Cbr13bingo Libations, Bingo #5 (Diagonal)
I love PG Wodehouse novels, especially the Bertie Wooster/Jeeves series, but this story featuring Uncle Fred, aka Lord Ickenham, is almost as hilarious and entertaining as the Bertie and Jeeves books. Lord Ickenham, in his 50s I think, is the sort of man who knows how to stir up trouble and then orchestrate events so as to calm the afflicted and afflict the calm. In true Wodehouse fashion, there are a number of plots (mostly involving money and love) that crisscross each other, and there’s an army of characters who seem to demonstrate the best and worst of the human condition. There’s also a couple of American petty criminals, an angry swan, a letter that everyone wants to get their hands on, and an ugly walnut cabinet. The wild ride begins with Uncle Fred, of course, and a Brazil nut.
At the Drones Club in London one day, visitor Uncle Fred, much to the amusement of the younger club members excepting his nephew Pongo, uses a slingshot and Brazil nut to shoot the top hat off of the head of prominent barrister Sir Raymond Bastable who was standing out on the street. Bastable, aka Beefy, is Fred’s wife’s half brother. Beefy can’t see whodunnit, but he knows that the Drones Club is full of the younger generation and he is furious at them all. Fred, while visiting Beefy, suggests that the way to get back at them would be to write a novel exposing their crude and uncivilized ways. Beefy takes the bait and using the pen name Richard Blunt, writes Cocktail Time. Clergy and upstanding types denounce the book for its lewd and offensive passages, thereby guaranteeing that it will become a smash hit. Beefy, who has political aspirations, is terrified of having his name associated with the smutty novel, and at Fred’s (of course) suggestion, gets his dopey nephew Cosmo Wisdom to pose as the real author of Cocktail Time. Cosmo needs money so this seems like a win win situation, but Cosmo is also a gambler and a ninny, so his secret doesn’t stay secret long. A couple of American blackmailers plan to get rich off of this information which Cosmo has provided in a letter, but they are not prepared for Uncle Fred.
Eventually, all of the characters end up in the countryside where Beefy has an estate and where Fred’s godson Johnny Pearce has an inn of sorts. Johnny, like a few other characters, is struggling with money issues and relationship problems. He also has a hideous walnut cabinet on his property that will take on some importance later in the story. It’s just a lot of fun to watch Fred as he manages his relatives and the outside visitors to the country, maneuvering surreptitiously to help young (and not so young) lovers, and ensuring that those who deserve a windfall get one. There is a lot of silliness and snappy repartee, which is to be expected with a Wodehouse story.
“You look white and shaken, like a dry martini. Something on your mind or what passes for it?”
[Fred] “Do you know what the trouble is in this world?
[Pongo] “You ought to. You’ve started most of it.”
“There’s nothing like getting married. It’s the only life, as Brigham Young and King Solomon would tell you….”
Cocktail Time is a silly, funny diversion. All the goofy characters and zany plot lines come together for a satisfying ending. It’s not quite on a par with Jeeves and Wooster, but it’s still a lot of fun.