Uncle Dynamite

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First edition (UK)

Uncle Dynamite is a novel by P. G. Wodehouse, first published in the United Kingdom on October 22, 1948 by Herbert Jenkins, London, and in the United States on November 29, 1948 by Didier & Co., New York.[1] It features the mischievous Uncle Fred, who had previously appeared in Uncle Fred in the Springtime (1939).

Plot[edit]

Frederick Altamont Cornwalis Twistleton, fifth Earl of Ickenham, known to all as Uncle Fred, is on the loose once again (Lady Ickenham having decamped for a wedding in Trinidad), and Reginald ("Pongo") Twistleton, his long-suffering nephew (and Drones Club member) has every right to be petrified.

Uncle Fred has just arrived at Ashenden Manor, home of Sir Aylmer Bostock, Pongo's future father-in-law. Pongo is already in residence and has committed two rank floaters: accidentally smashing a whatnot from Sir Aylmer's collection of African curios, and (in the course of demonstrating how Brazilian natives kill birds with rude slings) smashing a coveted bust of his host.

Pongo's solution is to replace the busted bust with another one, abstracted from Ickenham hall. But unknown to him, the replacement bust was fashioned by his former fiancée Sally Painter, and conceals valuable jewellery that a friend of hers was planning to smuggle through New York Customs.

Sally tries to replace the bust with another of Sir Aylmer she sculpted (but had had returned to her, after an unfortunate incident relating to her brother Otis' publication of Sir Aylmer's memoirs), but this comes to naught, and both busts end up in Sir Aylmer's collection room.

Uncle Fred sees these not as reverses, but as opportunities to show his stuff. Having met Bill Oakshott (the nominal owner of Ashenden Manor, but under the thumb of his uncle Sir Aylmer) on the train, he contrives to get invited to the house—under the name of Major Brabazon-Plank. Unfortunately, the local Constable, Harold Potter, happens to have grown up with Major Plank (and also happens to remember arresting Uncle Fred and Pongo at the dog races under the names of Edwin Smith of Nasturtium Road, East Dulwich). Potter, intimately tied to the household through his fiancée, the housemaid Elsie Bean, becomes suspicious, and watches the house.

Uncle Fred's tasks before him are to snatch the bust for Sally Painter; get Sir Aylmer to drop his suit against Otis, so Sally will not lose the money she invested in his firm; convince Pongo to turn down Hermione Bostock and marry Sally instead; restore Bill Oakshott to his place as head of his family home; and convince Constable Potter not only to not arrest him, but indeed to quit the force so he and Elsie Bean may live happily ever after. The only obstacles in his way are the real Major Brabazon-Plank and the irresistible opportunity to judge the Bonnie Babies competition at the Ashenden Oakshott Fête.

Bill Oakshott finds inspiration in the dominant hero of Ethel M. Dell's 'The Way of an Eagle'. This real-life female novelist was a model for another of Wodehouse's characters, Rosie M. Banks.

The story has also been adapted as a serial in six half-hour episodes for BBC Radio 4, starring Richard Briers as Uncle Fred and Hugh Grant as Pongo, with narration by Paul Eddington.

Uncle Fred and Pongo would return in Cocktail Time (1958) and Service With a Smile (1961).

References[edit]

  1. ^ McIlvaine, E., Sherby, L.S. and Heineman, J.H. (1990) P.G. Wodehouse: A comprehensive bibliography and checklist. New York: James H. Heineman, pp. 82-83. ISBN 087008125X

External links[edit]