A novel has already been written with two furry Jeeveses, but no Bertie Wooster. More exactly, a furry Heckle and Jeckle, for those who remember the old Terrytoons animated cartoon pranksters.
Pongo and Jeeves, by R. N. Varhaug.
Philadelphia, PA, Xlibris Corporation, May 2000, trade paperback $20.99 (168 pages), e-book $8.00.
The DNA of chimpanzees and humans are 98.5% identical. A mutation in only a few genes can give a chimpanzee a human-sized brain. Such a mutation would have little effect in the wild but if chance puts two such chimpanzees in a primate research center where they learn sign language and see educational TV…
What would you do if you were a chimpanzee with a human brain? A really smart human brain? Pongo and Jeeves accepted that chance had played a joke on them and they laughed right along with it. Not everybody joined in. The pompous and similar degraded specimens found that their encounters with the chimpanzees usually proved more entertaining to bystanders than to themselves…
Making the best of things, Pongo and Jeeves led full lives that included visiting Roswell as aliens, producing syndicated columns and even writing speeches for a presidential candidate. Along the way, they were able to thwart bad guys and generally do good. All told, lives well spent and justly rewarded.
Join Pongo and Jeeves. You’ll enjoy their company. (blurb)
Pongo and Jeeves are two exceptionally intelligent experimental-lab chimpanzees at a Primate Research Center, who secretly observe their observers. They let themselves out of their cages at night to play jokes on their human unsuspecting captors.
Pongo and Jeeves is essentially a Heckle and Jeckle novel with two chimpanzees instead of magpies. The main differences are that they live in a realistic human world instead of a cartoon funny-animal one. They are two British-accented Jeckles instead of one British twit and a Brooklyn heckler; and they only play pranks on bullies, thieves, the haughty, and other deserving targets instead of everyone unlucky enough to cross their paths.
All furry novels require the reader to accept some realistic implausibilities. Varhaug does a better job than do many furry writers in knowing where to anthropomorphize and where not to. Pongo and Jeeves cannot speak, no matter how intelligent they may be, because chimpanzees do not have human larynxs. Instead they communicate at first by sign language. Later they get a pair of those electronic voice boxes made for people who lose their vocal chords. This enables them to operate over the telephone and plan hoaxes involving Mysterious Voices. Here they are discussing a practical joke involving chimp poop they have just played on the Research Center’s pompous Dr. Randolph Sidonberry:
“I must say, Jeeves, that the results of our little jest greatly exceeded my most sanguine expectations.”
“Indeed they did, my boy. You don’t think it might have been a trifle juvenile, do you?”
“Well, perhaps just a trifle,” signed Pongo, “but the effect was most gratifying.”
“Yes, indeed. Most gratifying, but shouldn’t we stop picking on our Randolph?”
“Oh, I don’t know. You have a kind heart, Jeeves, and it does you credit. But our Randolph brings it on himself. He makes himself such a large and inviting balloon that I can’t help reaching for a pin. When it comes to resisting temptation,” Pongo’s voice took on a melancholy tone, “I’m not strong, you know.”
“Yes, I’ve noticed,” answered Jeeves, “We couldn’t be expected to be strong. After all, as our Randolph so often says, we’re only animals.” (pgs. 18-19)
‘Our Randolph’ stops being so funny when he notices that the two chimps show wildly varying indications of intelligence (they occasionally overdo playing stupid) and wants to have them killed and their brains autopsied. Pongo and Jeeves take the risk of revealing their intelligence to a couple of the lab’s employees who are more friendly and sympathetic to animal rights, Patricia and Thor. The latter agree to smuggle the chimps out and allow them to hide in their apartment.
Although Pongo and Jeeves try to behave themselves, two chimpanzees shut in a small urban apartment all day will quickly get cabin fever and have to do something to relieve the boredom. They surreptitiously study the apartment building’s other tenants, who soon find themselves the recipients of mysterious curses or blessings depending upon whether they have been naughty or nice.
Soon Pat and Thor get married and move to a ranch inherited from Thor’s parents. The wide open spaces, and the drive across America to get there, give the two chimps opportunities for many new adventures: impersonating a couple of Roswell-type aliens with their obviously non-human bodies, being captured and escaping from a roadside zoo, having to care for a young baby whose grandmother is felled by a stroke, and more. At the ranch, they start several successful businesses by Internet, including writing doctoral theses and political speeches. They also undertake some public-service projects for their own amusement such as exposing phony charities.
Some of the episodes do not really require non-human characters, but there are plenty where Pongo and Jeeves take full advantage of their animal natures and abilities. Varhaug throws in many little touches of plausibility. For example, when Thor invites the chimps to join him and Pat in their cross-country drive, he gets a couple of top-quality human masks from a friend in the movie FX business that will enable the chimps to pass as humans from a distance while riding in a car. A couple of the setups do stretch plausibility a bit, but since this is a fantasy-comedy it feels boorish to nitpick it too far. Varhaug tells a good, low-key story (Pongo and Jeeves actually abort a couple of their pranks when they realize that things are getting out of hand and someone could get hurt), and he brings it to a graceful conclusion when it has rambled on for long enough.
Varhaug obviously paid Xlibris its minimum fee to have Pongo and Jeeves published. The cover is bare typesetting on a white background with narrow brown & ochre strips at the top and bottom; and there are many sentences that begin with lower-case letters, indicating a lack of proofreading.