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Tom Sharpe PDF Print E-mail

Tom Sharpe (1928 - 2013) was educated at Lancing and Pembroke College, Cambridge. He did his National Service in the British Marines before going to South Africa in 1951, where he did social work for the Non-European Affairs Department before teaching in Natal. He had a photographic studio in Pietermaritzburg from 1957 until 1961, when he was deported. From 1963-72 he was a lecturer in history at the Cambridge College of Arts and Technology. His second novel, the sequel to Riotous Assembly, is called Indecent Exposure. His other novels include The Great Pursuit, Wilt, Porterhouse Blue and Blott on the Landscape. Sharpe died on 6 June 2013 in Llafranc, in Costa Brava, from complications of diabetes. He was 85 years of age.

In 2016, a church court fined his partner, Dr Montserrat Verdaguer, for the unofficial burial of his ashes at St Aidan’s church in Thockrington. His remains were  exhumed as it was claimed they were buried without permission of the church authorities.


Selected Work

From Riotous Assembly (1971)(Note: Piemburg is Sharpe's thinly veiled fictitious name for Pietermaritzburg.)

Kommandant van Heerden had few illusions about himself and a great many about everything else. And it was thanks to his illusions that he found himself in charge of the Police station in Piemburg. It was not a very onerous position. Piemburg's mediocrity was not conducive to more than petty crime and it had been felt at Police Headquarters in Pretoria that, while Kommandant van Heerden's appointment might push the city's crime rate up, it would at least serve to lower the waves of violence and theft that had followed his posting to other more enterprising towns.Besides, Piemburg deserved the Kommandant. As the one town in the Republic still to fly the Union Jack from the Town Hall, Piemburg needed to be taught that the Government could not be challenged without taking some revenge.

Kommandant van Heerden knew that his appointment was not due to his success in the field of criminal investigation. He fondly imagined it had come to him because he understood the English. It was in fact due to the reputation of his grandfather, Klaasie van Heerden, who had served under General Cronje at the Battle of Paardeberg and had been shot by the British for refusing to obey the order of his commanding officer to surrender. He had instead stayed put in a hole in the bank of the Modder River and shot down twelve soldiers of the Essex Regiment who were relieving themselves there some forty-eight hours after the last shot had been fired. The fact that Klaasie had been fast asleep throughout the entire battle and had never heard the order to cease fire was discounted by the British during his trial and by later generations of Afrikaans historians. Instead he was accounted a hero who had been martyred for his devotion to the Boer Republics and as a hero he was revered by Afrikaans Nationalists all over South Africa.

It was this legend that had helped Kommandant van Heerden to his present rank. It had taken a long time for his incompetence to live down the reputation for cunning that had been bequeathed him by his grandfather, and by that time it was too late for Police Headquarters to do anything about his inefficiency except put him in command of Piemburg.
Kommandant van Heerden imagined that he had got the post because it was in an English town and certainly it was just the post he wanted. The Kommandant believed that he was one of the few Afrikaaners who really understood the English mind. In spite of the treatment the British had meted out to his grandfather, in spite of the brutality the British had shown to the Boer women and children in the concentration camps, in spite of the sentimentality the British wasted on their black servants, in spite of everything, Kommandant van Heerden admired the British.

There was something about their blundering stupidity that appealed to him. It called out to something deep within his being. He couldn't say exactly what it was, but deep called to deep and, if the Kommandant could have chosen his place of birth, its time and nationality, he would have plumped for Piemburg in 1890 and the heart of an English gentleman.



1971. Riotous Assembly. London: Pan Books.
1973. Indecent exposure. London:  Pan Books. 
1974. Porterhouse Blue. London:  Pan Books.
1975. Blott on the landscape. London:  Pan Books.
1976. Wilt. London:  Pan Books. 
1977. Great Pursuit. London:  Pan Books.
1978. The Throwback. London: Pan Books.
1979. The Wilt Alternative. London: Pan Books.
1980. Ancestral Vices. London: Pan Books.
1984. Wilt on High. London:  Pan Books.
1995. Grantchester Grind: A Porterhouse Chronicle. London: Pan Books.

1996. The Midden. London: Pan Books.
1996. Vintage Stuff. London:  Pan Books.
2004. Wilt in Nowhere. London:  Pan Books.

2009. The Gropes. London: Pan Books.

2010. The Wilt Inheritance. London: Pan Books.

2011. The Wilt Alternative. London: Pan Books.