Henry James says that the short story, being so condensed, can give a particularized perspective on both complexity and continuity.
I’ve paired James and Wodehouse partly because I can’t help thinking ‘The Master’ would be outraged, while Wodehouse would be tickled pink, and partly because “complexity and continuity” captures perfectly the essence of a Wodehouse story. Blandings will never change: the inadequacies of foolish young men and officious private secretaries will always be overcome by a combination of smart, attractive young women and the apparently accidental interventions of the ninth Earl; there will never be a tenth; the Empress will sicken and fatten, but never be slaughtered for pork chops. That we know all this is part of the joy, allowing us to wallow in the glory of the comic engineering like … well, like pigs in mud.
There are those, of course, who prefer the world of Jeeves and Wooster, and a handful with a soft spot for Psmith, against whom I say nothing; but for me, in the short form at least, nothing Wodehouse wrote could better ‘The Crime Wave at Blandings’.
First appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, October 1936, and the Strand, January 1937. It was included in the collection Lord Emsworth and Others, 1937, which is currently available from Everyman, 2002. The story is included in a number of collections and available alone as a ‘Penguin Modern Mini Classic’, Penguin, 2011