Day: May 24, 2020

P. G. Wodehouse (1881-1975)

OIPSir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse KBE (15 October 1881 – 14 February 1975) was an English author and one of the most widely read humorists of the 20th century. Born in Guildford, the third son of a British magistrate based in Hong Kong, Wodehouse spent happy teenage years at Dulwich College, to which he remained devoted all his life. After leaving school he was employed by a bank but disliked the work and turned to writing in his spare time. His early novels were mostly school stories, but he later switched to comic fiction, creating several regular characters who became familiar to the public over the years. They include the feather-brained Bertie Wooster and his sagacious valet, Jeeves; the immaculate and loquacious Psmith; Lord Emsworth and the Blandings Castle set; the Oldest Member, with stories about golf; and Mr Mulliner, with tall tales on subjects ranging from bibulous bishops to megalomaniac movie moguls.

Most of Wodehouse’s fiction is set in England, although he spent much of his life in the US and used New York and Hollywood as settings for some of his novels and short stories. He wrote a series of Broadway musical comedies during and after the First World War, together with Guy Bolton and Jerome Kern, that played an important part in the development of the American musical.

In 1934 Wodehouse moved to France for tax reasons; in 1940 he was taken prisoner at Le Touquet by the invading Germans and interned for nearly a year. After his release he made six broadcasts from German radio in Berlin to the US, which had not yet entered the war. The talks were comic and apolitical, but his broadcasting over enemy radio prompted anger and strident controversy in Britain, and a threat of prosecution. Wodehouse never returned to England. From 1947 until his death he lived in the US, taking dual British-American citizenship in 1955. He was a prolific writer throughout his life, publishing more than ninety books, forty plays, two hundred short stories and other writings between 1902 and 1974. He died in 1975, at the age of 93, in Southampton, New York. (Excerpts from Wikipedia)

P. G. Wodehouse bibliography

… P. G. Wodehouse made a brief excursion into mystery fiction in the days before World War I. “Death at the Excelsior” (1914) is a nicely done impossible crime short story. Its tradition seems closest to the Scientific detective story, then at the height of its popularity. Its locked room ideas have little in common with the Zangwill-Chesterton school of “rearrangements in space and time”. Instead, they are based in the scientific ideas of the sort found in Meade and Eustace. Wodehouse also shows the fondness for poisonous snakes, found both in Meade and Eustace, and later in William Hope Hodgson and Arthur B. Reeve. (Mike Grost at A Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection).

Further reading:

I’m looking forward to reading “ Death At The Excelsior” (1914); Meet Mr. Mulliner (1927 short story collection) and The Code of the Woosters (1938). It will be a pleasant change in times of confinement.

Death at the Excelsior and Other Stories is a selection of early Wodehouse stories. The original publication date of each story is in brackets after its title. Contents: “Death at the Excelsior” (1914), “Misunderstood” (1910), “The Best Sauce” (1911), “Jeeves and the Chump Cyril” (1918), “Jeeves in the Springtime” (1921), “Concealed Art” (1915) and “The Test Case” (1915).

The title story, “Death at the Excelsior,” introduces readers to British private detective Elliot Oaks and his more experienced boss Paul Snyder in P.G. Wodehouse’s only attempt at a detective story, which he pulls off with his signature comic twists and turns. The collection also offers a selection of other classic Wodehouse tales, including those featuring the author’s most famous creations — Bertie and Jeeves. (Source: Sugar Skull Press).

Other books of potential interest to mystery readers are:

5227

(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Herbert Jenkins Limited (UK), 1927)

Classic Mulliner stories from P.G. Wodehouse.

5166

(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Herbert Jenkins Limited (UK), 1938)

A classic Jeeves and Wooster novel from P.G. Wodehouse.