It may seem odd, but part of my inspiration for Vienna to Prague, 1926 is the writing of P.G. Wodehouse. I’ve talked about Wodehouse before. He’s one of my very favorite authors, certainly in my top 10. How this man can turn a phrase! It’s sublime. He writes about the silliest of silly upper crust Englishmen (and women) of the 20s and 30s, and that’s where I grab hold.
Roland is such a guy, though he’s showing his darker side in this story. This isn’t the happy-go-lucky oblivion of a Wodehouse character, this is the underbelly – the sex, drugs and jazz that doesn’t surface in Wodehouse’s work. Truth be told, it’s the language of Wodehouse I’m paying tribute to – not with finesse or elegance, merely with a few nods to his phraseology.
I see Roland as one of those ultra privileged, old money lads who hasn’t a clue – or a care – about others. He’s young, beautiful, his family is powerful, his knowledge of the world rather sheltered and confined to prep schools, universities that act more as boy’s clubs, and parties, parties, parties. He meets Henry Robert Jenkins on a train, and his first inclination is contempt.
Henry is middle class, married with two kids, and very closeted. The encounter with Roland is a bit of a mindblower, upending his world. The question is, will he ultimately benefit from this brief but provocative encounter?
I love stories set in the 20s and 30s, but always in the back of my mind are questions about the realities of life at that time. Gay men were in danger – legal, scandalous, ruinous danger. But there were also friendships, clubs, and loving and successful relationships going on behind closed doors. So which one will have a shot at true love when all is said and done?
Oh, no no! I don’t tell you. It’s more fun if you decide.