H. H. (Hector Hugh) Munro (18 December 1870 14 November 1916), better known by his pen name Sakinote , was a British writer of over 100 short stories, three novels (The Unbearable Bassington, When William Came, and The Westminster Alice), and three plays (The Death-Trap, Karl-Ludwig's Window, and The Watched Pot). Full of sarcasm, wit, and Black Comedy, the influence of Oscar Wilde shows through in his work— and he, in turn, is a major influence on writers like P. G. Wodehouse and Dorothy Parker. Well known for the blackly comic twist ending, his own death was strangely resonant - during World War One he yelled at another man to put a light out, because there was a German sniper about... and he got shot, not the man with the light.
His work has entered the public domain, so a little searching will make all his stories available.
This author's works include examples of:
- Ambiguously Gay: Most of Saki's young male leads, particularly Clovis Sangrail and Reginald [last name never given] may appear this way to some people. Clovis does has a female accomplice, Agnes Resker, who appears from time to time. Saki himself is often thought to have been homosexual.
- Blackmail: Several stories, including "Mrs. Packeltide's Tiger" and "The Treasure Ship". Though it's never called that, oh no.
- The Dandy: A lot of the young male leads, Reginald in particular (such as in his self-named debut story).
- The Edwardian Era: All but a very few of the stories are set in this time.
- Deadpan Snarker: So many characters it would be trouble to list them all, but his male leads qualify, and there's a particularly fine example in The Unbearable Bassington in the person of Lady Caroline Benaresq.
- Funetik Aksent: Not used often, but does turn up sometimes with characters whose first language isn't English (the artist in "On Approval") or native speakers who are impoverished or otherwise ill-educated (the poor children in "Morlvera").
- The Gadfly: Many of the aforementioned snarkers are this as well. Reginald is a particularly good example in his first, self-titled story, where he breaks up a party he didn't particularly want to be invited to.
- The Gambling Addict: Most adult Saki protagonists enjoy games with stakes, such as playing bridge for points, horse-racing ("A Bread and Butter Miss", "A Matter of Sentiment") and suchlike, but some take it too far: "The Stake" ends up with a cook lost on a baccarat bet and "Fate" has someone bet more than he can afford on a billiards game where the odds-on favorite is having a bad day; he takes desperate measures to avoid paying out.
- A different gambling addict story is "The Way to the Dairy", where a trio of sisters would like their aunt to cut a gambling nephew out of her will. To show her his dissipated ways, they take her to a casino. And then it turns out the aunt really enjoys gambling and just had never had the opportunity before...
- Kids Are Cruel: Quite a few, most notably in "The Strategist" and "The Penance" (as Disproportionate Retribution). Not that Saki is not on their side.
- Kindhearted Cat Lover: Saki may well have been one in life, given the affectionate depictions of them in various stories.
- Liberty Over Prosperity: Explored, in a downplayed way, in several stories where a character realizes that their upper-middle-class life is ultimately rather stifling. A particularly sad example is "The Mappined Life", which also uses a variation of the Caged Bird Metaphor.
- Mars and Venus Gender Contrast: Through many stories, but most thoroughly displayed in "The Sex That Doesn't Shop".
- My Beloved Smother: Several, though the most unpleasant example (in "Sredni Vashtar") is the protagonist's adult cousin and appointed guardian.
- Naughty Is Good: Saki is very sympathetic to children who don't put up well with pointless rules or useless adults. The best example is Nicholas in "The Lumber-room", who has a far better day than his good cousins and little brother (and his disciplining aunt), but there's also "The Storyteller", where three kids on a train are bored by their stuffy nanny and keep acting up. Another passenger calms them down by telling them "an inappropriate story", which they love. "Sredni Vashtar" can be read as a very dark example of this.
- Passive-Aggressive Kombat: In a world as full of social jockeying as the one Saki describes, this is inevitable. Most of it is Snark-to-Snark Combat, but some takes the form of one-upmanship via hobbies like hunting ("Mrs. Packeltide's Tiger") or gardening ("The Occasional Garden").
- Stylistic Suck: Saki enjoyed giving examples of ridiculous poetry such as "Reginald's Rubiyat" and Clovis Sangreal's work in "The Recessional". The Silly Love Songs in "The Secret Sin of Septimus Brope" might also qualify.
- Take That!: The Westminster Alice is an Alice in Wonderland parody that takes potshots at the prominent politicians of the time.
- Saki also slams George Bernard Shaw in "The Infernal Parliament" and The Unbearable Bassington.
- Troll: Saki himself, and even more explicitly, his characters Reginald and Clovis pretty much exist to wind people up.
Individual stories contain examples of:
- Alternate History: When William Came retroactively falls into this category, as it speculates on life in London when, instead of the grinding continent-wide slaughter that was World War I, the Germans win a stunningly fast victory over England ("William" is Kaiser Wilhelm II).
- Baleful Polymorph: "Ministers of Grace." It has overtones of Grand Theft Me, as politicians' minds are put in animal bodies and angels take their place.
- Bolivian Army Ending: When William Came ends with, evidently, the beginning of a youthful uprising against the German occupiers.
- Cats Are Superior: "The Achievement of the Cat" is an essay where Saki praises the cat for its ability to keep much of its wonderful wild nature in the heart of civilization, even while taking advantage of all the comforts humans can provide for them.
- Downer Ending: The Unbearable Bassington ends with Comus's mother receiving word that he has died. And her prized painting is a forgery.
- Forbidden Fruit: Exploited in "Filboid Studge, or the Mouse that Helped", where an advertiser comes up with a way to boost the sales of a foul-tasting health food.
- It Will Never Catch On: "Cousin Teresa". Basset Harrowcluff, having put in some good (though unflashy) work in service of the British Empire and potentially expecting a knighthood or other honor, is tolerably amused by his half-brother Lucas (a fellow frequently coming up with various ideas that don't pan out) excited over his latest brainstorm— a goofy bit of music-hall work, the eponymous "Cousin Teresa". And just guess who ends up with a knighthood.
- Meaningful Name: The title character of The Unbearable Bassington is named Comus, and he lives up (or maybe down) to it.
- Mister Muffykins: The eponymous "Louis", with a twist. Louis is dead and his owner uses her pretended affection for him and his alleged needs to get her way.
- Our Werewolves Are Different: "Gabriel-Ernest". The werewolf changes at sunset, and no special immunities or vulnerabilities are even mentioned. He almost comes off as a wolf that enjoys being human by day.
- Reincarnation: "Laura", who even goes so far as to predict what she'll come back as. First an otter for being perhaps a bad person, and later a little native boy for being quite good at being an otter.
- Stepford Smiler: The London under German occupation in When William Came is not a fun place to be living, despite everyone's best efforts.
- Talking Animal: The eponymous housecat "Tobermory". Hilarity Ensues when it turns out Tobermory has no concept of tact.
- Uncatty Resemblance: Seemingly inverted in "The Remoulding of Groby Lington", where the title character isn't sure if his pet takes after him or the other way around. Turns out to be the latter and Hilarity Ensues when he gets new pets.
- You Can Keep Her!: "The Disappearance of Crispina Umberleigh"— to the point that the kidnappers demand ransom by threatening to return her. And then it turns out they never had her to begin with!