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Riotous Assembly (Piemburg #1)

4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  2,032 ratings  ·  113 reviews

When Miss Hazelstone of Jacaranda Park kills her Zulu cook in a sensational crime of passion, the gallant members of the South African police force are soon upon 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 i

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204 pages
Published 1973 by Pan Books Ltd. (first published 1971)
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Bernardette
This book is simply hysterical. It is difficult to recommend to people as they tend to give you a very strange look when you explain that it is a satire of apartheid South Africa written by a white South African. This book is an exemplary piece of modern satire. The first time I read it, I was commuting on a public train and was laughing out loud the entire time. My mother and I would read it out loud to each other and laugh so hard we cried. In some parts it was impossible to read aloud because ...more
Ana
Hilariante, delirante, de um humor negro completo e surreal…
Uma leitura muito divertida!
Mark Rayner
Scene:

A deserted road in New Zealand. In the distance, we see a bus bombing along the highway at high speed, slowing down and then screeching to a halt.

Interior Bus:
Bus driver turns in his seat, a look of concern on his face. We hear a kind of strange wheezing sound, which is both alarming and somehow amusing. Is someone having a heart attack? An epileptic seizure? The bus driver gets out of his seat and approaches the passenger who is making these strange sounds, collapsed onto his side in the
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Monica
Tom Sharpe died last week and it moved me to go back and reread him. And boy does he hold up well. This book, written in 1970, is a brilliant, scathing, savagely funny look at South Africa under Apartheid. If P. G. Wodehouse and Evelyn Waugh had made a baby author, he might have turned out to be somebody like Tom Sharpe - making astute political criticism in a voice that is utterly irreverent, perverse and hilarious.

The plot is absurdly wonderful - an elderly British gentlewoman calls the local
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Andrew
I have always loved the work of Tom Sharpe (I constantly regret the day I decided not to see him talk at our local library). The man had such a statical and biting wit born from his own person experiences. This book (and its sequel) are perfect examples of his own experiences shaping a story and personally I feel giving it far more relevance and weight for it.

Normally I would try and shy away from commenting about the story, however I can say that the description of this book (the "blurb") pret
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Rochelle
I totally agree. Here one is absolutely helpless with mirth, in the clutches of a master satirist, and one with a laser eye for human foibles of all stripes and colors!! This book is a must-read....then follow up with "Indecent Exposure." the sequel to Riotous Assembly.
You won't be sorry.

Read Riotous Assembly 3 times, laughed until I cried each time.
Carye Yanko
Just finished this one and jumped right in to Indecent Exposure. I wish I had discovered this author sooner. It's one of the funniest things I've read in a long time. I'm a little on the sensitive side, though, so was shocked from time to time. I love how the characters will seem to be operating at cross-purposes and end up helping each other. It was a little bit predictable as far as who was going to come out on top, but since the element of suspense is beside the point of the novel, no complai ...more
Peter
This may be the single funniest book I have ever read. While reading, I had to put the book down so many times because there were so many laugh out loud moments, it increased the time it took to read significantly. I read most of this while relaxing in my local pub. During those times I had no less than two complete strangers ask me what I was reading, as the needed to know what could make a person laugh so often and so hard.

Not only should it be on your "To Read" list, it should be moved direct
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Richard Beasley
Simply brilliant
Laugh out loud loudly, frequently.
Had to stop as I was drawing attention to myself on the train
Although it's 40 years old, and (fortunately!!!) apartheid is gone, this is hysterically funny. Not necessarily realistic, but simply a farce (of quite bad taste) that comes from stupidity and failure to communicate. But it does give a (nasty) insight to racism, and pokes such fun at it.
Tom Cöle
Pure hilarity from beginning to end. A delicious blend of satire and farce shot through with caricature-like characterisation, dazzling wit and healthy dollops of smut. Manages to send up and satirise the whole history of South Africa up to the apartheid era and still contain scenes of cartoon violence featuring policemen and attack dogs squeezing each other's knackers. Kommandant van Heerden, Konstabel Els and Lieutenant Verkramp - the book's central characters - are all amusingly flawed bonehe ...more
Colin Mckenna
This author gets my Big Brass Balls Award. Not many authors writing comedy would go near the issue of apartheid and racism in South Africa. It's not a funny topic. But Sharpe's depictions of rednecks, racists, and bigots are as brutal as the crimes they have committed against humanity. Sharpe is an overlooked author and this is where you should start. One of a kind.
Nora aka Diva
I swear it reads like a Monty Python movie. Funny and disturbing at the same time. Sadly members of the police force and other authority figures in this novel reminded me of past presidents here in the USA.
Melissa
This book made me laugh out loud too many times to count. I highly recommend this if you aren't easily offended.
Will Wraxall
Warning for mild spoilers...

Brilliant, brilliant satire of segregation in South Africa, and especially the useless and deplorable South African police force. The first half of the book is pure farcical genius, like Fawlty Towers in literary form as a seemingly straightforward prolem develops slowly but surely into all-out siege warfare. The characters are broadly sketched, as you would expect from a comedy, but they are utterly unforgettable; the misguided and dim-witted racist Kommandant van He
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Mark Speed
When I was 17 the first chapter of this was read to us in class. We fell about laughing at the imbecility of the South African police characters.

At that time, the Apartheid regime in South Africa - against whom this satire was tilted - was hardening against resistance. Amazingly, on initial publication in the US, the novel had been boycotted over its dedication:

"For all those members of the South African Police Force whose lives are dedicated to the preservation of Western Civilisation in Southe
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Hall's Bookshop
"In poor taste"; "shocking"; "grossly offensive"; "obscene" - Tom Sharpe's first novel may be described thus. Yet for Sharpe, I'm sure these reviews would be considered high praise, and the mark of a job well done. This book put the crass absurdity of South African Apartheid into vivid perspective, while also providing a few laughs. I highly doubt anyone would dare publish it today.

JM
Nusrah Javed
3.75 for now.
I read this book on the emphatic insisting of my big bro. And I really liked it!
Detailed review in a month when I will be done with finals!
Gautam Moharil
The story is set in the apartheid era South Africa. The police station in Piemberg get a call reporting a murder. As the phone call came from a very respectable English family with a great history behind them, the commissioner of police himself goes to investigate. What he finds there are the remains of a black Zulu cook in the garden who appears to be shot by a large gun. The mistress of the house, a Miss Hazelstone, is a socialite and columnist, claims that she has shot the cook in a passionat ...more
MB (What she read)
Probably one of the most evilly humorous books I have ever come across. I laughed (and cringed) throughout.
Jim
Slow to get moving, but then became a fast-paced farce. Good light entertainment.
Phyllis
This book is clever and funny. The characters are larger than life and the bizarre situations are farcical. I had to remind myself that life in South Africa in the 60s and 70s was very different and writing this was a brave thing to have done. Humour is a powerful weapon against extreme regimes. However much of the humour was not to my taste as I found it rather crude and boyish. To me violence is not very comic, but then I didn't like Tom and Jerry much either. I am obviously in a minority, and ...more
Wajiha
This book is outrageous. I suppose if you combine the Apartheid with absurd sarcasm and pour in a generous helping of black acerbic humour of kind aqua fortis, you get Riotous Assembly. For somebody who propones to love black humour, this book came as a massive shock to the system ... imagine applying a spoonful of wasabi to your palate, and then holding it there for maximum impact.

The premise of the story is a highly incompetent police commandant (and by extension force), investigating the murd
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Christian
There were some genuine laugh out loud moments in this, many of which were very acute in highlighting the utterly ridiculous under the apartheid regime. On the basis of this book, I will certainly seek out more by Tom Sharpe; I can't believe it's taken me quite so long to get around him.
For me, the first half of Riotous Assembly was perhaps a bit too frenetic in terms of shooting, shouting and explosions. The second half, when things (marginally!) calmed down, was much better.
Stefandulman
a novel using surreal events to make a stand against apartheid. humor spans from ridicule situations and stupidity of characters and their actions.

it got only three stars because most of the situations are forced - i found myself thinking many times "ah, here the author tries to be funny again". unfortunately, i did not experience the sheer laughter some of the others readers describe.
Stephen Coatsworth
After reading the atypically bad The Gropes I decided that I had to renew my faith in Tom Sharpe and go read some earlier novels. I am so glad I did.

Riotous assembly is aptly named as it is a riot. A veritable hootfest of slapstick, satire and sexual shenanigans all set in Apartheid Africa. This is a novel of it's time with outdated attitudes but funny nonetheless.
Andrew
I suspect that at the age of 15/16 when I first read this it would have had 5 stars but it was still very funny although I suspect at that age the outrageousness of it all was what appealed. Now however I appreciate the satirical portrayal of the south African police , apartheid and colonialism. I am definitely going to revisit Tom Sharpe, a writer I loved 30 years ago and haven't read since.
Brian Robertson
The late Tom Sharpe is my hero and this was his first and arguably his best book. Although I have written a military history book, Digger's Story, my ambition is to write as well and as funnily as Tom Sharpe. And I know I could have used the word humorously there instead of funnily but I do mean funny, side splitingly funny, not just humorously! The way Tom Sharpe can describe an action packed ridiculous situation that often happens in just a few seconds. It takes many words and several sentence ...more
Rena Sherwood
The grimmest humor you'll ever read and perhaps the only "funny" book that will give you nightmares. Sadly, Sharpe was not exaggerating with this book about the horrors of life under Apartheid.
Rathi
Howlarious!! Tom Sharpe is the master of innuendo and politically incorrect humour. As with all his other books, I was embarrassed that I found something as terrifying as mass murders so funny!!
Emilie
Sorry I didn't laugh as loud as everybody else. I do appreciate how refreshingly outrageous the satire is and there were some very funny bits (poor vulture...).
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Tom Sharpe was an English satirical author, born in London and educated at Lancing College and at Pembroke College, Cambridge. After National Service with the Royal Marines he moved to South Africa in 1951, doing social work and teaching in Natal, until deported in 1961.

His work in South Africa inspired the novels Riotous Assembly and Indecent Exposure. From 1963 until 1972 he was a History lectur
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More about Tom Sharpe...

Other Books in the Series

Piemburg (2 books)
  • Indecent Exposure
Wilt (Wilt, #1) Blott on the Landscape Porterhouse Blue (Porterhouse Blue, #1) The Wilt Alternative (Wilt, #2) Indecent Exposure

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