You don’t know Jack…

Title: The Jekyll Revelation by Robert MaselloPublisher: 47 North 477 pp

Genre: mystery, thriller fiction, historical, science fiction, fantasy

4 stars

Author:  Robert Masello is an award-winning journalist, TV writer, and a bestselling author. A recent thriller, The Einstein Prophecy was # 1 in the Kindle store. Previous books include Blood and Ice, The Medusa Amulet and the Romanov Cross. He has authored two popular studies of the Occult as well as books on writing. TV credits include “Charmed,” “Sliders,” Early Edition,” and “Poltergeist: the Legacy.” He studied writing at Princeton University under Robert Stone and Geoffrey Wolff. This is my first exposure to him, chosen from netgalley for my obsession with all things literary Scotland.

Story line:  This book has two alternating storylines: in the present storyline are we introduced to Rafael (Rafe) Salazar, an environmental science field officer, who discovers an old green steamer trunk with a flask and a journal that was written by Robert Louis Stevenson, so his past alternates with the present. In August 1888, as the stage play of “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” was taking London by storm, Jack the Ripper, perhaps the most notorious serial killer in history, struck for the first time. In reality RLS briefly was considered a suspect.

Masello weaves the different threads of action, gothic horror, history, science and science fiction together in a story that grabs your attention from the very beginning. It’s more pulp fiction than I normally read, but it’s a great action ‘film’. I enjoyed the RLS journal entries more than the present day story which included methheads, rednecks, violence and clueless male egos. Perhaps it was also that the women are superficial. Having read several biographies of Fanny Stevenson, Maesello doesn’t portray her well either. But, suspend reality for a day and enjoy the suspense. I suspect I will read more of him, especially with travel season ahead.

Read on:

If you are a fan of Dan Brown, Lee Child, Douglas Preston


Opening paragraph: 25th of November, 1894 From: Robert Louis Stevenson, Vailima House, Samoa To: W.E. Henley, 18 Maybury Road, Old Woking, Surrey, England Dear Henley—What I must tell you now, I tell you with dread. It has happened again. What we thought—what we prayed—we had left behind us in the back alleys and darkened doorways of Whitechapel has, I fear, awakened from its awful slumber. It has struck again, right here, in what I had foolishly thought might be Paradise. And I have been the unwitting agent of its malevolence.

Ever since he was a boy, Rafe had talked to animals; his little sister, Lucy, after seeing the movie of the same name, had called him Dr. Doolittle.
“Tell Stoker he doesn’t need to send any more emissaries. I’m sane as the Archbishop of Canterbury.”

In his hands, he held the journal, but with a kind of reverence now, that he had not initially felt. He hadn’t known at first whose initials they were—RLS—nor had he known who Louis, or Fanny, was. But then he’d read and deciphered more of the text, put it all together, and discovered that the author of the book was none other than Robert Louis Stevenson. The man whose books, like Treasure Island and Kidnapped and The Master of Ballantrae, he’d devoured as a boy.

Reading the book was slow-going—the ink had faded almost to the point of disappearing here and there, and he had to turn the pages with great care or they would shred and fall away from the binding. Stevenson’s handwriting was very peculiar, too—angular and slanted, with a lot of what looked like hasty pen marks, swipes and blottings. Rafe had read all the entries from the Belvedere clinic in Switzerland and he had been especially moved by the author’s attempts to protect the wolf he called Lord Grey from the cruelties of Yannick. On that score, he felt a real allegiance with Stevenson.

What I did not feel, and this was what astonished me even then, even in what should have been an utterly terrifying moment, was fear. I felt instead a burst of exhilaration, coupled with a sensation of freedom and power. I was not the scribbler Robert Louis Stevenson—I was the wolf Lord Grey.

“English gardens,” she said. “All weeds and no flowers.”

What he held in his hands—the seared covers and a handful of dust—was all he had to show for the last words of Robert Louis Stevenson. 

Received as an ARC ebook from Netgalley.

Summer books!

Have you made your book selections/reading list for summer yet? There is so much to chose from! And many much awaited soon to be published sequels!
These are some (20) of my (Helen McIver) favourite books so far, as well as a few I have on preorder!
**Bruce Holsinger A Burnable Book (Anyone who liked Pulitzer Prize winner Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bringing up the Bodies will love this.)
**Deborah Harkness The Book of Life (Much anticipated final chapter (gasp) Discovery of Witches trilogy)
*Nancy Horan Under the Wide and Starry Sky (interesting historical novel about Franny Stevenson wife of Scottish novelist Robert Louis Stevenson)
*Anthony Holden Poems that make Grown Cry (You might even memorize a few!)
*Gabrielle Zevin Storied life of AJ Fikry. (Highly entertaining, thought provoking)
Diana Gabaldon Written in my own Heart’s Blood (Long awaited next installment in the Claire and Jaime time travel saga. Don’t forget the television series in August!)
Charlaine Harris Midnight Crossing. (A new series, with a few old friends from previous series, you might end up reading something other than Sookie, and enjoying them more.)
Craig Johnson Any Other Name (Walt Longmire, legendary Wyoming sheriff)
*Charles Todd Unwilling Accomplice (Bess Crawford, WWI English Army nurse, 6th installment)
*Nicola Upson Death of Lucy Kyte (This series breathes life into Scottish mystery writer Josephine Tey. Be warned you will read all of her original novels too.)
*Jacqueline Winspear Care And Management of Lies
Amanda Quick Otherwise Engaged (Historical English romp)
Children’s /YA
Kathy Reichs Exposure (continuing the Virals series)
**Ransom Riggs Hollow City (Miss Peregrine) (The series continues.)
**Maria Semple Where’d You Go Bernadette? A MUST read book; you will thank me.
*Janice MacLeod Paris letters (Making young love work in the city of light.)
*Carol Wall Mr Owita’s Guide to Gardening (Gardening is good for the soul, although you will need hankies.)
Science fiction
Terry Pratchett Raising Steam (Yes it feels a bit like saying goodbye to your favourite characters but don’t miss this installment.)
*Douglas Nicholas Something Red, The Wicked (Medieval mystery that grabs you and doesn’t let go. Especially if you are still missing Game of Thrones.)
Elizabeth Kolbert The Sixth Extinction (Everyone needs to read this sobering environmental book. The next cataclysm is us. Look in the mirror, we are responsible, and need to be.)
* denotes great read
** denotes a MUST read!

RL Stevenson, Celtic Evening Spirit

Robert Louis Stevenson 1850-1894

The best loved literary figure of his time as much for his personality as for his authorship of Treasure Island, Kidnapped and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Stevenson was born today in Edinburgh on 13 November 1850. He described his childhood in detail in his autobiographical essays and vividly recalled its emotions and pleasures in A Child’s Garden of Verses (1885). Kidnapped was chosen by the Edinburgh City of Literature as their first “One City, One Book” title.

He had an ambition at an early age to become a writer; he compromised to study Law (instead of engineering at University of Edinburgh). He was admitted advocate in 1875 but never practiced. During these years he rebelled against the conventions of respectable Edinburgh society and there were bitter quarrels with his father (a devout Presbyterian) about religion.

In 1873 he met the critic Prof. Sidney Colvin who became his lifelong friend and literary mentor. With Colvin’s help he began to achieve a reputation with his essays and short stories (collected in Virginibus Puerisque, 1881 and New Arabian Nights, 1882). Another close friendship was formed with poet and critic WE Henley, writing 4 unsuccessful plays (including Deacon Brodie, 1880).

The closest friend of his youth was his painter cousin RAM (Bob) Stevenson, and he spent much time with him in France. His early travels were undertaken so that he could write books about them. A Wand Voyage (1878) described a canoe journey, Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes (1879), Edinburgh: Picturesque Notes (1878; a classic account of the city whose climate he hated but which always haunted his imagination).

In the art colony of Grez (1876) he fell in love with Fanny Vandegrift Osboume, an American 10 years older than himself who was estranged from her husband. She returned to California in 1878 for divorce. In 1879 Stevenson followed, travelling cheaply by immigrant ship, then by train across America, recording his experiences in Amateur Emigrant (1895) and Across the Plans (1892). The hardships of the journey and the poverty wrecked his health and he suffered the first of the haemorrhages which plagued the rest of his life.

Stevenson and Fanny were married in May 1880, following a telegram from his father assuring them of financial support. They returned to Edinburgh. Stevenson’s illness, diagnosed as tuberculosis, meant that he spent much time in bed, his life undoubtedly prolonged by Fanny’s nursing. The next 7 years were spent in the vain search for health: two summer in Scotland, 2 winters in Davos, Switzerland, 18 months in the South of France, then Bournemouth for 3 years One rainy summer afternoon, Stevenson painted a map of an imaginary island to entertain his new stepson, and in a single month, he wrote his first great novel, Treasure Island (1883).  He wrote it in Braemar (1882), one of the best children’s stories. It’s been in print for over 125 years.

He’s also the author of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1885), about a scientist who invents a chemical that changes his personality from a mild-mannered gentleman to a savage criminal. Wider recognition came with this allegorical thriller on the dual nature of man, and then Kidnapped (1886) a skilful evocation of 18th century Scotland. He then produced The Black Arrow (1888), an historical potboiler for children. Stevenson made no claim to be a major poet, but Underwoods (1897) showed him to be graceful and original in both English and Scots. He developed a warm and lasting friendship with Henry James.

At the death of his father, the family traveled to America, spending the winter 1887/8 at Saranac Lake, Adirondacks. He wrote a series of essays and began his tragic novel The Master of Ballantrae (1889) set in 18P century Scotland and America. In June 1888 they chartered a yacht and sailed from San Francisco to the South Seas, describing the journeys in South Seas (1896), and The Wrecker (1892). The climate suited, he regained some health for outdoor activity so they settled in Samoa in 1890. However, Fanny had mental health issues and he overworked himself to earn money needed to maintain the estate.

Catriona (1894), the sequel to Kidnapped, was followed by work on the unfinished St Ives (1897) both set largely in Edinburgh during the Napoleonic wars. He was working at the height of his mature powers on his unfinished masterpiece Weir of Hermiston (1896), set in early 19th century Edinburgh and the Lammermuirs, its main character based on Robert MacQueen, Lord Braxfield, when he died suddenly and unexpectedly of cerebral haemorrhage on 3 December 1894.

The romantic legend created by sentimental admirers has helped obscure the recognition of Stevenson as a serious writer, and academic critics have largely ignored or patronized him. Those readers exploring beyond the popular works that made him famous will find a wealth of ‘good things’.

The Works: Tusitala Edition, 3 5 vols. 1923 –4; Collected Poems, ed JA Smith, 1971.
Life. G Balfour, 1901; Voyage to Windward JC Furnas, 1952; RLS A Life Study, J. Calder, 1980.
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