Thursday, February 17, 2011
Something New (aka: Scarab, Scarab, Who's Got the Scarab?)
Something New (1915) is the first installment of P. G. Wodehouse's Blandings Castle stories. This story follows Ashe Marson into the drafty halls of Blandings Castle, where he will try to make "something new" of his life by purloining a rare Egyptian scarab — all for the best motives, of course.
Ashe Marson is a hack writer who churns out pulp detective stories which involve The Adventures of Gridley Quayle. Tired of this life, but not quite knowing what to do about it, he makes the acquaintance of his upstairs neighbor Joan Valentine. She prompts him to action: "Read the papers. Read the advertisement columns. I'm sure you will find something sooner or later. Don't get into a groove. Be an adventurer. Snatch at the next chance, whatever it is." And he does. After reading and answering the following want ad:Wanted--Young Man of Good Appearance who is poor and reckless, to undertake delicate and dangerous enterprise. Good pay for the right man.
He finds himself in the employ of J. Preston Peters. He will appear as this American millionaire's valet on a trip to Blandings Castle, but his real mission will be to steal back a priceless scarab which has made its way into Lord Emsworth's collection through a series of misadventures. What follows is a delightful romp through the halls of the English country home...it seems everyone in the Castle has a reason to be roaming about at night and what should be a very simple little matter of picking up the scarab (it's not even in a locked case) and stowing it away in a handy pocket becomes a veritable circus of unlikely events. Who knew so many people would be interested in the scarab?
This may be early Wodehouse, but he is already on the top of his game with ready wit and impossible situations. I found myself chuckling throughout the entire piece. The night-time adventure involving Baxter (Lord Emsworth's impeccable secretary), a bottle of wine, a bit of cold tongue and various bits of crockery and furniture is the highlight of the adventure. I look forward to future adventures at Blandings Castle as I make my way through the remainder of my Wodehouse Challenge books. Four stars.