Although infinitely more famous and well-known for his stories about upper crust twit Bertie Wooster and his ever-efficient and loyal butler Jeeves, P.G. Wodehouse was no one-trick-pony. During his lifetime, stories featuring the forgetful Lord Emsworth and his brother Galahad Threepwood were almost as popular as the adventures of Wooster and Jeeves. Another popular series of short stories are all connected to each other in a manner that in its own is as familiar as Bertie Wooster getting into the kind of complicated pickle from which only Jeeves can extricate him.
These stories all begin with a variation of an established set-up: inside the Anglers’ Rest pub conversation is taking place among the customers which is then intruded upon by one Mr. Mulliner. Mr. Mulliner is more often than not described as a “raconteur” which is just a fancy word for a particularly talkative storyteller. This recurring description is partially the result of the fact that thought it is Mr. Mulliner who effectively takes over the role of narrator from the actual narrator in relating a story stimulated by the opening conversation, he is never a major character in his tale and thus little is actually known about him. Instead, his stories always bring into focus a member of his apparently quite eccentric and large family. When thinking of Mr. Mulliner, it may be somewhat help to consider him a sort of precursor to the Cliff Claven character from the TV sitcom Cheers. Though in reality the two share little, they are both examples of the type of loquacious patron who seems to frequent so many neighborhood bars.
"Best Seller" is one of Wodehouse’s “Mulliner Stories” and it first in the June 1930 edition of Cosmopolitan magazine before becoming part of the collection titled Mulliner Nights. The family member at the center is nephew Egbert Mulliner and his courtship of Evangeline Pembury. Egbert’s work as a literary critic comes into conflict with Evangeline’s unexpected success as a best-selling author which causes a rift in their relationship. The story then proceeds to become a narrative of love versus work, writer’s block, and ghostwriting beards.
Like the rest of the Mulliner stories and the Jeeves and Wooster series, “Best Seller” tells story within a self-contained world into which the realities of the world fail to intrude. The story was published less than a year following the 1929 stock market crash with which stimulate a global depression and barely a decade after the horrors of World War I, but none of the effects of that societal turbulence is reflected in the story.