News this morning of the sudden death of the grande dame of British fiction, Beryl Bainbridge, reminds us of her celebrated 1998 historical novel, Master Georgie, nominated for the Booker Prize, in which the heroic title character, George Hardy--a surgeon and photographer who heads to the front in the Crimean War--turns out to like men rather more than women. Trust a subtle, wonderfully versatile writer like Bainbridge to make her character's sexuality incidental to the story in a way that other writers could learn from. Bainbridge, who smoked and drank with gusto, had been nominated for the Booker Prize a record-breaking five times without ever winning, prompting a writer on Salon to describe her as the Susan Lucci of British literature. Her nickname at school was Basher, a tribute to her fighting instincts (she was expelled at 14 as a corrupting moral influence after illustrating a smutty rhyme). Bainbridge, who was admitted to hospital after a sudden recurrence of cancer last week, was 75. Honor her: Read Master Georgie this weekend, and then follow it up with Every Man for Himself.