From time to time I have a go at the Spectator literary competition. A couple of weeks ago the set task was based on the fact that Sebastian Faulks has been roped in by the Wodehouse estate to write a new Jeeves novel. We were asked to imagine the reaction of the characters on discovering that they were under new management. I’m rather chuffed this morning to discover my effort among the winners. Here it is:

We Woosters are a placable tribe, but can be forthright when rudely awakened.

‘What’s that bally racket, Jeeves?’

‘The noise sir? Birdsong.’

‘Not that noise. I mean the one that sounded like a nine-inch shell exploding at close range.’

‘A perceptive simile, sir. It was indeed such a shell, and uncomfortably near. Our new proprietor has placed us on the Western Front.’

‘Why on earth should he do that?’

‘He likes to inform his readers that war is both unpleasant and futile.’

‘Don’t they know that already?’

‘He is not, sir, a man who fears stating the obvious.’

‘Grim news, Jeeves. We’ll come through, won’t we?’

Jeeves hesitated: ‘He is, I fear, considerably fonder of pathos than the previous incumbent.’

At which a captain popped a cheerful head round the dugout door. ‘What ho! My name’s Sassoon. Has it ever occurred to you that the stars are God’s Very lights?’

These sequels to popular classics are proliferating madly, and so are money-spinners, presumably. There are an enormous number of Jane Austen sequels around, I gather. There are also jokey versions. My daughter tried reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which she said was quite funny for three pages, but then went on for a couple of hundred.
In my time, I’ve read a few attempts to add to the Sherlock Holmes canon. Some passed the time agreeably, but none were memorable. Sometimes one author has taken over another’s franchise completely – Barry Perowne continuing the adventures of Raffles, or Sydney Horler keeping Bulldog Drummond slugging baddies for a good few years after Sapper’s death.
What I find odd is when a totally different sort of writer gets roped in to produce a sequel. A year or two back Andrew Motion was commissioned to write a follow-up to Treasure Island (despite being about the least yo-ho-ho person one can imagine). I gather that the finished work conveys the message that money cannot buy you happiness. I bet the kids are amazed to learn that.
As for Faulks, he’s a very different kind of writer from Wodehouse. Maybe he’ll do it well, but today’s Wodehouse enthusiasts often make me cringe. I saw the first episode of the recent Blandings series on TV, and it was not only outrageously over-acted, but quite missed the point of Wodehouse. It began with a fart joke, and ended with a poo joke. Oh dear.


  1. Tom Deveson
    Posted April 25, 2013 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Congratulations on the parody [excellent] and the observation underlying it, and indeed the subsequent comments.

    ‘He is not, sir, a man who fears stating the obvious.’ Yes……

  2. John R Cornwall
    Posted April 25, 2013 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Well done, George.

  3. Posted April 25, 2013 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Kingsley Amis wrote a Bond novel, didn’t he? Anyone read it?

  4. frogprof12
    Posted April 25, 2013 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    I’ve read the first of Jill Paton Walsh’s “sequels” to Dorothy L. Sayers’s Wimsey novels, called “Thrones, Dominations” — actually, I think the Sayers estate may have recruited her to complete an unfinished novel — and it wasn’t bad. But it wasn’t DLS, either.
    Love the parody!

  5. Posted April 26, 2013 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    Well done indeed on your Wodehouse at the Western Front!
    While I am similarly cautious of sequels (particularly Holmes; and the prospect of a Wodehouse is not one I relish – his 90 or so books obviously do not suffice), should you ever have desire or opportunity I would highly recommend William Horwood’s four sequels to Kenneth Grahame’s ‘Wind in the Willows’. Horwood captures the Riverbank perfectly and weaves the magic of the original through his tales. He takes the story of the characters through to the end of the lives, and very nicely sets up a new generation to carry the characters onward as an ever-living symbol of Everyman. Do seek them out!

  6. Skywatcher
    Posted April 26, 2013 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    George, the estate of Wodehouse really ought to get you to continue his characters (UNCLE FRED ON THE WESTERN FRONT anyone?)

    The problem with the continuation novels is that the publishers always seem to want to get the least likely person to carry on the series. Neither Deaver or Faulks captured the essence of Ian Fleming. Weirdly, the best pastiches of his style were the novelisations of THE SPY WHO LOVED ME and MOONRAKER by Christopher Wood. He was one of the screenwriters for those films, and upon being given the opportunity to turn them into book form he made an attempt to actually sound like Fleming. The novels are a fascinating fusion of the more fanciful movie style with the style of the originals, and work surprisingly well.

    The Patton-Walsh continuations of Sayers can be a little hit-and-miss, but the most recent (THE ATTENBURY EMERALDS)is my favourite. It’s set in the 1950s, and any difference in style between this and the originals can be explained away as the changes wrought by the passage of time. It helps that Walsh obviously likes the characters without being a ‘fan-girl’.

  7. Posted April 27, 2013 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    Spot on, sir. And a Sassoon cameo! Ha! Two “ha”s!

  8. Roger
    Posted April 28, 2013 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    The problem with Jeeves and Wooster in the war is that it would become one of those books you mentioned before where the central subject is the servant who becomes his employer’s superior- General Jeeves would undoubtedly have to repeatedly intervene to save 2nd Lieutenant Wooster from court-martial.
    The best- and shortest- Bond sequel is Cyril Connolly’s Bond Strikes Camp.

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