Created by P.G. Wodehouse
P.G. Wodehouse wrote nearly 100 books, almost all of them comic novels. He’s best known, of course, for creating the characters of Jeeves, the ultimate valet (or as he would have it, the ultimate “gentleman’s gentleman”) and perennial upper class twit, Bertie Wooster, as well as other memorable figures such as the charmingly foppish Psmith, get-rich-quick schemer Ukridge, the loquacious Mr. Mulliner, and the various cloth-headed denizens of Blandings Castle and the Drones’ Club.
But the genial Wodehouse certainly never wrote a genuine hard-boiled detective story in his life – in fact, some would say he was patently incapable of such a thing – so what is he doing here? Well, virtually every one of Wodehouse’s many stories and novels takes place in the same interconnected little world, and given Wodehouse’s continued reliance on farcical plots involving impersonations, mistaken identities and stolen heirlooms, it’s only natural that a private detective would be called in at least occasionally to sort out at least some of the strange goings-on. And indeed, it turns out that several desperate characters in the Wodehouse canon employed the services of rather shifty private detective Percy Pilbeam over the years.
But also seen from time to time in Wodehouse’s books is one J. SHERINGHAM ADAIR, a private detective with even fewer scruples than Pilbeam. “Adair” is actually a pseudonym for conman Alexander “Chimp” Twist, who has merely opened up the Tilbury Detective Agency as a front. Twist, you see, has made the happy discovery that rich people will often approach respectable-looking private detectives with their problems — and that a confidence trickster who is on his toes can turn these rich people’s problems into cold, hard cash via blackmail, theft, extortion or good old-fashioned chicanery and deceit. Twist also tries running a health farm in Money For Nothing, with a similar eye towards exploiting his wealthy clientele, but he thereafter returns to his tried-and-true PI scam. No matter what the con is though, Chimp Twist is invariably shadowed by his American criminal associates Soapy and Dolly Molloy. Sometimes the Molloys are working in league with Twist, but more often they’re trying to out-con the conman and make off with all the proceeds of Twist’s latest enterprise.
Like Pilbeam, Adair/Twist is a supporting player in all of his appearances rather than a lead, but his continuing presence in Wodehouse’s world over a span of nearly half a century makes him worthy of mention.
- Sam in the Suburbs (1925; aka “Sam the Sudden”) | Buy this book
Originally serialized June 13-July 18, 1925, The Saturday Evening Post; also features Percy Pilbeam.
- Money For Nothing (1928) | Buy this book
- Money In The Bank ( 1941, serialized in The Saturday Evening Post)
- Ice In The Bedroom (1961)
- Pearls, Girls and Monty Bodkin (1972, aka “The Plot That Thickened”)
- P.G. Wodehouse: P.I. Writer
Strange but true.
- Famous Dabblers in the Form
Non-P.I. writers who have taken a whack at the genre.