cover image Bob Stevenson

Bob Stevenson

Richard Wiley. Bellevue Literary (Consortium, dist.), $16.99 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-942658-16-0

It is a truism that writers live on through their works, but Wiley’s (Soldiers in Hiding) clever latest considers the strange case of a classic author reanimated by other means. Ruby Okada is a psychiatrist swept off her feet by “Bob,” an enigmatic stranger spouting orotund phrases in a Scottish brogue. Their brief affair concludes when she finally discovers that her lover is really Archie Billingsly, a psychiatric patient prone to fugue states in which he convincingly takes on the identities of Robert Louis Stevenson and his most famous creation, Henry Hyde, among others. Mortified that she has “fallen so deeply in love with a lie and a ghost,” and pregnant with Bob/Archie’s child, Ruby delves into the curious case of a man as “sick and fractured” as Dr. Jekyll. Wiley skillfully balances the psychological explanations for Archie’s strange behavior with the more fanciful notion that he has been possessed by Stevenson’s spirit, one of those “metaphysical rovers” seeking out corporeal forms. It’s an elegant conceit around which to craft a tale about the ambiguities of character, but the novel slackens considerably in the second half. Moreover, the supporting characters don’t manage to bewitch the reader as completely as the great Scotsman does through Archie. (Oct.)