‘Flashman’s just a monster,’ says George MacDonald Fraser. ‘He’s extremely unpleasant but he knows how to present a front to the world, and at least he’s honest about himself. But that was because he assumed that his memoirs would never be published.’
I’d just been putting to the author of the Flashman novels the theory of this magazine’s editor: that far from being a scoundrel, Flashman — the fag-roasting rotter thrown out of Rugby in Tom Brown’s Schooldays only to pop up in the great historic moments of the Victorian age — was in fact the toppest of eggs; an accidental hero who’s actually the genuine article because he at least admits to his flaws.
The fact that I am Jewish has always mystified me. It bears no relation to anything else in my life — not to the way I was brought up, not to religion since I am agnostic, nor to any community in which I have lived.
My parents both came from secular, middle-class, professional German (and Russian) families and although — unlike thousands of German Jews in the 19th and early 20th century — they didn’t convert to Christianity, they were nevertheless assimilated members of German society.
At one o’clock in the morning of 9 June last year, two days before the local council elections, Police Sergeant John Rattenberry of Erdington police station, Birmingham, was called to investigate something strange going on inside a warehouse. Here’s what he witnessed, in his own words:
‘I entered the first floor of the warehouse and went into a room where I saw approximately five Asian males along with four police officers.
For most citizens of Iraq, the invasion meant the end of tyranny. For one group, however, it meant a new start: the country’s historic Christian community. When the war stopped, persecution by Islamists, held in check by Saddam, started.
At a church in Basra I visited a month after the war ended, the women complained of attacks against them for not wearing the Islamic veil. I saw many Christian-owned shops that had been firebombed, with many of the owners killed for exercising their legal right to sell alcohol.