Imagine PG Wodehouse with a twist: Could Jeeves become gamekeeper to Wooster’s poacher?

Sebastian Faulks’s homage to Woodhouse is out on Thursday

It was one of those November mornings when the heavens open like a cold shower at some below-par preparatory school and the day dawns grey and grim as one of Aunt Agatha’s frowns. Although a silver pot of the murkiest brew did its bit to lift the spirits of your special correspondent Bertram Wooster, my bleary eye then turned to the object beside the breakfast tray. A book, no less. The old heart sank a notch or two. It has a habit of doing that whenever the estimable Jeeves takes it on himself to educate his employer, who has never pretended to be the sharpest knife in the cutlery drawer.

Which weighty tome had the indispensable gentleman’s gentleman chosen to inflict on yours truly? Perchance a brain-scrambling chunk of Kant, Spinoza or some other pointy-headed Teuton of the kind Jeeves browses for a little light relief. But no: Jeeves and the Wedding Bells proclaimed a cover dressed up in a style that some chap in faded corduroys at the Slade would no doubt call “Art Deco”. Hey-ho, I thought. That amiable leech PG Wodehouse has been sucking our blood again to concoct another of those implausible tales in which Jeeves glides through every obstacle like a sleek pike in a pool. Then the plot thickened. The author’s name was “Sebastian Faulks”. I knew a Faulks at Malvern House. Rum cove: always writing stories. Had the infant scribbler returned to cash in on my literary fame?

Not before time, the oracle himself emerged to lighten our darkness.

“I say Jeeves, I thought that friend Wodehouse had a pretty tight grip on our adventures? The ‘franchise’ as our pals across the pond say. How did this Faulks fellow buy himself a slice of pie?”

That colossus of the buttling arts drew himself up to his full height. My job, I knew, was to maintain a positively golden silence as his words of wisdom wafted into the shell-like.

“Sir, perhaps I may venture a few remarks on the state of the publishing industry. Times are, it seems, hard. In such a climate the best-loved ‘brands’, as they say, shine with an ever-greater lustre. What finer ruse, then, than to invite the most esteemed authors of today to don the garb of their illustrious predecessors?  Joanna Trollope has rewritten Miss Austen’s Sense & Sensibility for the age of what are called ‘social media’. William Boyd has penned a new escapade for Commander James Bond. Sophie Hannah, a writer of ‘psychological thrillers’ and erstwhile poet, has been authorised by the estate of Dame Agatha Christie to devise a new mystery for Monsieur Hercule Poirot.”

Early as the hour was, the conjunction of those dread words “psychological” and “Agatha” almost drove me out of the house to seek solace in a stiff one at the Drones. Yet the fount of all knowledge had not yet vouchsafed me with the “low-down” on Faulks. I did not have to wait for long.

“Most unfortunately, Mr Wodehouse is unavailable for further engagements. I understand that Mr Faulks has enjoyed considerable success as an author, not least with a most affecting novel about the Great War. Moreover, he has always expressed his admiration for those stories in which the routine exercise of my professional skills has found some small favour with the reading public.”

“Dash it, Jeeves. I didn’t always like the way that Wodehouse made me look about as bright as a mole in a mine. You have to hand it to the old buffer, though: he had my lingo down to a tee.”

“A most interesting observation, sir. Peruse Mr Faulks’s preface and you will note that he has wisely eschewed any attempt at exact impersonation. He avows that he ‘didn’t want to write too close an imitation of that distinctive music for fear of sounding flat or sharp’. He has, however, taken one liberty of which I fear you will not wholeheartedly approve.”

“Which is? Out with it, Jeeves. The tenterhooks are beginning to draw blood.”

“You are the servant, sir, and I am your master.”

“ -------------.” Words did not so much fail me as hang me out to dry in a January Force Nine.

“Mr Faulks imagines, I suspect, that many readers today felt less than comfortable with such a relationship as ours unless served up with a  ‘democratic’ twist.”

“Bunkum and balderdash, Jeeves. Oofy Prosser, our resident plutocrat over at the Drones, tells me that a modest Mayfair abode such as this would now strain even the moolah-stuffed wallet of a Chicago meat-packing millionaire. ‘To him that hath’ etcetera.”

“I bow to your perspicacity, sir. It would appear that the Great British Public will happily tolerate extremes of inequality and privilege in life but likes to see them temporarily reversed in literature.”

“My sentiments entirely, Jeeves. And talking of service with a twist, surely the hour for a refreshing Green Swizzle must soon be nigh?”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

    Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

    Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea