"Flashman" author dead at 82

LONDON (Reuters) - The author of the hugely popular “Flashman” books, George MacDonald Fraser, has died at the age of 82, his agent and publisher said on Thursday.

An undated photo of George MacDonald Fraser, courtesy HarperCollins. Reuters/Handout

The former journalist and soldier died after a year-long battle with lung cancer, his British literary agent Vivienne Schuster said.

He passed away in the early hours of Wednesday morning at a hospice near his home on the Isle of Man, surrounded by his wife Kathy and his three adult children.

Schuster led the tributes for the creator of the fictional adventures of womanising Victorian cad Sir Harry Flashman.

“He was a very much a modest and an immensely private man,” she told Reuters, adding that he was rarely seen in public despite the accolades.

“I have to say he was a man of great integrity, principles and he was very clearly sighted about right and wrong. His books were wonderfully funny. I shall miss him terribly.”

In a statement, HarperCollins chief executive, Victoria Barnsley, also paid tribute.

“(He) was a long-standing and much loved ... author who gave pleasure to millions -- and not only for his Flashman novels, for which he will inevitably be best remembered,” she said.

“He was humble about his own enormous talent and was always happy to give his time to his readers.”

MacDonald Fraser, who was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday honours in 1999 for his 30-year literary career, wrote 12 books about the character who first appeared as the cowardly bully in the classic “Tom Brown’s Schooldays.”

The Flashman books were first published in 1969 and the last appeared in 2005. While a hit with teenage boys, some critics believed they were overtly sexual and racist.

But they became bestsellers with MacDonald Fraser being praised for the historical accuracy contained in the books.

He told an interviewer in 2006 the books’ success was not surprising. “People like rascals, they like rogues,” he told the BBC. “I was always on the side of the villain when I was a child and went to the movies.”

Born in Carlisle in 1926, MacDonald Fraser joined the Border Regiment aged 18 to serve in World War Two.

He entered journalism after leaving the army and joined the Glasgow Herald where he rose to become deputy editor and, briefly, editor.

He also wrote film screenplays, including “The Three Musketeers” in 1973 and the James Bond movie “Octopussy” a decade later.

His family were making arrangements for a private funeral to be held at a later date, Schuster said.