Quick service restaurants

Quick Service

Quick Service is a novel by P. G. Wodehouse, first published in the United Kingdom on October 4, 1940 by Herbert Jenkins, London and in the United States on November 11, 1940 by Doubleday Doran, New York.

Although it doesn't feature any of Wodehouse's regular characters or settings, it is a typically Wodehousian comedy, featuring impoverished but romantic youths, wealthy but grouchy relatives, charming and resourceful friends, chirpy criminals, country houses, imposters, servants etc.

Plot and characters

Most of the action occurs at Claines Hall in Sussex, the country seat of Mrs and Mr Steptoe of Los Angeles. The story revolves around:

  • Howard Steptoe, an ex-boxer, who resolutely resists all attempts at smartening him up by...
  • Mabel, his bitter-three-quarters, who is socially ambitious and has with her, acting as factotum...
  • Sally Fairmile, her impoverished niece, who is secretly engaged to...
  • George, Lord Holbeton, (formerly of the name of Trotter), an exquisitely turned out young man and a confirmed crooner of Trees, whose guardian is...
  • Mr James Duff, of Duff and Trotter, owners of Paramount Hams, who was, in his distant youth, engaged to...
  • Mrs Chavendar, sister-in-law of Mrs Steptoe, apparently having the green stuff in sackfuls, and currently residing in Claines Hall, who has had her imperious self painted by...
  • Joss Weatherby, an artist earning his daily bread in the Art section of Duff's establishment, who goes to Claines Hall as a valet to the tough owner, to be near the Fairmile girl, who he loves, and shares the space in Servants hall with...
  • Chibnall, the worthy butler also an ex-boxer, with a proclivity for romantic novelettes, who is engaged to...
  • Vera Pym, a barmaid addicted to thrillers.

Mrs Chavendar, upon consuming a forkful of ham, pronounces it unfit for human consumption, and decides to call ham, ham, to Duff's face. This doesn't suit George, who is hoping to get his guardian to fork out money to allow him to trot up the aisle. So, young Sally rallies around to avert the disaster, and so meets Joss.

When the two come face-to-face, Cupid does quick work on Joss, a red-blooded, efferevescent young man, and he jumps at the opportunity of playing valet at Claines Hall. Getting his employer, that tough-egg, Steptoe, to waltz to his tune is but a moment's work for Joss, who uses Howard's Achilles' heel of playing dice (and losing dearly) to turn the relationship Damon-and-Pythias-esque.

Duff, to promote his ewe lamb, Paramount Hams, conceives the brilliant idea of using Mrs Chavendar's portrait to hypnotise masses into eating P Ham, but is stymied by Mrs Steptoe who refuses to sell it, for the fear of inviting the subject's disapproval, and hence increasing the possibility of not inheriting the pots of gold.

Duff, a man with a single idea, eventually gets both Sally and Joss working on stealing the portrait - Sally having been told that the flame of old love is still flickering, and Joss having been moved by the homesickness of Mr Steptoe. In the meanwhile, Chibnall grows suspicious of Joss, the ideas fuelled by the romantic mind of his fiancee, who has encountered Duff in a false moustache.

Is true love rewarded? Does Duff get Mrs Chavendar's painting? Will Mr Steptoe return to his homeland, away from the stifling stiffs?

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