Ben Schott beautifully captures the tone, whimsy, and silliness of P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster stories in Jeeves and the King of Clubs. It’s astonishing how good is a stepping into Wodehouse’s shoes; I’m not sure if it’s great ventriloquism or if Schott was practicing auto writing. In this new iteration, Bertie is, as usual, roped into a number of schemes by his friends and Aunt Dahlia—which means that Jeeves is roped in as well because Bertie is terrible at schemes—that all coalesce into a takedown of the despicable Roderick Spode.
The Jeeves and Wooster series exist in a floating timeline from the 1920s to the mid-1950s and generally avoid references to actual British history. Schott’s novel does things a little differently. In the middle of one friend’s scheme to woo a woman by financing her play and his Aunt’s plan to create a sauce to replace Lea and Perrin’s Worcestershire sauce, is a tangled plot to foil the growing strength of Roderick Spode’s Black Shorts (British fascists). Spode is no longer susceptible to his previous Achilles’ heel and is blustering his way across southern England. He’s getting money from somewhere and His Majesty’s government would very much like to know who is keeping the fascists in fresh shorts.
Readers who love Jeeves and Wooster can feel safe picking up Schott’s pastiche without fear. Readers who aren’t familiar with the characters should probably watch a few of the wonderful shows performed by Hugh Laurie (Bertie) and Stephen Fry (Jeeves) to get caught up. Schott includes a lot of references to people and places from Wodehouse’s canon. (There are some notes at the end to explain the more obscure references.) Jeeves and the King of Clubs was just what I needed this past week. I desperately needed some silliness and goofiness and a dash of madcapness before Jeeves shimmers in to save the day.