IN 1965 George MacDonald Fraser was a senior executive on the Glasgow Herald. There was nowhere else for him to go on the paper: “I was deputy editor and I was going to be that till I was 65 unless they decided to get rid of me first”, he told our arts editor, John Fowler, in 1980, as he looked back on those days.

Each night he would return to his “crumbling old manse in Yoker”, read the first edition of the paper and then read a book until 4am. One day he had had the idea that he might as well write as read.

From his boyhood memories of Tom Brown’s Schooldays he retrieved the figure of Harry Flashman the bully, and began to type out the story.

Success did not come overnight. Lots of publishers’ rejections saw to that. But in time the book was accepted and published, in 1969; George quit the Herald to become a full-time writer, and he and his wife, Kathy, sold up and moved to the Isle of Man. The book eventually became the first in a much-loved, widely-read series, all played out against a deeply-researched historical background.

George is seen (above, right) with Sir Hugh Fraser at a Herald staff dance in 1966 and (main image) at home in the Isle of Man in 1980, photographed by Ian Hossack.

In addition to his Flashman books, the last of which appeared in 2005, George wrote other fiction and non-fiction, including Quartered Safe Out Here, an acclaimed memoir of his war experiences in Burma.

In Hollywood he penned several screenplays, including The Three Musketeers, its sequel, The Four Musketeers, and a film of his novel, Royal Flash; he also co-wrote the screenplay of the 1983 James Bond film, Octopussy.

George died in January 2008, aged 82; obituaries said that Flashman was “one of the gems of the English comic novel”.