Mr. McGee

Created by P.G. Wodehouse
(1881-1975)

MR. McGEE is yet another “private eye” from the creator of Jeeves, the ultimate valet (or as he would have it, the ultimate “gentleman’s gentleman”).

Not that the genial Wodehouse ever really wrote a genuine hard-boiled detective story in his life – in fact, some would say he was patently incapable of such a thing. Still, “Mr. McGee’s Big Day,” a short story published in the November 1950 issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, comes awful close at times. McGee, the monosyllabic house detective at the Hotel Delehay, is the very embodiment of dispassionate, a man who sees all but — in true tough guy fashion — gives away little. Not to his wife, not to the police, not to anyone.

Written at the tale end of the 1940s (Milton Berle is even mentioned in passing), Wodehouse’s wordy, oh-so-proper, stff upper lip prose style and his insistence on referring to Mr. McGee as a “house dick” makes for a pretty fair — if unique — approximation of a hard-boiled style.

I mean, McGee actually gets gets KO’ed by a suspicious character in a fashion that should be familiar to any fan of the genre — or Saturday morning cartoons:

… the marble globe, after tottering on its base, fell squarely on Mr. McGee’s head giving him a strange, dreamlike feeling. Stars were whirling before his eyes, and there seemed to be an unusual number of birds singing in the vicinity.

SHORT STORIES

  • “Mr. McGee’s Big Day” (November 1950, EQMM)

COLLECTIONS

  • Wodehouse Detective Writer (1993)

RELATED LINKS

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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