Friday, May 17, 2013

FFB: Scream for Jeeves - P.H. Cannon

Sheer serendipity, this one. Was in the library looking for something completely different and saw the title of this little book just to the left of some Victor Canning books. P. G. Wodehouse's best loved characters entering the world of the Cthulhu Mythos? How could I resist?

The subtitle for Scream for Jeeves (1995), seen on the book's cover, is "A Parody" and that it is. With Bertie Wooster narrating, Jeeves supplying his usual brand of wry wit and wise advice, and creatures from other dimensions, seen and unseen,  looming ominously in the background it's not exactly going to be all that terrifying. Especially when Cannon creates absurdly apt characters like Captain Tubby Norrys who "resembled one of those Japanese Sumo wrestlers after an especially satisfying twelve course meal" and who "shook in gratitude like a jelly -- or more precisely like a pantry full of jellies." The juxtaposition of Wodehouse and Lovecraft does make for some bizarreness. Witness this section taken from the first story "Cats, Rats and Bertie Wooster":

"The walls are alive with nauseous sound--the verminous slithering of ravenous, gigantic rats!" exclaimed the master of the manse.

"You don't say. As a child I think I read something about a giant rat of Sumatra--or at any rate, a passing reference."


Towards the end of the story Jeeves pronounces a typical warning to the reader found in all of Lovecraft's work: "We shall never know what sightless Stygian worlds yawn beyond the little distance we went, sir, for it was decided that such secrets are not good for mankind."

You get the idea. It's lightweight parody getting just the right flavor of a frothy airy cappuccino. In addition to pastiches of Wodehouse and Lovecraft there are allusions to the work of Arthur Machen, Conan Doyle, Poe and even "Fawlty Towers." I had a fun evening reading the tales. Knowledge of both Wodehouse and Lovecraft is not all that necessary, but I imagine the enlightened and well read will better appreciate the stories.

There are three stories in the brief volume, the other two are "Something Foetid" and "The Rummy Affair of Young Charlie."  The book concludes with the essay "The Adventure of Three Anglo American Writers" in which Cannon -- who claims membership in three societies devoted to Conan Doyle, Wodehouse and Lovecraft -- describes among many observations, the friendship between Doyle and Wodehouse; Lovecraft's admiration for Sherlock Holmes; Wodehouse's familiarity with Lord Dunsany's stories; and manages to find similarities in the works of all three writers. Sometimes Cannon is convincing in his analogies, sometimes he stretches them far too thin.

The Jazz Age style illustrations are by J.C. Eckhardt. The homage to the two writers extends even to paired initials in the book's creators.

4 comments:

  1. This really does sound like fun John, and I say that as someone who is both tolerant of pastiches in general but also nearly always disappointed by them as they so often miss the mark in terms of either tone or style. Sounds like Peter cannon known his Lovecraft well if the Wikipedia page os to be believed: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Cannon

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  2. This looks incredibly good, John. I especially like the illustration with all the fellows on the stairs with flashlights.

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  3. As you might guess, this one has had quite a currency in many circles since publication...

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