A Putnam Award Book (Mulvihill's Sands of Kalahari (1960) was the first)- this is an import from England and takes -- and makes -- its fun with democracy in Africa and zeros in on Colonial expertise versus practical handling of local problems. The man in the middle is Jimmy Riddle, a District Commissioner distrusted by upper echelons but admired and respected by his equals and the residents of his district. The investigation of his prison by Miss Pratt touches off a situation that ends in his dismissal but, through the machinations of opposing native factions in the first year of elective government, his friendship with The Balabasa of Alabassa spurs him into a revolt whose result is governorship for Jimmy. In and out, and round about, is the cult of the python, the inadequacies of His Excellency as a governor, and his wife's clever manipulations, the love affair of Jimmy and an American married woman (soon a widow), the unsuccessful coups d'etat promoted by local politicians, and a whirlpool of pidgin English. The writing -- which is good -- carries this along even when the farcical, extravagant and eccentric cease to persuade, and the importance of the area in question may mitigate against such a treatment.