The Midden

Tom Sharpe, Author Overlook Press $23.95 (245p) ISBN 978-0-87951-801-1
Sharpe, a comic novelist from Britain, is highly popular in his native land but has never caught on here, perhaps (pace his admirers Stephen King and P.J. O'Rourke) because he is simply too harsh in his apparently limitless biliousness. It is a kind of dyspeptic humor for which English writers are celebrated (e.g., Kingsley Amis, Evelyn Waugh), but in Sharpe's case it seems to lack a genuine comic spirit and to be merely brutish and unkind. This book, his first in 11 years, concerns the plight of a rather dim scion of a wealthy English family, Timothy Bright, a yuppie stockbroker who tries to finagle his way out of financial problems by becoming involved with some very hard-breathing thugs. He gets drugged, for no apparent reason other than as a plot device, and winds up naked in the bed of the local chief constable's wife. The CC, Sir Arnold Gonders, is a rotten piece of work, a bent copper in well with the local white-collar crooks (some bitterly satirical fun here at the expense of the Thatcherite mentality), and much of the novel consists of him trying to get rid of a trussed-up Tim while dealing with his dim wife, Vy, and her lesbian lover, Auntie Bea. The climax is a police raid, inspired by Sir Arnold, on a ghastly local mansion inhabited by a collection of rabid eccentrics, in the course of which a dozen policemen and as many inhabitants of Middenhall are either shot dead or cremated as the hideous old house burns to the ground. All this is told in a graphic style full of nasty asides (among a group of specialists in child abuse, ""some of the oral sex counsellors still had pubic hair on their chins""). Despite the energy of its often brutal slapstick situations, and its occasional dark chuckle, there's too much bile in the book for most American readers to enjoy. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 11/17/1997
Release date: 11/01/1997
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 244 pages - 978-0-436-20295-7
Paperback - 245 pages - 978-0-87951-928-5
Open Ebook - 352 pages - 978-1-4464-9312-0
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