It's strange to think it of Wodehouse, who was so prolific in his writing and who made it look so easy, but sometimes he just ran out of plots. A small but significant number of his books are based on the works of other hands. A good example is Barmy in Wonderland (1952), known in the USA as Angel Cake, and based on the George S. Kaufman stage comedy The Butter and Egg Man (1925).
Doctor Sally (1932) is based on Good Morning, Bill (1927), which was itself an adaptation of a Hungarian play by Ladislaus Fodor. As such, it has some elements that don't quite sit with the Wodehouse atmosphere - some slightly fruity gags, and an actual definite theme about sexual equality. But the writing itself is, of course, glorious.
It isn't long enough to be called a novel - it's really a novella, 121 pages long in the Penguin edition. The wonderful Ionicus cover seems to date from 1975, and shows the hotel room of the hero, Bill Bannister, just as he is introduced to Doctor Sally Smith at a moment of high drama. Wodehouse is full of what an old school Hollywood writer like Billy Wilder would call "meet cutes", and this is not the worst of them. The Ionicus virtues of meticulously drawn furnishings and perspectives, with a view of the fictitious Bingley-on-Sea peeping through in the background, are combined with a sure feeling (not always apparent in Ionicus) of the telling moment - the moment when their eyes meet. Don't worry about the broken crockery - the explanation would be more complex than it is worth.
Here's the opening paragraph - Monotype Baskerville, with chapter headings a rather soothing italics:
Do Butlers Burgle Banks? was published in 1968, but like Doctor Sally it was the product of plot-block, being based on a play by Guy Bolton. (The lamentable Ring for Jeeves was also based on a Bolton script.) I haven't read Do Butlers Burgle Banks? recently, and to be truthful I don't feel like doing so now, having sad memories of disappointment last time. But it must be admitted Ionicus did the book proud:
The street scene has a little echo of Ionicus's charming Dalesman covers such as this one....
… especially in the steep sloping pavement (which seems more appropriate to the Yorkshire Dales than to Worcestershire, where the novel is set). The scene depicted illustrates the title very clearly: well, do they? This particular example of the butlerine species is accompanied, rather improbably, by a Chicago gangster, and here, if you don't mind, I will draw a veil over proceedings. I will only say that the moment depicted may be described as a meet-uncute.
Do Butlers Burgle Banks? is set in Monotype Times, giving it a more austere look than Doctor Sally:
I'm sorry for the long hiatus in updating this blog. Perhaps, dear reader, an annual update is the most you should expect. Things do get in the way, don't they? In the meantime, happy new year!