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Subject: Tom Sharpe, Porterhouse Blue novelist, dies aged 85

Written By: Philip Eno on 06/06/13 at 8:12 am

The British author Tom Sharpe, who wrote the 1974 novel Porterhouse Blue, has died aged 85.

Sharpe, who was born in London in 1928, died in the coastal town of Llafranc in north-eastern Spain on Thursday.

He wrote 16 novels, including Blott on the Landscape in 1975, which was adapted into a six-part BBC television series, starring David Suchet.

He also wrote the Wilt series of comedy books, the last of which - The Wilt Inheritance - he penned in 2010.

"Tom Sharpe was one of our greatest satirists and a brilliant writer: witty, often outrageous, always acutely funny about the absurdities of life," said Susan Sandon, Sharpe's editor at Random House.

"The private Tom was warm, supportive and wholly engaging."

Porterhouse Blue, published in 1974 told the story of Skullion, the head porter of a fictional Cambridge college Porterhouse.

The story, a satirical look at Cambridge life, was later made into a television series on Channel 4 in 1987.

The four-part TV series starred Sir David Jason in the lead role of the head porter, Skullion, alongside Ian Richardson as Sir Godber Evans and Barbara Jefford as his wife Lady Mary.

The son of a Unitarian minister who was a Nazi supporter in the 1930s, Sharpe was educated at Lancing and Cambridge.

He spent time in the Royal Marines, serving overseas on ships during the 1940s.

In an interview on Desert Island Discs in 1984, Sharpe told Roy Plomley he was initially influenced by his father's ideas.

His National Service experience and the death of his father in 1944 brought the discovery "that Hitler was not the man I was led to believe he was".

"My mind was blown by the horror of what had been happening."

Sharpe moved to South Africa in 1951, working as a social worker, teacher and photographer, and writing anti-apartheid plays during the 1950s. However, he was deported to Britain in 1961.

His experiences in South Africa inspired him to write his debut novel, Riotous Assembly, in three weeks in 1971, and his second novel, Indecent Exposure, in which he mocks the apartheid regime.

In 1975, he wrote Blott on the Landscape, centred on the proposed construction of a motorway in a fictional rural county in England.

The book was adapted into a six-part series by Malcolm Bradbury for the BBC in 1985.

"Books and films are totally different things," Sharpe said during his interview on Desert Island Discs.

"I say throw the book out the window and use the characters."

His next book, Wilt, published in 1976, was inspired by his experiences working a lecturer in History at the Cambridge College of Arts and Technology.

The first in a series of five comedic novels, Wilt was based around the lead character, Henry Wilt, a demoralised assistant lecturer who teaches literature to uninterested construction apprentices at a community college in the south of England.

"He has the same uncertainties about the world that I have, but he carries them on into the enactment of fantasy and he tends to run into trouble," Sharpe said.

The novel was adapted into the film Wilt in 1989, with Griff Rhys Jones and Mel Smith in the lead roles.

Sharpe, who had been living in northern Spain for two decades, was married with three children.

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