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~ Jeeves & Wooster ~

Unlikely as it may seem, my entry into the dazzling world of Wodehouse homage was inspired by Donald Trump. Or, rather, by Trump’s former butler who, in 2016, suggested that President Barack Obama be assassinated.


Now, it’s not often that butlers hit the headlines — sad to say — and as I read this bizarre story my first thought was: What would Jeeves say?


This in turn inspired me to write a short-story in which Donald Trump arrives as a guest at Brinkley Court and Bertie has to play him at croquet and deliberately throw the match.


The response to this whimsical jeu d’esprit — published in The Spectator and appended below — was unexpectedly positive, and it set the old noggin whirring: Might there be an appetite for a new Jeeves and Wooster book? And, if so, how might it be different from the 35 short stories and 11 novels already in print?


I did not think a “Young Bertie” reboot would fly — after all, why would a schoolboy have a butler? And would he really be able to drink and smoke or lounge all day in clubs? What of his parents? And what of the Great War?


Equally, I bridled at the idea of modern-day Bertie. After all, who would want to bask in the doings of a brash, contemporary “one-percenter”?


My leap was to twist the Wooster universe five degrees to starboard, and turn the story into a spy caper.


To my amazement and delight, the Wodehouse Estate — headed by Sir Edward Cazalet, P.G.W.’s step-grandson — agreed and bestowed on the endeavour their blessing.

My first novel in homage was …

~ Jeeves & The King of Clubs ~

The central premise of Jeeves & The King of Clubs is that Jeeves’s club of butlers and valets, the Junior Ganymede, is actually a branch of the British secret service:


“So you see, Mr Wooster, the Junior Ganymede leads a double life. It remains a genuine social club for those in the upper echelons of service – but it is also a conduit of unique intelligence to His Majesty’s Government.”

I was, quite simply, agog. “You mean to say, there’s a gang of butlers and valets roaming the halls, sniffing out secrets like the Baker Street Irregulars?”


Bertie, of course, takes to espionage like a d. to water – and the ensuing escapades in take the duo from the sunlit lawns of Brinkley Court to the oak-panelled sanctity of London’s “Clubland”.


We encounter an unforgettable cast of characters — old and new — including outraged chefs and exasperated aunts, disreputable politicians and gambling bankers, slushy debs and Cockney cabbies, sphinx-like tailors and sylph-like spies.


There is treachery to be foiled, naturally, but also horses to be backed, auctions to be fixed, engagements to be escaped, madmen to be blackballed, and a new variety of condiment to be cooked up.

The novel was published in November 2018, and I held my breath for the response:

Listen to Lulu Garcia-Navarro's December 2018 interview on NPR Weekend Edition Sunday:

Weekend Edition SundayNPR
00:00 / 07:25

“A most thrilling return of Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster … it vibrates with the spirit and the rhythms of his heart.”

— The Sunday Times

“Schott … captures His Master’s Voice and, above all, the famous Wodehouse rhythm … On reading this work, the Wodehouse estate must surely be left purring, as Bertie would to Jeeves with the talents that famously won him a prize for scripture knowledge: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”.’

— The Times

“Just imagine the boost to British prestige, 
not to mention morale, if the sang-froid of Bond and the sunniness of Bertie could be blended in one person! . . . [In] a fizzy new homage to Wodehouse, Schott infuses Bertie with extra bounce, transforming him from sheer pleasure seeker to shrewd (sort of) secret agent — no wardrobe change necessary.”

— The New York Times

“A bravura performance that twinkles with energy, puns and wisecracks … Schott has hit the target.”

— The Guardian

‘The cast is a delight, with many characters who will be familiar to Wodehouse aficionados … Schott handles the Jeeves and Wooster set-piece dialogues with admirable ease … his prose is elegant and charming, and he captures the lilt and rhythms of the original … for lovers of [Wodehouse’s] work who are looking for a winter treat, Schott’s novel is a warm, worthy and rollicking tribute.’

— The Literary Review


“Schott pulls the trick off improbably well.  He reproduces the Wodehouse voice with fetishistic accuracy: the casual abbreviations (“the milk of h.k.”) and florid similes (“Florence tilted her head, like a cat puzzling a human meow”) and creative idioms (a nap is referred to as “checking the eyelids for holes”) … And his dialogue is perfectly inane. “What’s the thing to thing, Jeeves, that’s thinged with those thingummies?” the narrator asks at one point — to which the omniscient Jeeves responds, of course, that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

— The New York Times Magazine


“Impossible to read without grinning idiotically.”

— Evening Standard

“Schott’s brilliant homage .… Jeeves  and the King of Clubs is an “oojah-cum spiff” tale of spies and state secrets. … This joyous and thoughtful tribute  leaves you wanting more.”

— The Times Literary Supplement

“By Jove! It's a ripping old yarn . . .dashed agreeably close to the master.”

— The Daily Mail


“It is hard not to warm to this hugely  entertaining homage to The Master.”

— The Mail on Sunday

“A glorious homage . . .  Undeniably an impressive, hugely enjoyable feat of ventriloquism.”

— Country Life

“A true delight to read.”

— Vanity Fair

‘Schott’s style impressively captures the linguistic playfulness that always makes Wodehouse such a joy to read … Highly recommended.’

— The Daily Express

“A smart, often hilarious caper that turns the duo into international spies and reminds us why Wodehouse’s characters became beloved in the first place.”

— Town & Country

“Schott . . . has risen to the challenge of writing in the style of P. G. Wodehouse with, er, spiffing aplomb. Plum . . . would have approved.”

— RTÉ Television

“Schott is a wonderful, exacting mimic: Bertie Wooster and his valet, Jeeves, could almost be mistaken for themselves, their exchanges sparkling and unexpected, giving real verve to this joyful, loving, humble and worthwhile homage.”

— USA Today

“Schott’s homage is the best possible revival of Wodehouse’s exquisite universe.”

— Quadrant

“Schott excels with a series of similes and metaphors every bit as striking as those Wodehouse came up with … a delight to read.”

— The Observer

~ Jeeves & The Leap of Faith ~

Jeeves & The Leap of Faith picks up from where Jeeves & The King of Clubs left off:

The Drones Club’s in peril.
Gussie’s in love.
Spode’s on the war-path.
Oh, and His Majesty’s Government needs a favour.

All in all, it’s a good thing Bertie’s back, what?!


From the mean streets of Mayfair to the scheming spires of Cambridge, we encounter a joyous cast of characters: chiselling painters and criminal bookies, eccentric philosophers and dodgy clairvoyantes, appalling poets and pocket dictators, vexatious aunts and their vicious hounds.

But that’s not all:

Who is ICEBERG, and why is he covered in chalk?
Why is Jeeves reading Winnie-the-Pooh?
What is seven across and eighty-five down?
How do you play Russian Roulette at The Savoy?

All these questions, and more, are answered in Jeeves & The Leap of Faith — which features also a Times crossword … which then ran in The Times:

“Ben Schott’s latest Wodehouse-homage, Jeeves and the Leap of Faith … is once again pastiche perfect. Tinkerty-tonk.”
— Times Literary Supplement · Books of 2020

“This homage to P.G. Wodehouse is so good that a blind reading (i.e. a genuine ‘Plum’ versus Schott’s pastiche) would be a tricky call. Everything is in its place: Jeeves shimmers, aunts scheme, Drones drone. Even the style is spot-on: the erudition of Schott’s various Miscellanies finds expression as similes and quotations of hilarious ingenuity. Only in the plot is there evidence of Another’s Hand: the academic setting of 1930s Cambridge and the politics with the Mosley-esque ‘Blackshorts’ both mark out uncharacteristically cerebral Wooster territory.  But the sheer luxury, wealth and self-assurance of Bertie’s world is brilliantly evoked with all its enviable light-heartedness intact. A masterpiece in every sense.”

— The Daily Mail

​“A glorious romp … the book’s greatest strength is its delicious verb fluency very much in the mould of Wodehouse … a splendidly jolly read.”

— Daily Express

“Schott writes in a distinctive style that is somewhere between homage and postmodern response and his story – Bertie attempts to save the Drones Club from bankruptcy while continuing his haphazard work as a secret service freelancer – is more eventful and action-packed than Wodehouse would ever have countenanced. The laughs keep coming, the pivotal character of Iona McAuslan is far better drawn than any woman in the originals and it ends on a splendid cliffhanger.”

— The Observer

“Marvelously madcap, brimming over with silly quips, cunning crossword clues and perilous plot complications. A tonic for these testing times.”

— Sunday Express

"Schott’s book is a combination of the old and new, done with panache and wit. … The novel concludes on a humdinger of a twist which makes one hope, with some anticipation, for a third installment in the series before too long. … Schott’s new novel is a hugely welcome one, and deserves to soar up the Christmas bestseller lists.”

— The Critic​

{ The short story that started it all — first published in The Spectator on 21 May 2016 }

* * *

“The Secret Service said it would investigate Donald J. Trump’s longtime butler over Facebook posts laced with vulgarities and epithets calling for President Obama to be killed.” The New York Times, 12 May 2016

* * *

I had only just risen from the deepest of slumbers, when in shimmied Jeeves with the cup that cheers.

‘Does the day look fruity, Jeeves?’ I yawned.

‘Indeed, sir,’ he assented, opening the curtains to an expanse of cloudless sky, ‘decidedly clement.’


‘Perfect conditions for a perusal of the racing form in the long grass, would you say?’


‘I would, sir. However your aunt has asked me to inform you that she desires you to entertain a guest this morning.’


‘A guest? What guest? I thought we were all alone at Brinkley this weekend.’


‘The guest is Mr Trump, sir. An American. He arrived with his butler in the early hours.’


‘Was that the infernal shouting that woke me at three ack-emma?’


‘Undoubtedly, sir. Mr Trump has a voice that carries.’


‘I’ll say! Like a yodelling banshee. What’s he like, this Trump?’


‘I have not ascertained, sir, since he has yet to rise. His butler, however, seems to be a man of strident views, if I may be so bold.’


‘Be bold, Jeeves, be bold! And if there are beans, spill them.’


‘After insisting that Anatole be woken to prepare a “well-done steak”, he became somewhat overheated and expressed opinions that some might deem unsound.’


‘Unsound? More unsound than shaking the genius Anatole from his post-culinary slumber?’


‘He suggested the President of the United States should be assassinated.’


‘Good Lord, Jeeves! Do you think his employer knows of these revolutionary tendencies?’


‘I could not say, sir. But I gather Mr Trump has controversial views on the president.’


‘It’s all a little too reminiscent of Spode for my liking.’


‘Yes, sir. I too was reminded of Lord Sidcup.’

‘And I am commanded to amuse this earwig?’


‘That is your aunt’s desire, sir. It seems that Mr Trump is in business negotiations with your uncle, Mr Travers.’

‘Poor old Tom. Well, as aunts bid, nephews serve.’

‘So I have observed. I propose to set out your light tweed, sir, as the barometer suggests optimism may not be bootless.’


As Jeeves assembled the day’s habiliments, I spied him slipping my new forage cap into his pocket. ‘I say, Jeeves, that’s my new cap!’


‘Is it sir? I’m very sorry. I assumed it belonged to one of the pig men.’


‘It belongs to me, and was purchased only yesterday at Lock.’


‘Are you proposing to wear it in public, sir? It has an unsettling orange hue.’


‘The hue, Jeeves, is “golden tempest” and I am proposing to wear it today.’


‘Very good, sir,’ he murmured, and oozed away to draw a bath and decant the salts.



I sat alone at breakfast, forking my E and B and mulling this sartorial set-to, when a haircut burst into the room closely followed by a bovine gentleman the colour of turmeric.


‘Ah, you must be Worcestershire! Your uncle Tom has told me all about you.’


‘It’s Wooster, actually, but call me Bertie, everyone does.’


‘And you can call me The Donald,’ barked Trump, setting about the breakfast dishes like a haystack in search of a needle.


‘Tinkety tonk, The Donald. I gather that, in my uncle’s absence, we are to spend the morning together.’


‘That’s what Tom said. Do you play golf? The Donald is magnificent at golf.’


‘I’ve been known to hack the mashie,’ I said modestly, ‘but the local course is closed for a tournament this weekend.’


‘I’ll buy the club and fire the tournament,’ Trump thundered, spitting flecks of kedgeree.


‘Or,’ I soothed, ‘we could play croquet?’ I made the universal gesture of a man swinging a mallet.




‘What’s the difference?’


It’s jarring to encounter such a world-view so early in the morning, and it took every ounce of the Wooster grey matter to marshall a coherent answer.


‘Croquet is a little like chess,’ I explained, ‘played on grass. With balls.’


I began to approximate the hoop layout with cruets when Trump swept all aside.


‘Don’t worry about that! The Donald is fabulous at all sports. Cracket it is!’



My postprandial ablutions completed, I was sauntering across the garden to the field of battle when I heard a ‘psssst’ emanating from the rhododendrons.


‘Bertie, you ass,’ snorted the evergreens in a voice that could only be attached to my aunt Dahlia.


‘At your service, aged relative.’


‘You have to lose this game. Everything depends on it. Tom is on the brink of sealing a deal with this blister Trump, but all will be ashes if his prize-winning ego is dented a jot.’

‘Now listen here, the Wooster male stoops to no man…’

‘Oh do shut up, Bertie. If you don’t lose this match you’ll never eat so much as a crumb of Anatole’s cooking again.’


Her coup-de-glacé delivered, Dahlia rustled off into the deepest foliage.

I’m not ashamed to say that this materteral intercession rather chilled my bonhomie. It’s one thing to lose a match deliberately, quite another to lose to an opponent who has never before heard of the sport. My spirits were lifted only by the recollection of my ‘golden tempest’ cap, which I set at a defiantly jaunty angle as I strode towards ignominy.


I won’t harrow you with the sordid details of the match. Trump insisted that he needed a caddy to hold his mallet, call the yardage and tend to the clips. This role was performed by his butler, who quickly demonstrated that he was no gentleman’s gentleman, nor was his gentleman a gentleman.


It took all of my ingenuity to miss roquets and misplay croquets without arousing suspicion. No such caution commanded The Donald, who skipped hoops and kicked balls with so brazen an insouciance that it seemed impolite to notice, let alone protest.


Despite straining every sinew to lose, we were neck and neck after 12 hoops, and the first to ‘peg out’ would win. As I lined up my shot, calculating to miss by a lick of paint, Trump suddenly proposed a wager which, my duplicitous mission notwithstanding, I felt honour-bound as a sportsman to accept.



‘How was the game, sir?’ inquired Jeeves, as I sank into a forgiving sofa.


‘I lost! I threw the match, and with it the Wooster dignity.’


‘I’m distressed to hear that, sir.’


‘I also lost my new forage cap in a bet.’


‘You must feel that bereavement keenly, sir,’ said Jeeves, visibly brightening. ‘Would a whisky and soda be of comfort?’


‘Well, when I say I lost the cap, I really just swapped it for the one Trump was wearing.’


Jeeves arched an eyebrow. ‘Indeed, sir?’


‘Yes, and you know, I think it’s rather the thing.’


‘Might I see, sir?’ Jeeves took the bright red cap gingerly between thumb and forefinger, as a schoolmaster holds the ear of a particularly unwashed child. ‘This hat appears to have writing on it, sir.’


‘Yes, Jeeves, it says: “Make America Great Again”.’


‘What a curious sentiment, sir. But did Mr Trump really desire your forage cap?’


‘He did,’ I sighed. ‘He said it matched his hair.’


‘Of that, sir, there can be no doubt.’

* * * * *


~ Jeeves & The Cap That Fits ~

{ This is an extract of an essay first published in Wooster Sauce —
the quarterly journal of the P.G. Wodehouse Society }

In writing Jeeves & The King of Clubs, I approached the keyboard not with a grand, personal vision, but as a deadly serious frivolity.


My aim was to create a fabulous, literary “Heath Robinson machine” – deploying all of the pulleys, levers, and lengths of knotted rope offered by the Wodehouse oeuvre to create the finest, funniest, and most charming Wooster homage possible.

I aspired to eschew caricature, pastiche, and (most banal of all) parody, to write in parallel with Plum: obeying the rules of his narrative style, deploying the linguistic traits of his characters, and respecting the rhythm of his magical prose.


Homage is not impersonation, however, and readers au fait with Plum’s “Woostershire” will notice a few stylistic differences in Jeeves & The King of Clubs. There is, for example, a little more action and a tad less description, and Jeeves is, on occasion, given licence for short-hop flights of fanciful loquacity.


Moreover, since Wooster women tend to arrive in one of three varieties – simpering fools (Madeline Bassett), exacting harridans (Florence Craye), and brutal aunts (a sub-species of harridan) – it was joy to devise in Iona MacAuslan a wise, witty, and likeable heroine who might out-Ginger the nimblest of Rogers.


One observation made by a number of readers is that the Bertie of my homage is a little more quick-witted than some felt he was canonically. And so I hope readers will humour me if I explore this issue in a little detail.


The first thing to say is that I did not set out with any calculated plan to make Bertie significantly brainier. Indeed, to my mind, the idea that our hero is merely a drunken, hiccoughing imbecile is as erroneous as giving him a monocle.


It’s possible that the perception of an unredeemably dim-witted Bertie owes more to Hugh Laurie’s glorious portrayal in Clive Exton’s joyous Jeeves and Wooster than Plum’s actual text where, lest we forget, in addition to winning the prize for Scripture Knowledge at Malvern House, Bertie attended Eton and graduated from Magdalen College, Oxford. Even in those days, such academic achievements were no cakewalk.


Second, it’s fair to ask whether someone as penetratingly sagacious (and eminently employable) as Reginald Jeeves would voluntarily spend some 60 years, 35 short stories, and 11 novels manning the soda-siphon for a complete fool. The elephant in this particular room is, of course, Jeeves’s overheard description of his employer in The Inimitable Jeeves:


‘You will find Mr Wooster,’ he was saying to the substitute chappie, ‘an exceedingly pleasant and amiable young gentleman, but not intelligent. By no means intelligent. Mentally he is negligible – quite negligible.’


Although it’s tempting to blame such acidity on the mal au foie that so grievously plagues Anatole, it’s hard not to admit that Jeeves is on to something, which brings me to point three . . .


In assessing Bertie’s intelligence – or lack of it – it’s vital to consider the caliber of his interlocutor. Compared to Jeeves, Bertie is indeed ‘mentally negligible’ – but then again, and here’s the nub, so are we all. Indeed it’s hard to think of any intellectual equal to the Oracle of Mayfair – excepting, perhaps, Mycroft Holmes or Baruch Spinoza.


Compared to Aunt Dahlia, I’d say Bertie is about par: the pair thrust and parry with equal dexterity, and although Dahlia usually gets the upper hand, this is more a reflection of pragmatic nepotic deference than intrinsic mateteral nouse.


And compared to his fellow Eggs, Beans, and Crumpets, Bertie soars above the pack. Within the intellectually hollowed halls of the Drones, Bertie is not merely primus inter pares but summa cum laude – if that’s the Latin I’m looking for.


So while Jeeves may well be correct in his assessment of Bertie’s mental negligibility, it’s a little like having one’s pizzicato critiqued by Paganini.


Point four speaks to what I consider to be the driving tension and creative genius at the heart of the Wooster canon: P.O.V.


All but two of the Jeeves and Wooster works are written from Bertie’s Point of View. And they are, by common consent compounded over a century, some of the deftest comic fiction ever inked. But how can this be, if Bertie is simply a buffoon?


No prose authored by an actual idiot would be bearable for more than a page or so – which doubtless explains why we’ve been spared the collected pensées of Charles “Biffy” Biffen. And when the P.O.V. swings to Jeeves, in Bertie Changes His Mind, the effect, to my ear at least, is oddly discordant, and the prose is certainly no finer that when the guv’nor is wielding the pen.


Samuel Johnson recounts waking one morning mortified by a bad dream in which he had been bested in a battle of conversational wit. Only as the day progressed did Johnson realise that, since it was his dream, he had supplied both sides of the dialogue, including the winning lines of his imagined antagonist. Something similar is at work in the Wooster novels, where Bertie has an oxymoronically erudite awareness of his intellectual shortcomings.


This leads me to my final point: the small but significant question of self-deprecation. Notwithstanding the amour propre of a preux chevalier, Bertie is modest enough to admit that he is “no mastermind‘ – which speaks to an insight absent from the true fool. Genuinely stupid people never doubt for a second that they possess anything less than genius – as illustrated only too starkly by the Spode-like chancers currently strutting across the global stage.


What minor modifications there may be to Bertie’s intellect, and other stylistic elements of the corpus, are the consequence of my desire to inject my homage with a shot of pith and pace. If you’ve ever seen the 1960 film Ocean’s 11 (with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr.) you’ll know that the 2001 remake (with George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon) is a little like chasing a biplane with Concorde.


Obviously, any such aggressive acceleration would ill-suit the sedate world of Wooster, but I felt that any scenario in which Bertie becomes a British spy might benefit from a glug or two of Buck-U-Uppo, if not Brinkley Sauce.

Pip pip!

~ Smarter Than Your Average Drone? ~

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