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Tom Sharpe is just one of these writers about whose books you always want to say good things because they’re Tom Sharpe books. The fact is that you always get some laughs out of his books, you always smile in agreement at his cunning portrayal of English and other societies, at his characters caught in the most preposterous situations and scheming the most outrageous plots to deal with them. Sharpe is a very likeable writer.
Vintage Stuff features all the hallmarks : an intelligent and progressive person caught in the dismal environment of some suburban fixture of English life, here a housemaster, with the unfortunate name of Slimne, in a minor public school for underachievers, devises some outlandish plot to get back at the mediocrity of the life he has somehow failed to avoid for himself, in the shape of one of its staunchest representatives, here an ex-military man come housemaster, Glodstone. He forges letters from a wealthy Countess de Montcon to Glodstone asking him to rescue her from gangsterish fiends holding her hostage. From then on, the plot thickens to the consistence of days-old chick-pea soup, featuring a half-wit pupil of the school very gifted for target practice killing the American ambassador to France in the Countess de Montcon’s château and other misunderstandings.
Though not quite as acid as Wilt or Peeping Tom, Vintage Stuff cuts it nonetheless. The real quality of Sharpe’s books, apart from the humour, rests in the underlying despair of this intelligent and progressive person driven to stupidity and pettiness out of sheer frustration in the face of the overriding and all-pervasive stupidity and pettiness of his environment. And he lives to regret it.