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Riotous Assembly

(Piemburg #1)

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  2,893 Ratings  ·  156 Reviews
Offering all the qualities of his general bestselling fiction, this is Tom Sharpe's blazing satire of South African apartheid, companion to Indecent Exposure.
Paperback, 249 pages
Published April 21st 1994 by Atlantic Monthly Press (first published 1971)
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Glenn Russell
Jul 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing

Sidesplitting, rib-tickling, rollicking. Riotous Assembly was my first exposure to Tom Sharpe. As I was reading I asked myself: who does this author remind me of? Then it hit me. Of course! None other than Mad Magazine’s maddest artist, Don Martin. I mean, take a look at the above illustration for this Tom Sharpe novel and the two Don Martin cartoons below. No doubt about it – Tom Sharpe and Don Martin share much of the same outrageous, over-the-top, darkish, rubbery sense of humor.

Don Martin w
Dec 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Mark Rayner
Nov 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: humor

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
Ana Lúcia
Dec 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hilariante, delirante, de um humor negro completo e surreal…
Uma leitura muito divertida!
Jun 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reread
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
Mar 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Carye Yanko
Aug 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Richard Beasley
Mar 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.
Dec 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: humor
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.
Colin Mckenna
Nov 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, humor, fiction
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.
Mar 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humour
Dark satirical humour in which Holt shows just how dumb Apartheid was in South Africa by turning everything up to a ridiculous level. Funny enough to make me cry whilst making an remarkable point. I haven't come across many authors that can manage this.
Nora aka Diva
Jan 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Jun 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book made me laugh out loud too many times to count. I highly recommend this if you aren't easily offended.
Tom Cöle
Dec 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"When she looked around her, there didn’t seem to be any significant difference between life in the mental hospital and life in South Africa as a whole. Black madmen did all the work, while white lunatics lounged about imagining they were God.”

You know when they say there's always a grain of truth in every joke? Well, that's precisely what Sharpe does in this novel. He harshly criticizes the Apartheid system in South Africa through the most absurd yet extremely witty dialogues and situations. Si
Lokesh Krishnamoorthy
Apr 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Very very funny. Few books can literally make you laugh out loud.
This is one of them.
Will Wraxall
Nov 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Mark Speed
May 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Hall's Bookshop
Jul 21, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: james
"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.

MB (What she read)
Feb 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: contains-humor
Probably one of the most evilly humorous books I have ever come across. I laughed (and cringed) throughout.
Jun 22, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: just-for-fun
Slow to get moving, but then became a fast-paced farce. Good light entertainment.
Jun 10, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Odd != Funny

Reads like Monty Python manqué.
Nusrah Javed
Mar 21, 2015 rated it liked it
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!
Glen Engel-Cox
Jul 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
David Baboulene (a friend in Britain) and I sent each other some favorite books recently. Since David hadn’t read much SF/F, I sent him Jonathan Carroll’s Bones of the Moon and James P. Blaylock’s The Last Coin. In turn, he sent me some British humor: Tom Sharpe and Clive James. James’ books were quite interesting–a well-written autobiography with some sly touches that never quite had me belly-laughing, but kept me reading. Sharpe, on the other hand, I fell into with a gusto. From page one of Ri ...more
Jul 29, 2018 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Leonard R. N. Ashley wrote in the Encyclopedia of British Humorists that "Sharpe's humorous techniques naturally derive from his fundamental approach, which is that of the furious farceur who compounds anger and amusement." (Wikipedia, 2017)

Tom Sharpe must have loathed South Africa, his one-time home, to have written this scathing satire on a small town in Zululand, before the abolition of apartheid. The biggest assholes in town "get theirs" in the end, but really not what they REALLY deserved.
Oct 01, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Funny in places but not in enough places for me.

Also, it was quite erratic and a bit hard to follow at times, at others, over the top. Certainly not as good as Wilt.

Side Note: For those of a sensitive nature, and without spoiling the story, this is set in South Africa and has elements of 1970s Apartheid about it. As such, it has quite a lot of racial slurs and degradation, so please be warned.
May 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The apartheid era Police in South Africa come in for a metaphorical kicking in a story of racism, stupidity and profound sexual deviance. Highlighting the ridiculous nature of the apartheid system by poking fun at it via a dim-witted Police Commandant and his incompetent, occasionally murderous and corrupt officers results in a book that is both incredibly witty and astonishingly crude but never less than hilarious.
Sep 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, comedy
Quite a satire, might be a bit politically incorrect for some, it is based on white people being abusive to black people, but in the end it has the goal of showing how ridiculous racism and "white supremacy" in Africa was. Quite crazy and enjoyable, you'll want to keep on reading. A high fours stars.
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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

Other books in the series

Piemburg (2 books)
  • Indecent Exposure