What inspired you to write Jeeves and The King of Clubs?
Unlikely as it may seem, Jeeves and The King of Clubs was inspired by Donald Trump. Or, rather, by Trump’s former butler who, in 2016, suggested that President Barack Obama be assassinated. It’s not often that butlers hit the headlines 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, 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” novel would work—after all, why would a schoolboy have a butler? And would he really be able to drink and smoke and lounge all day in clubs? What of his parents? And what of the Great War? Equally, I bridled at the idea of modern-day, twenty-first century 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.
Do we really need to read Wodehouse today?
Jeeves initially shimmied into print in 1915, during the early years of mankind’s first mechanised horror: World War One.
For over a century—through disaster, turmoil, and tragedy—the world of Jeeves and Wooster has remained tranquil, calm, and utterly untouched by the ghastly business of reality. (“I couldn’t recommend reality, sir. I fear you would not find it conducive” … as Jeeves would doubtless say.)
In Wodehouse’s perpetual Eden, the sun is always warm, the drinks are always chilled, and nothing can ruffle the soul save, perhaps, for a minor misunderstanding concerning a pair of purloined alabaster earrings.
Jeeves and Wooster are the perfect antidote to the snake-bite of reality. Have we ever needed such an antidote more?