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This morning I had trouble waking up. As usually happens when I am lying groggily in bed, I longed for the ministrations of Jeeves. If only he would shimmer in on soft feet, bearing a steaming cup of Darjeeling, I knew I could leap from bed, like Bertie Wooster, with a merry cry…


The immortals: Hugh Laurie as Bertie and Stephen Fry as Jeeves.

Wodehouse is, in my opinion, the funniest writer in the English language. Whatever’s getting you down, he’ll make you smile, giggle, titter, snort and guffaw. The TV series is definitive, not because the scripts are ideal (toward the end of the series, they are not) but because the performances by Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry are so true to the characters.

My favorite Jeeves stories are the ones featuring “amateur dictator” and leader of the “Black Shorts,” Roderick Spode. Spode, who covets the sickeningly sentimental Madelyn Bassett, looks “as if Nature had intended to make a gorilla, and had changed its mind at the last moment.” On several occasions, he threatens to beat Bertie “to a jelly.” The one-time owner of a women’s lingerie shop, Spode is at pains to keep this information secret, but Jeeves discovers it in the archives of the Junior Ganymede Club.


Roderick Spode, as played by John Turner.

My book London Broil contains a tribute to Wodehouse and Spode in the character of Rodney Belmont-Speck, who threatens to beat his rival Nolly “to a miserable jelly.” Rodney’s mother Angela observes, “I have a maternal fondness for whatever is small and ugly. Roddy fails to meet the former criterion, but he certainly fulfills the latter. I sometimes fancy that he’s a genetic throwback. He is rather gorilla-like, don’t you agree?”

For Christmas, I treated myself to the new boxed set of Jeeves and Wooster. I’m looking forward to Bertie and Jeeves’ rendition of “Minnie the Moocher.”