence to suggest that it may appeal.
I will always and forever associate Mr. Fraser's name with the moment I first understood that Mr. Shakes cared for me.
And I love his books. I'm desperately sad that he's gone.
[Also see Cernig, who reminds us that Mr. Fraser was a favorite of Terry Pratchett.]