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Tom Sharpe was born in 1928 and educated at Lancing College and Pembroke College, Cambridge. He did his National Service in the Marines before going to South Africa in 1951, where he did social work before teaching in Natal. He had a photographic studio in Pietermaritzburg from 1957 until 1961. From 1963 to 1972 he was a lecturer in History at the Cambridge College of Arts and Technology. In 1986 he was awarded the XXXIII-me Grand Prix de l'Humour Noir Xavier Forneret. He divides his time between Cambridge and Spain.
Tom Sharpe died in June 2013.
Stuck in a job he doesn't want - but can't afford to lose - as nominal Head of the Communications Department at Fenland University, Wilt is still subject to the whims of The Powers That Be, both in and outside of work. The demands of his snobbish wife Eva, and the stupendous school fees of his despicable quadruplet daughters, cause him the biggest headaches...apart from the hangovers, that is. When Eva signs him up for a summer job, teaching the gun-toting idiot son of a lusty local aristocrat, Wilt is not amused. But, as circumstances unravel and the summer goes on, Wilt sees that the situation could be put to his financial advantage, as well as giving Eva some headaches of her own.
Do you know it’s been 20 years since we had a Wilt novel and I honestly thought we’d never have another. It has also been eight years since we had a new Tom Sharpe and now he has really come up trumps. Madcap, farcical, over-the-top and un-PC, it really is the greatest of fun, just what you need on a rainy day. Comparison: P G Wodehouse, David Lodge, Joseph Connolly.Similar this month: Anthony Horowitz, Stephen Clarke.
It is one of the more surprising facts about Old England that one can still find families living in the same houses their ancestors built centuries before and on land that has belonged to them since before the Norman Conquest. The Gropes of Grope Hall are one such family.... The Gropes are an old English family based in Northumberland, separated from the rest of society and as eccentric as they come. It is a line dominated by strong-willed and oversexed women, determined to produce more female heirs regardless of whether their desired partners are willing ... At the dawn of the new millennium, timid and gormless teenager Esmond is abducted and lured to Grope Hall by a descendant of the Gropes. Young Esmond is powerless to escape, and his kidnap sets in motion a stream of farcical events that will have readers laughing out loud. Tom Sharpe's trademark humour abounds in this new novel, marking him out once again as an outstanding and unique British storyteller.
Henry Wilt is no longer the victim of his own uncontrolled fantasies. As Head of a reconstituted Liberal Studies Department he has assumed power without authority at the Fenland College of Arts & Technology and the fantasies he now confronts are those of political bigots and reactionary bureaucrats - in addition to his wife's enthusiasm for every Organic Alternative under the compost heap and the insistence of his quadruplets on looking at every problem with an unflinching lack of sentimentality. It is only when Wilt becomes the unintentional participant in a terrorist siege that he is forced to find an answer to the problems of power, which have corrupted greater men than he. With a mental ingenuity born of his innate cowardice, Wilt fights for those liberal values which are threatened both by international terrorism and by the sophisticated methods of police anti-terrorist agents. In the confusion that follows, Wilt resumes his dialogue with the unflagging Inspector Flint and is himself subjected to the indignity of a psycho-political profile. Bitingly funny and brilliantly written, The Wilt Alternative exposes the farcical anomalies, which have become the social norms of our time.
Though as cunning as ever, the formidable Skullion - previously head porter, now elevated to Master - is showing signs of physical frailty after his stroke. So the tricky business of appointing a new Master must start all over again. Meanwhile the College's monstrous debts refuse to go away, and a sinister American media mogul seems determined to make a television documentary on the premises, destroying part of the chapel in the process. Moreover, the widow of the previous Master is convinced that her husband was murdered, so she plants an agent in the Senior Common Room to dig up an unpleasant truth that everyone else would prefer kept under the carpet. Faced with such continuing crises, the instinct of the true Porterhouse man is to reach for the bottle - or to fall back on the subtle and traditional Cambridge skills of blackmail and kidnap. But will those be enough?
In Piemburgem, the deceptively peaceful-looking capital of Zululand, Kommandant van Heerden, Konstabel Els and Luitenant Verkramp continue to terrorise true Englishman and even truer Zulus in their relentless search for a perfect South Africa. Kommandant van Heerden, that great Anglophile, gropes his way towards attaining true 'Englishness' in the company of the eccentric Dornford Yates Club. But Luitenant Verkramp, whose hatred of all things English is surpassed only by his fear of sex, sets in motion an experiment in mass chastity (with the help of a lady psychiatrist), which has remarkable and quite unforeseen results.
Wilt is back - in form, and in a good deal of trouble. Henry Wilt is still teaching at the Fenland Tech, attempting to drill English into plasterers, dozing through tedious committee meetings and occasionally getting mildly plastered in 'The Pig in a Poke' with one of his few bearable colleagues. But the even tenor of his days is rudely interrupted when the shadow of drug dealing flickers across the Tech. Suddenly Wilt becomes the target of suspicion. His colleagues believe him to be responsible for triggering a departmental inquiry, and his old adversary Inspector Flint, knowing that he's guilty of something, sees a chance to settle a number of scores. What starts with an accusation of voyeurism in the staff lavatory (of the wrong gender to boot) leads, more or less directly, to a massive confrontation at a nearby US airbase with the forces of law and order on both sides and Wilt in his usual place - in the middle.
Timothy Brights doesn't exactly live up to his name. Brought up to regard copious flows of money as his birthright, he can't understand why the funds have been cut off, nor why friends he recruited as Lloyds' Names no longer want to talk to him. When gambling fails, Timothy turns to embezzlement, but it's the lesser offence of helping himself to some strangely aromatic tobacco that propels him up the motorway and into bed with the Chief Constable's wife. The Chief Constable has just survived charges of bribery and perjury and is not too concerned that his efforts to dispose of Timothy involve false imprisonment, breaking and entering, and a spot of GBH. It is only when the Chief tries to frame his old adversary, the upright Miss Midden, that things begin to go seriously wrong as his underhand ploy opens up the way to spectacular mayhem.
The landscape is flawless, the trees majestic, the flora and the fauna are right and proper. All is picturesquely typical of rural England at its best. Sir Giles, an MP of few principles and curious tastes, plots to destroy all this by building a motorway smack through it, to line his own pocket and at the same time to dispose of his wife, the capacious Lady Maude. But Lady Maude enlists a surprising ally in her enigmatic gardener Blott, a naturalised Englishman in whom adopted patriotism burns bright. Lady Maude's dynamism and Blott's concealed talents enable them to meet pressure with mimicry, loaded tribunals with publicity and chilli powder, and requisition orders with wickedly spiked beer. This explosively comic novel will gladden the heart of everyone who has ever confronted a bureaucrat, and spells out in riotous detail how the forces of virtue play an exceedingly dirty game when the issue is close to home.
Peregrine Roderick Clyde-Brown is a bumbling, naive and savagely dim-witted teenager, who, as his name reveals, cannot possibly be exposed to the evils of a comprehensive school. However, with his penchant for taking even the most innocent command literally, no reputable school will accept the boy who, when told that he must turn over a new leaf, begins fondling the foliage. His parents, with high hopes and a considerable amount of bribery money, search for anywhere that will take their 'late developer.' In a school that time forgot, Peregrine's 'talents' for taking orders and having no discernible individual thought seem perfect for a promising career in the upper ranks of the British Army. It is at Groxbourne that Peregrine meets Mr Gladstone, a man whose teaching style extends as far as using lashings to teach arithmetic. After Gladstone whisks the unquestioning boy off on a hysterical mystery, Peregrine ends up storming a French castle, where he unwaveringly commits mischief, mayhem and even murder!
Porterhouse College is world renowned for its gastronomic excellence, the arrogance of its Fellows, its academic mediocrity and the social cache it confers on the athletic sons of country families. Sir Godber Evans, ex-Cabinet Minister and the new Master, is determined to change all this. Spurred on by his politically angular wife, Lady Mary, he challenges the established order and provokes the wrath of the Dean, the Senior Tutor, the Bursar and, most intransigent of all, Skullion the Head Porter - with hilarious and catastrophic results.
Frensic and Futtle is a small and successful literary agency. But following a successful court case by a woman who claimed to have been libeled by one of their authors, the agency rapidly loses business. One day, a manuscript for a book called Pause O Men for the Virgin arrives at the agency, together with a note from the author's solicitor, saying that the author wishes to remain anonymous and that the agency has carte blanche on how it deals with the book. The book turns out to deal with the love affair between an 80-year old woman and a 17-year old youth. The populist American publisher Hutchmeyer agrees to sign a deal to publish the book in the United States for $2 million, providing the author carries out a promotional tour of the country. Sonia and Frensic decide to use aspiring but unpublished author Peter Piper to stand in for the anonymous author. But when Piper receives a proof copy of Pause from the publisher by mistake, it takes a certain amount of persuasion and arm-twisting from Sonia Futtle to convince Piper to travel to America.
With his only friend a computer, Walden Yapp has lived a singular life. Professor of Demotic History at the University of Kloone, Yapp spends his days highlighting the corrupt capitalistic nature of the upper-classes, and his nights feeding Doris his computer the information he has gathered So when capitalist Lord Petrefact hires him to write a damaging family history, Yapp seizes the chance to chronicle the corrupt life of the Petrefact family. Spurred on by his expectations of dishonesty and depravity Yapp heads of the town of Buscott, where nobody is what they at first appear to be. Now a pawn in Lord Petrefact's vindictive family game, Yapp's presence is as welcome as the plague. From provoking dwarfish marital problems to uncovering an erotic toy factory Yapp's presence sparks a chain of events that ends in death, destruction and a murder trial. Going through a car wash will never feel the same again.
Henry Wilt, tied to a daft job and a domineering wife, has just been passed over for promotion yet again. Ahead of him at the Polytechnic stretch years of trying to thump literature into the heads of plasterers, joiners, butchers and the like. And things are no better at home where his massive wife, Eva, is given to boundless and unpredictable fits of enthusiasm - for transcendental meditation, yoga or the trampoline. But if Wilt can do nothing about his job, he realises he can do something about his wife - and as each day passes, his fantasies grow more murderous and more real.
When Miss Hazelstone of Jacaranda Park kills her Zulu cook in a sensational crime passionel, the gallant members of the South African police force are soon on the scene: Kommandant van Heerden, whose secret longing for the heart of an English gentleman leads to the most memorable transplant operation yet recorded; Luitenant Verkramp of the Security Branch, ever active in the pursuit of Communist cells; Konstabel Els, with his propensity for shooting first and not thinking later - and also for forcing himself upon African women in a manner legally reserved for male members of their own race. In the course of the strange events which follow, we encounter some very esoteric perversions when the Kommandant is held captive in Miss Hazelstone's remarkable rubber room; and some even more amazing perversions of justice when Miss Hazelstone's brother, the Bishop of Barotseland, is sentenced to be hanged on the ancient gallows in the local prison. Not a 'political' novel in any previously imagined sense, Riotous Assembly provided a completely fresh approach to the South African scene - an approach startling in its deadpan savagery and yet also outrageously funny.
When Lockhart Flawse is catapulted out of his upper-class and rapunzel-esque life with the curmudgeonly Flawse Senior, he must enter the world of suburbia, and marriage. Rendered an absolute twit in modern society by his medieval upbringing, Lockhart must resort to drastic tactics in his attempt to return to Flawse House. Faced with the horrors of suburbia, he must either terrorise, blackmail and potentially kill an entire street of his tenants, or attempt to find his unknown and elusive father in order to inherit the estate. However, with the belief that he was dropped into his mother's arms by a stork, killing a street of people may be the wiser option for the socially inept young man. He is also under mounting pressure, as it may all be in vain if his gold-digging mother-in-law has her way. Now the wife of Flawse Senior, she has decided that if Lockhart's wealthy grandfather can't have the decency to die on his own, she will take matters into her own hands.