Wednesday 9 September 2020

Full Moon / Pigs Have Wings

 My first pic is a bit distressing, but it does illustrate something I have mentioned before - the fragile nature of some Penguins of the 1970s and 1980s....

This is my "Ionicus" edition of Full Moon, printed in 1979. The gum used in the spine is brittle, and, as so often, the spine snapped in the process of reading, detaching whole chunks of pages. This used to happen regularly, no matter how careful you were. Oddly enough, this tragedy occurred with some titles and not others; it was as if quite different binding processes and materials were used on different books.

As the above copy is clearly not readable, I ordered a cheap copy from ebay as a substitute. This is what arrived:

I think these editions date from about the year 2000 or slightly before. I will not say much about this cover, except that it is not to my taste. It would have done as a reading copy, were it not for the type inside, which seems to me ugly - not even fully justified. There is a grim humour in the fact that the type is called Monotype Trump:

I thought I might be able to read this at a pinch, but it took me only a few lines to realise I simply couldn't; the shot was not on the board. I therefore ordered yet another copy, this one printed in 1961 with a rather jolly cover by Geoffrey Salter:

The interior type is the same as the Ionicus edition, and therefore perfect. 

But all this is beside the point. We are here to talk about Ionicus, and so we shall. This is his cover design for Full Moon, dating, I think, from 1975:

It is a mid-range Ionicus, not one of his best but far from his worst. Freddie Threepwood examines the artistic work of his friend Bill Lister and is not convinced. They are in Bill's room at the Emsworth Arms, which provides accommodation of a sturdy but not opulent nature to the passing wayfarer. The effect is rather static (unlike Geoffrey Salter's effort, for instance), but what of it? Bill is just passing through, and his shirtings are strewn negligently hither and thither.

Here is the first paragraph of this edition in good old sturdy Monotype Garamond:

I have little to say about the passage itself except to marvel at the smoothness and economy of the storytelling. Full Moon was written by Wodehouse during the Second World War, after being discharged from a German internment camp, and was published in the UK in 1947. I have recently been rereading a lot of Wodehouse's wartime oeuvre (five full novels), and while I enjoyed Full Moon I found it a little weaker than the others. It shares a whole subplot (about a mixup of jewellery to be given to a young woman for her birthday) with Joy in the Morning, which Wodehouse had finished writing immediately previous to working on Full Moon. We are familiar, of course, with his tendency to reuse ideas, but this feels like a little too much.

In my opinion, Pigs Have Wings (1952) is a much better book altogether. It is as if Wodehouse sat down and said to himself, "What is the farthest extreme I can reach with the idea of kidnapping a pig?" It ends at an extreme of delirious nuttiness which one can only stand back and admire.

Here's Ionicus's cover, which I also love:

The scene is Beach the butler's pantry, and it is pleasing to see that whatever other social changes may pass by Blandings Castle, it has at least kept its telephone technology up to a post-war date. Beach, in the process of pouring out his special port for the Hon. Galahad Threepwood, is frozen in horror as Gally propounds a shocking proposal and his niece Prudence Garland looks on, doubtful.

Here's the first few paragraphs, in Monotype Baskerville (Baskerville is far preferable to Trump):

Sometimes, especially later on, Wodehouse seemed to mislay the point of the Blandings novels, and the plot mechanisms had a feel of going through the motions. Not here, though. In my opinion, Pigs Have Wings is the last of the top-class Blandings novels.

Monday 27 July 2020

Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves / Aunts Aren't Gentlemen

I've been neglecting the Jeeves series of late, for some reason, so today let's redress the balance:

Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves (1963) is in the lower-middle ranking of the Jeeves series, in my opinion; certainly not up there with Right Ho, Jeeves or The Code of the Woosters, and lesser even than the next rank which includes such beauties as Thank You, Jeeves, but at the same time better than tired titles like Jeeves in the Offing.

It has rather the feel of a retread of The Code of the Woosters, featuring as it does Bertie paying a return visit to Totleigh Towers, including a reunion of most of that volume's cast of characters, though with variations on the old themes. Amongst the new elements is the introduction of Major Plank, first seen in the Uncle Fred novel Uncle Dynamite (1948).

Nevertheless, despite this feeling of being presented with a reheated dish of mature ingredients, there is much to enjoy in the book, including some nice turns of phrase and a somewhat startling final twist to the long-running Gussie-Madeline saga.

The cover shows Bertie in something of a classic pose: it sometimes feels as if he spends half his life hiding behind sofas, under desks, and so on, though this is an illusion, I'm sure.

Jeeves has a more cherubic look than on other covers; he seems to have suffered a change of casting more often than any other character in the Ionicus pantheon. Madeline Bassett is more or less as one imagines Madeline Bassett. It is pleasing to note that even in these trying circumstances, Bertie's monocle remains firmly in place. In general, one of Ionicus's more successful efforts (though he has baulked at drawing a floor to stand on).

The book was first published in Penguin in 1966; the Ionicus cover dates from 1975. The text is set in Linotype Granjon, with a vaguely "contemporary" effect:

The attentive reader of this blog will remember, though the vapid and irreflective reader will have forgotten, that I have something of a soft spot for the last Jeeves novel, which is also the last novel Wodehouse completed, Aunts Aren't Gentlemen (1974).

At 153 pages in the Penguin edition, it is by far the shortest of the Jeeves novels; it is probably a "novella" by the standards of the modern publishing industry. Set alongside the complications of Right Ho, Jeeves, the plot seems like that of a slightly elaborated short story.

However, this is not really a defect. In some of the novels of the 1960s, Wodehouse seemed to be straining to maintain the old level of complication, but at the same time one could sense a weariness in the writing; plot twists towards the end of Act 2 sometimes have the air of duty about them. But in his very last books from the 1970s he seemed to recognise that it was a better strategy to simplify the plot a little, as this would allow himself to enjoy himself more.

In some of the preceding Jeeves novels, Wodehouse had allowed himself to slide almost into self-parody, with an over-reliance on tricks like saying "eggs and b." and applying to Jeeves to complete a quotation or find the right word. Indeed, I recall reading that Wodehouse had read a criticism of Much Obliged, Jeeves (1971) which said as much, and he took this to heart when writing Aunts Aren't Gentlemen. The extra care taken shows. This book, a series of variations on stealing a cat, is the last sweet song of a master, beautifully shaped, and with some really lovely moments: I heartily recommend to the reader the swimming pool scene, for example.

Some have objected to the introduction of a protest march into the plot, as being out of place. I don't agree personally; Wodehouse always made gestures towards modernity in his books (e.g. a little gag in the short story "Life With Freddie" about the firm of Beatle, Beatle, Beatle and Beatle of Liverpool) and it would be a very fastidious reader who cavilled at such stuff. The character of Orlo Porter is evidently meant as a sort of Communist Spode, and there are a few anti-Communist lines in there which to me don't really work because they show too obviously Wodehouse himself speaking. But for heaven's sake, do such tiny niggles matter? No, they do not.

The book appeared in Penguin in 1977, with the above Ionicus cover. The subdued colours are lovely and somehow quite appropriate. Ionicus has taken extra care, giving us every detail including an actual honest-to-goodness floor (stone flagged with a rug, appropriate to the rustic cottage that Bertie has taken to cure his spots on the chest). I would draw your attention to the cover's relation to Ionicus's earlier (1971) cover for Carry On, Jeeves:

Just as, at the start of the saga, Jeeves had appeared mysteriously at the door to solve all Bertie's difficulties, so now, almost in mirror image, Jeeves stands at the door presenting the startled Bertie with a troublesome cat. The symmetry is surely deliberate.

(And was it also deliberate move by Wodehouse to end Aunts Aren't Gentlemen in New York, on the run from an aunt, just as Bertie had decided to remain in New York at the end of the very first story, "Extricating Young Gussie", for the same reason?)

The typeface is Linotype Times, and it begins as follows:

Ah, you can keep your breathless opening lines, your "I knew at once he was dead" and "'Hands up!' snarled the man behind the gun" and "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again." If you can read the above and not want to read on, there is no hope for you.

Sunday 28 June 2020

Blandings Castle and Elsewhere / Lord Emsworth and Others

Blandings Castle and Elsewhere ("and Elsewhere" is integral to the title, though for some reason those words never make it onto the cover) is one of Wodehouse's best short story collections and was first published in 1935.

The copy I am using was printed in 1988, hence the slightly ugly printing of Wodehouse's name which replaced the arched version earlier in the 1980s. Ionicus's design had however been published in 1971 with the Wodehouse arch. Lord Emsworth is a little plumper than usual, and the policeman is very baby-faced, but the illustration serves its purpose well in showing a dramatic moment in the first story.

The Penguin edition was first published in 1954, and the type is Monotype Garamond:

Only the first half of the book is taken up with Blandings stories; there is also an entertaining farce starring Bobbie Wickham followed by five tales of the Mulliners in Hollywood, classic depictions of that mad clime.

Lord Emsworth and Others (1937) is an even more varied selection of stories, including a Mulliner tale, a Drones Club yarn, three golf stories and three concerning that man of wrath, Ukridge; but the undoubted star is the one that comes first, "The Crime Wave at Blandings", one of the best things Wodehouse ever wrote and the inspiration for the wonderful Ionicus cover.

I am no artist, but even I can see the exquisite cunning in the design, allowing us to see the Library, the Lord, the gun and the target all together in one glance. Everything is right. Lord Emsworth, casting aside his beloved Whiffle on The Care of the Pig, has taken up the air rifle, and the Efficient Baxter, stooping to pick up a careless cigarette butt, presents too great a temptation. Strictly speaking, perspective tells us that Lord Emsworth is actually aiming some way to Baxter's right; but as I have examined this cover for over thirty years and the thought has only just occurred to me now, we needn't get too bogged down by that.

The title was first published in Penguin in 1966, and the Ionicus cover is from 1973. The type is the no-nonsense Linotype Times:

The Blandings short stories, which he called "short snorts in between the solid orgies", allowed him to develop the Castle's world. It was in "Pig-hoo-o-o-o-ey!" that Wodehouse discovered Lord Emsworth's obsession with his prize sow, Empress of Blandings; in these stories Lord Emsworth emerges as a woolly-minded hero in his own right. "The Crime Wave at Blandings", twice the length of a normal Wodehouse short story, and almost a little novella, is really the missing link between Heavy Weather (1933) and Uncle Fred in the Springtime (1939).

That's all I have to say, except that if you haven't read these stories, not only the Blandings ones but the Others and the Elsewheres, you really should.

Sunday 21 June 2020

Summer Moonshine / Money in the Bank

I've been  revisiting a number of Wodehouse's "light novels" - that is, the ones that are outside the Jeeves and Blandings series. The titles in question are: Summer Moonshine, Quick Service, Money in the Bank, and Spring Fever, written between the end of the 1930s and the end of the 1940s. I wanted to check my theory that these novels shared essentially the same plot.

I think my theory was wrong, in the end, but there are undoubtedly many links and similarities between them. The "gall of an army mule" hero who plunges into outrageous acts in pursuit of the loved one; impostures; the squire of the manor who is desperately hard up for cash; the dodgy butler; the theft that is not a theft; the "false fiancé" who sings "Trees" and is entirely without zip and enterprise; these elements recur in two or more of the titles, rise to the surface and disappear again, mingle in different combinations. I've already written about Spring Fever. Actually, I thought I'd written about Quick Service too, but I can't find it, so maybe I haven't. I'll have to rectify that, and soon.

Anyhow. Let's look at Summer Moonshine.

It's a slightly odd beast. Dating from 1937, it's from the same period as The Code of the Woosters and Uncle Fred in the Springtime: Wodehouse was at the very top of his game: and yet there is something just a little bit "off". Richard Usborne has drawn attention to the unusual sense of real bitterness shown towards the character of the Princess von und zu Dwornitzchek. The scene depicted by Ionicus above is another odd spot, touching on one of Wodehouse's weaknesses, an apparently genuine apprehension in the face of "ordinary people", depicted as a hostile mob. (You can see it popping up even in his earliest school novels.) The heroine, Jane Abbott, has rescued Mr Bulpitt, who has been bopped on the snoot and mislaid his false teeth, and brings him in to the local town, only to find her car surrounded by locals who become swiftly convinced she has half-killed the man in a road accident. There is genuine menace in the scene as the crowd threatens to start baying for her blood. And yet, elsewhere, the light Wodehouse tone is there, and in spades.

Here's the opening paragraph, in Linotype Times. The first Penguin edition was in 1966, and the illustration dates from 1972.

It's a bit startling to see a gag about weather forecasts on the BBC cropping up so early, especially as it still works.

By the way, reading Summer Moonshine shortly after the much later Company for Henry (1967) induces a certain sense of deja-vu; Walsingham Hall and Ashby Hall are clearly the same hideous building under different aliases, the selling of both being a major plot point.

Money in the Bank (1942) is a minor favourite of mine, partly but not entirely because of its unusual history: Wodehouse wrote it whilst in a German interment camp, but there are few overt traces of this in the text, unless the fact that much of the action takes place in a stately home turned health farm with a somewhat prison-like atmosphere counts in that respect. The cover, dating from 1978, is unfortunately not one of Ionicus's successes.

Lord Uffenham and Jeff Miller (the two gentlemen to the left) have much too sinister an air, and Jeff in particular has the look of a Boris Karloff fiend, which is hard to justify from the text. While the cover is not a complete failure, it's certainly a bad sign when the best feature appears to be the chair.

Here are the opening paragraphs, set in Linotype Pilgrim - an unusual choice in the Penguin Wodehouses. The title was first published by Penguin in 1964.

It is an astonishing achievement that Wodehouse was able to devise and write this typically intricate farce whilst imprisoned by a foreign power in the middle of a world war. Of course, his insouciance in the circumstances were to become a factor in his disfavour as events panned out; fortunately, that whole saga is not something I need to detail here.

Lord Uffenham, it has been found, is based closely on one of Wodehouse's fellow inmates. Otherwise, there is a very slight coarsening of tone attributable to mingling in mixed society, but not so much that you would notice if you were not being very, very sensitive about it. ("He trusted neither of them as far as he could spit, and he was a poor spitter, lacking both distance and control.")

There's just one more thing I want to mention. You may know of the Hollywood rom-com concept of the "meet-cute" - literally, the cute incident in which the couple who are about to fall in love meet. Billy Wilder talked about it in an interview. Well, Wodehouse was in his way a master of the meet-cute (see A Damsel in Distress, for instance), and Money in the Bank has possibly the most outrageous and the funniest of these. If you don't know it, I won't spoil it for you, except to mention that it involves rock-cakes.

Saturday 30 May 2020

Leave it to Psmith

This is another title that I should have done long ago....

Leave it to Psmith (1923) was, as far as I recall, the first Blandings story that I read. It was certainly the first Psmith novel I read; I think Mike and Psmith was the last, so that I read his saga more or less backwards.

Here are the opening couple of paragraphs, set in the no-nonsense Intertype Times. This title was first published in Penguin in 1953.

I have written about Psmith before, while discussing Psmith in the City and Psmith, Journalist. I'm not going to reread what I wrote then, but I feel sure I must have spoken of the strange attraction that this scion of Eton and Cambridge has. I am almost certain that I mentioned his appeal lies in his complete anarchist disrespect for the dull and authoritarian. If I did say that, I do think it is important to draw a distinction between Psmith and certain present day public figures in real life who might seem to bear a resemblance. Psmith's highly egged way of speaking has certainly had an influence on a certain generation, and I might safely and without disrespect mention Stephen Fry in this regard. The similarity holds good in his case, because the flamboyant language is there matched by a kind of integrity. In that there is a very stark contrast with Bori….. But no. I mustn't go there.

Leave it to Psmith is a slightly offbeat confection, Psmith being required to fill the role of Wodehousean romantic hero despite the fact that much of his charm lies in his complete indifference to normal emotion. He refuses to be ruffled. He never loses his unique unhinged eloquence. Psmith in love is as unimaginable as Sherlock Holmes in the same fix. However, Wodehouse does somehow makes it work, and with only one or two minor caveats this is a tale brilliantly told, a little masterpiece of the early-middle Wodehouse period.

If I do have one complaint, it is this. As part of the complicated imbroglio, Psmith is at Blandings masquerading as the poet Ralston "Across the Pale Parabola of Joy" McTodd. Psmith is in love with Eve Halliday, an old school buddy of the estranged Mrs McTodd. Psmith maintains his identity as McTodd even in conversation with Eve, and this results in his insistence that the marriage has broken down and that the absent Mrs McTodd is a violent alcoholic. It is an unpleasant and completely senseless lie, where it would have been simpler and sensibler just to say, "I am Psmith. Please keep my incognito." Would Eve really have forgiven him this cruel escapade as easily as she does in the book? Well, she does so, and Wodehouse almost makes it work, so I shouldn't repine.

The story is a variation on Wodehouse's recurring theme of "the theft that isn't really a theft" - though personally I have my doubts about Freddie Threepwood's cheerful assurance that "if a husband pinches anything from a wife, it isn't stealing." The theme goes back as early as Something Fresh (1915) and I wouldn't be surprised if it went earlier; and it goes at least as far forward as Company for Henry (1967) too, if not further. I may return to this fascinating matter at a later date.

Ionicus pulls out all stops for the cover, as he always did for Psmith. It appears to date from 1975. There is the slightest reminiscence of Joseph Wright of Derby in the single light source illuminating the faces from below. To the right, Psmith (here called Ronald Eustace Psmith, though we know from earlier episodes that he is actually Rupert) is holding forth and in control, as usual. Eve Halliday is appealing and 1920s-ish next to him. To the left are two career criminals, Edward Cootes and Aileen Peavey (prototypes of Soapy and Dolly Molloy from Sam the Sudden and other chronicles), though I'm not so sure Ionicus has made Cootes as tough as I would like. The composition is, as you can see, beautiful.

Saturday 9 May 2020

Uncle Fred in the Springtime / Service with a Smile

Uncle Fred in the Springtime (1939) is undoubtedly in the top rank of Wodehouse's novels. It is also the first to feature a visit by Frederick Altamont Cornwallis Twistleton, fifth Earl of Ickenham, otherwise known as Uncle Fred, to Blandings Castle.

If it were the cover of a Victorian penny dreadful, it would have the simple yet dramatic caption: "Mustard! Stop!" Even without knowing this, it is easy enough to see that Uncle Fred is trying to warn his old friend "Mustard" Pott not to drink the brandy, being, as it is, spiked with a knock-out drop. Uncle Fred has something of a military bearing, but is unmistakable. Mustard does not perhaps have all he might have of the Silver Ring Bookie about him, but that is mere splitting straws. This cover probably dates from 1972, to judge by the reprint dates, and it is vintage Ionicus, from the interior details (Blandings seems to favour paintings of the Impressionistic school in the Garden Suite; even the carpet is Pointillist) to the dapper correctness of the figures and the typical choice of a moment of drama from very late in the plot.

Here is the opening paragraph, set in Monotype Garamond, typical of the Wodehouses first published in Penguin in the 1950s (this was Penguin-published in 1954):

It is wonderful how, without having described anything very much, Wodehouse has drawn the reader in and made the said reader want to know more.

Having reread Uncle Fred in the Springtime a couple of weeks ago, I have been reminded how superbly it is written, especially in the first half. (In my opinion, there are slightly too many complications in the second half; but it is of course still wonderful.) There is in this book that carefree pre-War feeling which, perhaps, he was never quite able to touch again.

If I were to set down a few words about Uncle Fred, I would say just this. I love him as a character, and he is very funny, but I am very glad he is not my uncle. I always sympathise very much with his nephew Pongo in this respect.

I tend to think of Uncle Fred as a more or less constant visitor to Blandings, but on checking my facts I find that he only made two excursions to that balmy locale, the second in Service with a Smile (1961).

Here I must confess to some embarrassment. I used to have this copy, and I was convinced I still did. I hunted all round for it. But, at last, I have had to come to the conclusion that I must have sold it on - though not before taking a scan of the cover. As far as I can tell, it was first published in Penguin in 1966 and the Ionicus cover seems to date from about 1975. As I foolishly did not scan the reverse of the title page or the first page of the text there is nothing more I can tell you about the edition.

Wodehouse's novel itself is from that uncomfortable transition period in his late oeuvre when his imagination seemed to sag and he was attempting to recreate earlier glories, succeeding only in pale imitations. The prose always remained limpid and perfectly balanced, but somehow the zest was gone. In my opinion some of the still later books, from the mid-1960s onwards, found a new, relaxed style, with simpler plots and less straining for effect. These, then, are some of my excuses for not having kept hold of this particular book, which has such a wonderful cover. Another reason is that I was convinced I had already "done" it for the blog.

Here is our only sighting of the station of Market Blandings in the Ionicus portfolio. We are in a rural backwater, but there is still activity, and the porter has an excellent moustache. The character studies of Uncle Fred, Lord Emsworth and (if I mistake not) American tycoon James Schoonmaker are in every respect perfect. What all those parcels and crates are doing strewn negligently about the platform is more than I can say, but perhaps it is merely artistic licence.

Tuesday 7 April 2020

Sam the Sudden / Company for Henry

This Penguin edition of Sam the Sudden (1925), first printed in 1974 and here in a reprint from 1978, includes a Preface written by Wodehouse in 1972. It starts "I have always been particularly fond of this one." I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment.

Despite a mannequin-like suggestion in the figure of Sam above (Ionicus's old failing) I do like this cover. The details in the décor, and the maid Claire's impassiveness in the face of Sam's excitement (this is a key moment when he realises he is in the house of the woman he has fallen in love with from afar), are very well done. I like the detail of the half-eaten toast which has fallen onto the carpet!

Wodehouse is of course associated with the lives of the upper crust, with toffs and their servants, enormous country houses with 52 rooms and 365 windows (366 in leap years), and so on; but he could also deal with life at a lower and more familiar level, and I especially like his Valley Fields novels, of which this is the first. Valley Fields was a very thinly disguised Dulwich, which he knew from his education at Dulwich College.

(Rereading the book a few days ago, I noticed a reference to "the faint grunting of a train as it climbed the steep gradient of Sydenham Hill." A quick glance at Google Maps shows that Sydenham Hill is the station before West Dulwich. Wodehouse must have heard the sound of that grunting train often when he was at the College.)

It is a novel of semi-detached existence, and I have always imagined the two houses Mon Repos and San Rafael to be very like the house of my parents and the house next door, though of course we didn't have a maid (!) or anything of that nature.

The hero Sam Shotter is himself a transatlantic character, brought up in England but first seen in New York. This is how the tale begins:

The type is Linotype Times, with a no-nonsense look to it that is typical of the Wodehouse titles added to Penguin's repertoire in the 1970s. I would note in passing that the opening paragraph, nine lines long, consists of a single sentence as smooth and seemingly effortless as a very smooth and effortless thing. This is typical of the easy flow of the writing throughout.

Sam the Sudden has plot similarities with other Wodehouse works of the period, including The Girl on the Boat (1922) and Bill the Conqueror (1924), but is superior to them both, more assured and less flawed. The introduction of the suburban note adds reality to the absurd and unreal doings described. There are at least two absolutely outrageous coincidences in the plot, but the reader accepts them cheerfully.

Forty-two years later, Wodehouse published Company for Henry (1967). Reading this immediately after Sam the Sudden, as I have done, emphasises the sad contrast between them. Nevertheless, I have always had a fondness for Company for Henry, and maybe that is in large part due to Ionicus's charming cover (dating from 1980):

It's one of Ionicus's best "group photo" covers, a study in green.

Here's the opening paragraph, and again we're in Linotype Times:

This time round, the opening paragraph is only seven lines, consisting of three sentences. Still, though the breath may be slightly shorter, the tone is still there, including a nice modern-period gag about Ben Casey (according to Wikipedia, "An American medical drama series that aired on ABC from 1961 to 1966"). 

I know some people rather object to Wodehouse making any reference at all to post-WW2 matters, but after all, he always made a point of current references. If he could jest about Hitler's moustache and puffed-up British Fascists in the 1930s, why not Ben Casey and the Beatles in the 1960s? Today, these too are quaint period references; and after all, dash it, he was P.G. Wodehouse! It was his privilege to choose what to write, and our privilege to read.

Nevertheless, let us be honest. This is one of Wodehouse's weaker late-period works He was in his mid-eighties and he felt the waning of his powers. He confessed somewhere that he no longer had the sustained imagination to create big comic scenes. He also had a tendency to "write short" - to set down events briefly and sparely, for instance writing the dialogue baldly and with hardly any of the narrative interjections that in his earlier works give spice and humour to the proceedings. 

These are factors that the reader should bear in mind when tackling any of Wodehouse's later novels, but what is unusual in Company for Henry is the level of frank self-borrowing. Whole passages are transplanted with minor variations from earlier works, especially Sam the Sudden and The Small Bachelor (1927). For instance, an episode from Sam the Sudden in which the hero rescues a cat from a tree becomes the "meet-cute" at the start of Company for Henry. Here is another passage from Sam the Sudden:

… which becomes after only the smallest adjustment the following in Company for Henry:

Nevertheless, there is much to savour in the later book, including some nice new one-liners, and afterwards, it is perhaps the atmosphere of it - deckchairs on the lawn, leisurely tomfoolery about the theft of a paperweight, romance and sunshine - that remains. In these times, who could ask for anything more?