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Mole

Salman Rushdie

4 February 1982
Saki: A Life of Hector Hugh Munro 
by A.J. Langguth.
Hamish Hamilton, 366 pp., £12.50, October 1981, 0 241 10678 8
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...  of that very stratum of society in which he moved, and to whose ethic he claimed, with fiendish subtlety, to subscribe. Unfortunately, the world that he made the butt of his wit disappeared, as TomSharpe reminds us in his short introduction to the Picador Saki,* at more or less the same time as Munro: fortunately, the stories are funny enough to survive in spite of that. But it would be wrong ...

Whitehall Farces

Patrick Parrinder

8 October 1992
Now you know 
by Michael Frayn.
Viking, 282 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 9780670845545
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... delight in Sergeant Buzfuz and that Little Dorrit is a favourite in the Home Office.’ Lawyers these days doubtless read John Mortimer, and dons read the new university wits like David Lodge and TomSharpe. But in any wider competition for the post of English humorist-in-residence, Michael Frayn would surely be a prime contender. Now verging on sixty, his collected plays and translations fill ...

Masters of Art

John Sutherland

18 December 1980
Loon Lake 
by E.L. Doctorow.
Macmillan, 258 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 333 30641 4
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Alice fell 
by Emma Tennant.
Cape, 124 pp., £5.50, November 1980, 0 224 01872 8
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The Covenant 
by James Michener.
Secker, 873 pp., £8.95, November 1980, 0 436 27966 5
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Ancesteral Vices 
by Tom Sharpe.
Secker, 231 pp., £6.50, November 1980, 0 436 45809 8
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... Russia, East Germany, Iran, Argentina, Brazil all had such interrogators. But the majority of South Africa policemen tried to be law-abiding officers of Justice.’ Comic writer though he is, TomSharpe is genuinely banned in South Africa. He was deported in 1961, ten years after which he began his belated (but since then very prolific) novel-writing career. His best work is conventionally taken to ...

Kiss me, Hardy

Humphrey Carpenter

15 November 1984
Peeping Tom 
by Howard Jacobson.
Chatto, 266 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 0 7011 2908 5
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Watson’s Apology 
by Beryl Bainbridge.
Duckworth, 222 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 0 7156 1935 7
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The Foreigner 
by David Plante.
Chatto, 237 pp., £9.95, November 1984, 0 7011 2904 2
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... about country walks, so ‘what the fuck did it have to do with Sefton Goldberg who was Jewish and who had therefore never taken a country walk in his life?’ Wrottesley Poly, however, is as much TomSharpe territory as a part of the Amis-Bradbury-Lodge world, and it is in the matter of comic plotting that Coming from Behind seemed to me to fail. Jacobson’s portrayal of Goldberg is flawless ...

Dark Places

John Sutherland

18 November 1982
Wise Virgin 
by A.N. Wilson.
Secker, 186 pp., £7.50, October 1982, 0 436 57608 2
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The London Embassy 
by Paul Theroux.
Hamish Hamilton, 211 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 241 10872 1
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The frog who dared to croak 
by Richard Sennett.
Faber, 182 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 571 11989 1
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Vintage Stuff 
by Tom Sharpe.
Secker, 220 pp., £7.50, November 1982, 0 436 45810 1
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Rogue Justice 
by Geoffrey Household.
Joseph, 174 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 7181 2178 3
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... surrounding, master.’ Pangham’s world of loos, beaks, tosh and Bodger the devious head recalls the tyro Wilson of Kindly Light. (It also echoes the current offering of his Secker stablemate, TomSharpe, who is into public schools as well.) Alongside Giles’s extreme plight, the school comedy is discordant. But presumably that is another desired effect in this uneasy novel. As used to be said of ...

Oh, Lionel!

Christopher Hitchens

3 December 1992
P.G. Wodehouse: Man and Myth 
by Barry Phelps.
Constable, 344 pp., £16.95, October 1992, 9780094716209
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... complete with painful Drones impersonations and ritual bread-throwing, lies heavy about this work. As Phelps puts it in his no-nonsense style, having discovered that Wodehouse once spoke well of a TomSharpe effort, ‘that The Master should commend such bawdy black humour is superficially surprising, given his dislike for anything raunchy, but he must have appreciated that he had met another ...

Diary

Robert Walshe: Bumping into Beckett

7 November 1985
... marking pages, memorising passages, and dreaming dreams of a vividness and thrust that I hadn’t experienced since I was in the Army. My well-intentioned friends in Poland Street then put me onto TomSharpe, and a large proportion of the ladies I meet in public, or scrutinise in the illustrated press, have begun to appear to me as inflatable dolls clothed in wisps of ivy. I have read four Sharpe...

A Necessary Gospel

Sean O’Brien

6 June 1996
Dear Future 
by Fred D’Aguiar.
Chatto, 206 pp., £14.99, March 1996, 0 7011 6537 5
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... Others in this grim episode of city comedy, such as the President’s secretary-cum-whore, or the dentist paid by the Opposition to bug the President’s teeth, seem to have been recruited from a TomSharpe novel. The President himself is vain enough, a nasty piece of work, posing on horseback, threatening his staff with knocking their false teeth out, but that’s all there is to him. The action ...

On the highway

Jonathan Coe

24 March 1994
Desperadoes 
by Joseph O’Connor.
Flamingo, 426 pp., £14.99, March 1994, 0 00 224301 6
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Resurrection Man 
by Eoin McNamee.
Picador, 233 pp., £14.99, March 1994, 0 330 33274 0
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Stir-Fry 
by Emma Donoghue.
Hamish Hamilton, 232 pp., £9.99, January 1994, 0 241 13442 0
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... no dense, elliptical sentences to negotiate, no flights of figurative fancy: instead you’re more likely to find easy charm and an undercurrent of throwaway, slightly macho humour reminiscent of TomSharpe or Howard Jacobson. (A character called Smokes decides not to tell his girlfriend that he’s been unfaithful to her; after satisfying himself that he is morally justified in the deception, he ...

Ferrets can be gods

Katherine Rundell

10 August 2016
Gabriel-Ernest and Other Tales 
by Saki and Quentin Blake.
Alma Classics, 156 pp., £6.99, October 2015, 978 1 84749 592 1
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... animal marking out territory (the same could be said of writing essays for literary publications), and so it is with the list of writers who have introduced Saki’s work: Noël Coward, A.N. Wilson, TomSharpe, Will Self. Coward’s use of Sakian humour, though, is constrained by his urgent pursuit of the next punchline; Sharpe’s has a seaside postcard quality that has dated more in forty years ...

Manliness

D.A.N. Jones

20 December 1984
Last Ferry to Manly 
by Jill Neville.
Penguin, 165 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 0 14 007068 0
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Down from the Hill 
by Alan Sillitoe.
Granada, 218 pp., £7.95, October 1984, 0 246 12517 9
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God Knows 
by Joseph Heller.
Cape, 353 pp., £8.95, November 1984, 0 224 02288 1
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Wilt on High 
by Tom Sharpe.
Secker, 236 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 9780436458118
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... modern and intricate that the Americans at the bomber base suppose him to be a spy who must be arrested and beaten up. Wilt is now doomed to be rescued by the CND feminist coven ... The cleverness of Sharpe’s plotting and the skill of the narrative must be admired – and beneath the frightening jokes there is a sort of passion, a justified indignation about bugging and drugging, half-witted feminism ...
2 March 1989
Rotten Borough 
by Oliver Anderson.
Fourth Estate, 320 pp., £5.95, March 1989, 0 947795 83 9
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... in the burning tower of his own church, calling down divine punishment upon Lincolnshire’s Sodom and Gomorrah. In all this there is much that is reminiscent, for the modern reader, of the work of Tom s Sharpe. Other things apart, Rotten Borough is a witty and entertaining novel which, for all its lightning lunges into farce, is written with sufficient skill to make its improbable and outrageous ...
15 September 1988
Children of the Arbat 
by Anatoli Rybakov, translated by Harold Shukman.
Hutchinson, 688 pp., £12.95, August 1988, 0 09 173742 7
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Pushkin House 
by Andrei Bitov, translated by Susan Brownsberger.
Weidenfeld, 371 pp., £12.95, May 1988, 0 297 79316 0
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The Queue 
by Vladimir Sorokin, translated by Sally Laird.
Readers International, 198 pp., £9.95, May 1988, 9780930523442
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Moscow 2042 
by Vladimir Voinovich, translated by Richard Lourie.
Cape, 424 pp., £11.95, April 1988, 0 224 02532 5
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The Mushroom-Picker 
by Zinovy Zinik, translated by Michael Glenny.
Heinemann, 282 pp., £11.95, January 1988, 0 434 89735 3
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Chekago 
by Natalya Lowndes.
Hodder, 384 pp., £12.95, January 1988, 0 340 41060 4
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... cucumber, salted herring and other zakuski, washed down with gallons of home-made pepper, lemon, or coriander and cinnamon vodka. The climax of the novel is a farcical scene in the matter of TomSharpe (and no less unfunny), when Konstantin, on a secret midnight mushroom hunt in a prohibited military area, is caught with his trousers down by Clea, Pan Tadeusz and most of the British Army. This is ...
16 October 1997
The Royals 
by Kitty Kelley.
Warner, 547 pp., $27, September 1997, 0 446 51712 7
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... and its hangers-on: Lord Snowdon, Raine Spencer, Major Ronald Ferguson, Koo Stark, James Hewitt, Madam Vasso and the rest. Thus described by Kelley, the House of Windsor is part Evelyn Waugh, part TomSharpe, wholly Spitting Image. It is not so much that she descends to personalities as that she is incapable of rising above them. But this is scarcely to say anything new: ‘too little, too late ...

Chinaberry Pie

D.A.N. Jones

1 March 1984
Modern Baptists 
by James Wilcox.
Secker, 239 pp., £7.95, January 1984, 9780436570988
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Speranza 
by Sven Delblanc, translated by Paul Britten Austin.
Secker, 153 pp., £7.95, February 1984, 9780436126802
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High Spirits 
by Robertson Davies.
Penguin, 198 pp., £2.50, January 1984, 0 14 006505 9
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Hanabeke 
by Dudley St John Magnus.
Angus and Robertson, 133 pp., £6.95, January 1984, 0 207 14565 2
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Train to Hell 
by Alexei Sayle.
Methuen, 152 pp., £7.95, February 1984, 0 413 52460 4
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The English Way of Doing Things 
by William Donaldson.
Weidenfeld, 229 pp., £7.95, January 1984, 0 297 78345 9
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... Kenneth Tynan). The English Way of Doing Things does not live up to these tributes. The farcical plot evidently attempts a dirtied-up Wodehouse style, of the kind successfully carried off by TomSharpe; the prose style of the opening chapter may be an expression of admiration for Waugh’s haughtiness, but it is overpunctuated and quickly degenerates (when the whores appear) into an overexcited ...

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