Time for a Tiger by Anthony Burgess Heinemann All first novels are semi-autobiographical - except for Anthony Burgess' Time for a Tiger , which could almost double as a blow-by-blow account of his time spent teaching at a boys' boarding school in pre-independence Malaya. The book traces the erratic existence of Victor Crabbe (Burgess), his wife, his Malay mistress, his flamboyantly homosexual houseboy, his headmaster, and his Falstaff, the blundering, heroically alcoholic, two-metre-tall police lieutenant Nabby Adams. All were not so much drawn as transposed from real life, although Burgess took care to change the colour of Mrs Crabbe's hair to avoid riling his notoriously touchy Welsh wife, Lynne. The fictional headmaster yawned as long, loud and bizarrely as his real-life counterpart; Burgess didn't need to dig too deep into his imagination to depict Crabbe's manservant "squirming and simpering"; and the amiable copper cum conman Donald "Lofty" Dunkeley - of dubious antecedents, fluent in several languages but not entirely confident in English, and who gave up women for beer - simply demanded to be put in a novel. Tiger is a perceptive portrait of colonial life - the European characters struggle with homesickness, the enervating climate and an alien culture. Yet Burgess was anything but a dyed-in-the-wool colonial. A gifted linguist, he soon picked up Bahasa Malaysia and sizeable amounts of Arabic as well as some Chinese and Indian dialects. He socialised easily with Asians of all classes, and described Malaya as "the most remarkable multi-racial society in the world". Apart from anything else, Tiger is funny. Adams' life is dominated by his elaborate manoeuvres to evade his creditors, obtain another drink, and conceal his alcoholism and financial shenanigans from his superior officers. Crabbe's marital and work situations are almost as complicated. That Malaya was struggling to contain bands of marauding communist guerillas (a period euphemistically described as the Emergency) adds extra point to the comedy. Tiger was followed by The Enemy in the Blanket (1958) and Beds in the East (1959), completing "The Malayan Trilogy", which was also titled "The Long Day Wanes". Burgess created other eccentric characters - notably seedy poet Francis Xavier Enderby - but none so elementally comic as the misogynistic boozer Nabby Adams.