• 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.


Books by James Clarke

1969: Man is the Preya personal investigation into the methods and motives of man-eaters and man-killers. (Andrew Deutsch, London, 1969; Panther Books, London, 1969; Stein and Day, New York, 1969; Pocket Books, New York 1970)

Cover - Man is the Prey

1970: Bottero’s African Wildlife Gallery. (Wildlife Feature Corp, Johannesburg) a catalogue, with comments, of Giuseppe Bottero’s extraordinary collection of wildlife oil paintings. 

1972: Focus on Fauna. (Keartland Press, Johannesburg)  A look at the wildlife of South Africa with photographs by John Pitts.

1974: Our Fragile Land – South Africa’s Environmental Crisis. (Macmillan, Johannesburg)  A review of the global and national state of the environment. 

1975: The Bushman. (The Museum of Man and Science, Johannesburg) The physical and cultural evolution of the San people.

1976: The Environmental Crisis. With PW Wheeler. (The Star, Johannesburg) An illustrated guide to global environmental challenges.

1983: Mountain Odyssey. – with David Coulson. (Macmillan, Johannesburg) The history, biology and geology  of the mountain ranges of Southern Africa.

1984: Roof of Africa. (Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York) – with David Coulson. US version of Mountain Odysey.

1987: Survival Guide to the Outdoors. (Earthlink, Johannesburg) A textbook on survival in the African bush.

1987: Like it Was. (Argus, Johannesburg) A history of Johannesburg to mark the city’s centenary. This was the city’s story as seen, decade by decade with cuttings and commentary, by The Star which had moved to Johannesburg (“The Camp”) six months after the goldfields were proclaimed.

1988: The Bedside Star (Argus, Johannesburg) An anthology of “relaxed reading” from The Star.

1989: Back to Bed (Struik, Cape Town) More “relaxed reading” from The Star.

1990: Bedtime Again (Argus, Johannesburg) Even more relaxed reading.

1990: Sabi Sabi. (Struik, Cape Town, 1990) A history of the Sabi Sand, the block of private game reserves bordering southern Kruger Park.

1991: Back to Earth (Southern, Johannesburg)  South Africa’s Environmental Challenges.

1995: The Yellow Six (Penguin, Johannesburg, 1995; Brewin, Birmingham, 2006) – the humorous half-true story of how half-a-dozen Boy Scouts, led by their self-important leader, the author, helped win World War 2.

1996: The Search for the Great South African Limerick. (Penguin, Johannesburg, 1996) A collection of Limericks lampooning the towns and cities of South Africa resulting from a competition launched in The Star.

1997: S*x for the Extremely Shy. (Penguin, Johannesburg) A send-up of women’s magazines sex advice columns – plus some collected humour columns by the author.

1999: Enclosed Please Find. (Wild Dog Press, Johannesburg) Collected humour columns by the author.

1999: An Extraordinary 20th Century. (Independent Newspapers, Johannesburg) The story of Johannesburg and South Africa told with cuttings and commentary – from the Boer War through the apartheid era to the dawn of the “new South Africa”.

2002: Coming Back to Earth. (Jacana, Johannesburg) A comprehensive review of the state of the South African environment.

2003: Laugh, the Beloved Country. With Harvey Tyson (Double Storey, Cape Town) An anthology of South African humour dating back to the 18th century.

Cover - Laugh the Beloved Country

2005: Great South African Limericks. (Zytek, Johannesburg) A collection of South Africa limericks lampooning South African places – including the newly re-named places.

2005: The Funny Side of Golf. (Zytek, Johannesburg) A spoof history of the evolution of golf including golfing jokes.

2005: Clarke on Your Stoep. (Zytek, Johannesburg) A collection of Stoep Talk columns.

Cover - Clarke on Stoep

2007: Blazing Saddles – The True Story of the Tours de Farce. (Jonathan Ball, Cape Town) The totally irreverent story of how five retired newspapermen and a confused photographer – average age 70 – decide to explore “Darkest Europe” on bicycles – although none had ridden a bike since childhood.  

Cover Blazing Saddles

9 Responses

  1. Hi James,

    My mom is your number one fan and clips out your column for me to read as she thinks it ir required reading.

    Surprisingly enough we are living in the house in Parkview of the late Giuseppe Bottero who willed it to my mother-in-law. If I can coordinate it I think my mom would make the trip from Benoni to join us for tea if you were to be available some time. We should be able to arrange a print or two if you are interested.

    My wife is a bit of a natural birth activist and if you find the time you can see what she gets up to at the linked web site. Did you know that the private hospitals in South Africa have one of the highest caesarean rates in the world, over 90% in places compared to the WHO recommendation of under 20%?

    Nice blog you have.

    Fond Regards

  2. Thanks Kalle, it all sounds most intertesting.
    Let’s fix something for December. I am in and out of town until then.

  3. Gee, ‘Yellow Six’ was published in 1995. It’s the first of your books I ever owned. I was reading ‘Stoep Talk’ way back in high school.

    In fact I recall The Search for the Great South African Limerick being run in The Star.

    Oh, how I have missed your irreverent wit James. I’m so excited to be catching up on some lost years of humour.

    And if you’re ever in London, do let me know. It’d be lovely to sit down for a cup of tea and a chat (alright, tea is a thing of the past… a Starbucks instead).

    • Thank you Jason, it’s always nice to know somebody appreciates my nonsense.Mind you, with your weather I would also be inclined to curl up somewhere and read just about anything!
      I may be in London in September and would enjoy meeting you. Let’s stay in touch.

  4. Hi James, I read your book Man is the Prey as a kid and it was a big part of my fascination with animals. Thankyou for that 🙂

    • Hi Ricky, hey, that message makes me feel very old. Mind you I suppose I am! Thanks for it all the same –


  5. Please could you forward a copy of your articile. Grandpa got lost in the computer.
    Granddad Robert is visiting from SA and he forgot to pack it in his bag.

    • I have replied via my blog but this is probably faster. (Gosh, another reader in Oz!) I hope Granddad Robert is as impressed by Australia as I have been in my few visits. James

      The computer swallowed grandpa.

      Yes, honestly it’s true.

      He pressed ‘control’ and ‘enter’

      And disappeared from view.

      It devoured him completely,

      The thought just makes me squirm.

      He must have caught a virus

      Or been eaten by a worm.

      I’ve searched through the recycle bin

      And files of every kind;

      I’ve even used the internet,

      But nothing did I find.

      In desperation, I asked Jeeves

      My searches to refine.

      The reply from him was negative,

      Not a thing was found ‘online’.

      So, if inside your ‘Inbox,’

      My Grandpa you should see,

      ‘Copy’, ‘Scan’ and ‘Paste’ him

      And send him back to me!

      Box 876 Lone Hill. S Africa 2062 Fax 011 465 4564 Blog: https://stoeptalk.wordpress.com

  6. Sure, here it si:
    – (itals)The computer swallowed grandpa.
    – Yes, honestly it’s true.
    – He pressed ‘control’ and ‘enter’
    – And disappeared from view.
    – SPACE
    – It devoured him completely,
    – The thought just makes me squirm.
    – He must have caught a virus
    – Or been eaten by a worm.
    – SPACE
    – I’ve searched through the recycle bin
    – And files of every kind;
    – I’ve even used the internet,
    – But nothing did I find.
    – SPACE
    – In desperation, I asked Jeeves
    – My searches to refine.
    – The reply from him was negative,
    – Not a thing was found ‘online’.
    – SPACE
    – So, if inside your ‘Inbox,’
    – My Grandpa you should see,
    – Please ‘Copy’, ‘Scan’ and ‘Paste’ him
    – And send him back to me!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: