In Jeeves and the King of Clubs (Little, Brown, Nov.), Schott writes a fictional homage to P.G. Wodehouse.
What initially sparked your interest in P.G. Wodehouse and his Jeeves and Wooster books?
My father read them to me as bedtime stories when I was a little boy, and I could tell he was having fun. We laughed a lot. So even though some of the humor was too sophisticated for me at that age, I absolutely loved the language. Wodehouse’s style is quintessential. There’s nobody like him. He obviously had a love of language, and he was an elegant writer.
Did you intend to write a full-length book in the style of Wodehouse?
No. What happened was that, when it began to look like Trump was a serious presidential contender, I was inspired to write a short satirical piece about Wooster’s butler, Jeeves, meeting Trump’s butler. It ran in the Spectator in May 2016. It was very well received by readers, and got a generally positive response. I was surprised. And it inspired me to write Jeeves and the King of Clubs.
You create a plot twist in the book that has Wooster carrying out pre-WWII espionage for the British government. Did Wodehouse ever include politics in the Jeeves and Wooster series?
Not that I know of. But I couldn’t resist bringing it into the plot, because the books were written when Hitler was coming to power. The character of Spode, a buffoon, in the book is actually based on Sir Oswald Mosley, the politician who became leader of the British Union of Fascists. Bertie Wooster is also a bit of a fool, but a good-hearted one, and he helps the government in his role of spy. He’s rather hapless. Jeeves is actually the wise master of the pair.
How did you get the Wodehouse estate to authorize the book?
I wrote a sample and his heirs liked it. But I had to convince them that I would be diligently respectful of the genius Wodehouse was. I used a dictionary of historical slang, and to the best of my ability used the exact words, and the rhythm of syllables that Wodehouse wrote with. He completely inhabited his world. People are still fascinated by the era of the 1930s and 1940s. The 1990s TV series Jeeves & Wooster, starring Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry, is still popular on YouTube.
Was it difficult for you to stay true to his style and sense of humor?
Oh, it was daunting to follow in his footsteps. This is not a pastiche, but a book that mirrors Wodehouse. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had.