24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
RIP Wilt - alive but concussed,
This review is from: Wilt In Nowhere: (Wilt Series 4) (Paperback)
In a South Bank Show special about Tom Sharpe a couple of years ago, the great man was asked about his very slow output in recent years. Two problems were at the root: a serious heart condition and equally serious writer's block. Sharpe told Melvyn Bragg that he'd used his barbecue to burn about 1500 pages of text on the grounds that it didn't make him laugh. He also described his humour as "juvenile." Be that as it may, at his best Sharpe has been truly inspired, creating edgy mayhem and scream-out-loud laughter that few if any writer could match - consume and discard humourous literature par excellence.
So it's with heavy heart that I can confirm Sharpe's waning powers, based on the evidence presented by Wilt in Nowhere. The plotting devices and characterisations are as vivid as ever - Sharpe's instinct for farce is still as strong as ever. But the laughter is but a pale shadow of his finest achievements. The 1500 discarded pages must have made grim reading indeed if the final volume of Wilt's adventures is anything to go by.
The two separate plotlines - Eva and quads in the USA, Wilt on a walking tour and for much of the book in deep concussion, fails to add up to a coherent whole, and lacks much of the edge and sense of orchestrated debate displayed in earlier Wilt epics. If the moral of the tale is anywhere, Wilt in Nowhere says that taking an unambitious family holiday prevents chaos! Sharpe appears to said everything worth saying.
Furthermore, Wilt's arch adversary Inspector Flint has a comparatively minor role to play, though readers will be gratified to know his understanding of the Wilts is no greater now than ever before, albeit infinitely more advanced than his over-promoted peer, Hodge.
It's disappointing to see a once great writer well below his peak powers, and I wish Tom Sharpe a happy retirement. But I'd sooner remember him by earlier books, those that had me helpless with laughter.