• Message from James Clarke

    "South Africa's Best Humour Columnist"

    - SA's Comedy Awards September 2008

    “South Africa’s funniest columnist.”

    - Financial Mail


    The name is Clarke. James Clarke. I have been told by people who know their way around the electronic world with its iPads, USBs, processors, modems, 500 gb hard drives, Blackberries and microwave ovens, that as a writer I have to have a blogsite. Otherwise, I am told, it is like passing oneself off as a CEO and you haven’t a leather chair that tilts back.

    Yet after four years of having a blogsite I still don’t really understand what it is or how it helps sell my books which is my major concern in life apart from not stepping on cracks when walking on the pavement.

    I am also told that on a blogsite it is customary to refer to oneself in the third person. This enables one to grossly exaggerate ones attainments without appearing to have done so personally.

    Not being one to buck the system...

    London-born James Clarke is your average tall, dark, handsome fellow who writes books – fiction and non-fiction. As a humorist he has been compared with PG Wodehouse and James Thurber. (The Daily Bugle in Des Moines said “compared with the works of PG Wodehouse and James Thurber, Clarke’s writing isn’t worth a row of beans”.)

    He long ago settled in South Africa where he became a mover and a shaker in the world of the environmental sciences. As a youth, being a mover and a shaker, had made it impossible for him to follow in his father’s footsteps as a bottler in a nitro-glycerine plant. Hence he turned to journalism.

    But around the time he retired a few years ago he found a new pursuit as a humorist. He wrote a daily humour column in the Johannesburg Star (now syndicated) and began turning out books of humour in the UK and South Africa.

    Clarke very recently moved boldly into the electronic publishing world. It was, he said afterwards, like a non-swimmer diving into a pool without first testing its depth.

    In November 2011 he re-issued his latest book of humour, “Blazing Saddles”, as an Amazon Kindle e-book under the title “Blazing Bicycle Saddles”. For a mere US$4.99 you can download a copy of this seminal cycling book in a matter of seconds by clicking here ....


    He did this with the full realisation that he is totally at sea in the electronic world with its telephones that take movies and receive faxes and sports results.

    The original edition of “Blazing Saddles”, published by Jonathan Ball, has been out of print for two years. It reveals the true story of how six retired men – five of them journalists – year after year set out (intrepidly) from the African continent on a series of exploratory expeditions cycling into “Darkest Europe” to bring back to the people of Africa tales of its funny natives.

    Clarke will also shortly be publishing, via Amazon.com, another of his action-packed autobiographical books – this time an account of his Second World War exploits as L*E*A*D*E*R of the Yellow Six Patrol of the 1st Streetly Boy Scouts in the English Midlands. He recounts the patrol’s ceaseless campaign to defeat Adolf Hitler’s plan to invade England.

    You can read about “The Yellow Six” within this blogsite.

    Clarke, apart from moving and shaking, is a travel writer and proud father of two highly successful daughters – one a biologist and the other an environmental impact analyst. He and his wife, Lenka, live north of Johannesburg.

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How to Kill your Husband (nicely)

The lunchtime topic was “How to kill your husband”.
Ronnie Whitaker, a Durban wife, mother and author has discovered a nice way to do it.
She claims to have “a successful marriage” and I gathered the secret lay in what Ronnie and her husband call each other. They call each other long distance. Ronnie’s husband lives 10 000 km away in England.
The lunch was at the New Chapter Literary Luncheon Club at Sandton’s Hilton Hotel. The club arranges for authors to talk about their latest books and sell some at the door. The club has launched some of mine but the preponderantly female members have never fallen upon myh books with the salivating enthusiasm that they displayed for Ronnie’s “How to kill your husband” (published, appropriately, by Spearhead).
Ronnie says, “Women place for too much emphasis on being married – and not nearly enough on being widows.”
She advises women to make sure they get what is rightfully theirs – the old man’s life insurance.
She says she likes men, but that some are nicer dead.
Oh yes, I laughed and laughed. All we males laughed. Sort of high-pitched stuff.
And we dropped our food more than usual.
Ronnie was a little nervous of public speaking but as she warmed to the subject she began to appear more and more like Charles Adams disguised as a fruit sundae.
“I’m terrified of public speaking,” she said. “A recent study showed that 90 percent of people say public speaking is their greatest fear. Death came second.
“So there you go, people would rather die than stand up and speak. It figures, therefore, that the men affected (by the advice in her book) are lucky. All they have to do is die while I must stand up here and speak.”
Ronnie’s book is just like Ronnie herself. There’s a cynicism that is very very funny. There are recipes for “killer food”; recipes that are practically guaranteed to give the old man a heart attack, in good time. It’s not cold-blooded murder, you understand. There’s no blood involved. It’s good fun all round.
She said, “When my husband had a heart attack we weren’t prepared for it – he didn’t have enough insurance.” After virtually saving his life she got him to step up insurance payments.
“I agree, heart attacks are no laughing matter,” she says. “Well, at least, not until the estate is wound up,”
She says a woman spends 30 years of her life looking for her man’s lost socks and taking all his nonsense only to see him stricken by the “lolita syndrome” and go off with his 22 year old secretary. “And he doesn’t even wear socks any more. It’s slops and Bermuda shorts. He looks ridiculous. But she gets the money.”
She sounded almost serious when she said a wise wife ignores her husband’s affairs – “and certainly don’t divorce him because then the Viagra popping nymph chaser will give all his money to the bimbo”.
Affairs are stressful and stress is good for heart attacks. And nearly all men who die having sex do so while with the other woman.
So, she says, encourage stress and invest in lethal puddings. She offers some serious super-cholesterol killer recipes such as:
“Healthy Mangoes Ha Ha – liquidise a large mango with 125-150 mg mascarpone cheese. Layer between liqueur-soaked sliced mango and top with whipped cream!”
The funeral can be a tonic…
A drunken abusive husband died and the hired minister exaggerated the man’s almost non-existent good points so ridiculously that the widow began to giggle and eventually she and all her friends folded up in helpless laughter.
But I must go. My wife is cooking a huge eisbein – with chips followed by bread-and-butter pudding – again.

2 Responses

  1. Good morning James. Are you aware that someone called Redmer Yska has wriiten a history of NZ Truth ? Its called Truth: The rise and fall of the people’s paper.
    Don’t know Yska but he has done a damed good job.
    You well?prospering? still laughing?

    john Tidey

    • Hi John – the famous John of the Melbourne Age as I recall from 40 years ago. No. More! – 45 years.
      I’d like to see it – does he mention how I (as news editor – the paper’s first) and Rod Barret as editor) decided the clean the paper up (just a litle) and try to win new readers from the more intelligent stratum.
      We manged to lose 45 000 circulation and Dunn, the then owner, told us o go back to basics. Our next Page One lead was about a black nude dancer named Hot Chocolate. Our circulkation was restored.
      John, where are you these days? Retired I suppose. Me too. Now I write books in order to relax and disappear into the bush whenver I can.

      Anyway, great to hear from you! I’ll try to get the book .

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