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Riotous Assembly
cover art from paperback edition

A novel combining Farce and Satire by English comic writer Tom Sharpe, who was thrown out of The Apartheid Era South Africa for being a "subversive".

Emplying a deft and very amusing mixture of slapstick comedy and extreme irony, Sharpe gives a lacerating account of the Hazelstone family's war against the cruelty and incompetence of the police force of a provincial town in South Africa during the apartheid era. From the lowliest member of the force, Konstabel Els, to the senior officer, Kommandant van Heerden, they are shown to be uniformly inept and unimaginative and eventually come to rue the day they dared complain about the behavior of Miss Hazelstone or her brother, Bishop Hazelstone of Barotseland. The town of "Piemburg" is a thinly disguised version of Pietermauritzburg, where Sharpe lived and worked for ten years. Whether he is satirizing real people is up for debate, although it is known that one British-born Anglican bishop in South Africa who was opposed to apartheid had more than a usual parochial interest in the welfare of young African men in his flock. His name was not a million miles removed from "Hazelstone", either. (Apologies. He's still alive and there are such things as libel laws.)


Character list:-

  • Kommandant van Heerden - the ineffectual and cowardly police chief.
  • Liutnanat Verkramp - his certifiably insane political policeman, local head of BOSS.
  • Sergeant der Kock - long-time copper, cunning but not bright.
  • Konstabel Els - unspeakable psychopath who joined the police so that he could legally kill black men and rape black women.
  • Miss Hazelstone - local mem-sahib and matriarch with a fetish for rubber and black men.
  • Bishop Hazelstone of Barotseland - her brother. A churchman who is falsely accused of a crime.
  • Toby the Doberman - Miss Hazelstone's pet.


This novel provides examples of:

  • Awful Truth: A corrupt police force serving a corrupt state - what can you expect?
  • Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop:
  • Grande Dame: Miss Hazelstone
  • More Dakka: When Els loses permission to fire the Judge Hazelstone's elephant gun (see: There Is No Kill Like Overkill), he borrows the Browning machine guns from the Saracen armoured cars, then jury rigs the four of them to fire simultaneously. Ironically, he hits only one target: the vulture.
  • Police Are Useless: the entire Piemburg force.
  • Police Brutality: the entire Piemburg force, plus Konstabel Els, who is in a league of his own.
  • Secret Police: Liutnant Verkramp
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Practically a trademark of the Hazelstone family, aside from the genetic cowardice of their patriarchs. Sir Theophilus Hazelstone used 10-inch naval guns at twelve yards, Judge Hazelstone had a four-barreled elephant gun built that could incapacitate (or, as Els thought, kill, or possibly evaporate) a charging pachyderm at 1,000 yards, and Miss Hazelstone owns a very large collection of them, all in perfect working order.

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