More sides to Jekyll's author than we ever hoped to see

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The Independent Online
Today, a guide to the best of the many recent books on Robert Lovis Stevenson.

Stevenson, Father Of Western Samoan Rugby Bill Maclaren, Ruck and Maul Press, £19.99

"Tusitala" was the name the Samoans gave to RL Stevenson, a native name meaning "The Man Who Gives Sensational Half-time Team Talks". It certainly seems from Maclaren's keen, if often over-informative, little volume that Stevenson may have been the man who first sowed the seeds of Western Samoan rugby superiority. "This wee, moustachioed feller from Edinburgh's New Town", as Maclaren calls him, seems to have had three main planks in his rugby thinking: the emphasis on forward play, the emphasi s on backplay, and the necessity to beat the English. But is it really right to explain the difference between Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde as symbolising the difference between the brutality of forward play and the sheer elegance of three-quarter running?

Thurber: The Man Who Died The Year Robert Louis Stevenson Was Born J Morton Ferstein III, Pensacola University Press, $44

This year marks the centenary of James Thurber's birth, and this is one of the many books that seek to commemorate the American humorist. It is, however, the only one that seeks to connect him with the Scottish writer who died the same year. And there i s in fact no mention of Stevenson in the text, which leads one to suppose that the title has been engineered to attract the eye of the British reader. This is borne out by the fact that the original title of the book, Thurber, the Melancholic Humorist", m akes no mention of Stevenson at all.

The Robert Louis Stevenson Cookbook Delia Smith, Arrowroot Press £25

Stevenson lived in some of the premier gourmet areas of the world - France, California, the Pacific Ocean - and Delia Smith has gathered together some of the most lip-smacking recipes that Stevenson might have sampled or which he mentions in his books. They are all adaptable for any number of people, from a Scottish student writing alone in his penurious digs in Edinburgh to a gathering of 40 chieftains on an open hillside in Samoa, and display the ingenuity that gained Stevenson the local nomenclature of Tusitala, a Samoan word meaning "He who can whip up an impromptu snack for any number, using only what is available in the store-room and never once consulting a cookbook!"

The Donkey Man Jean-Pierre Francois, Musee d'Anes des Cevennes, FF45

Stevenson's publication of his Travels With a Donkey, an account of his travels with a donkey through the Cevennes mountains, is seen in the Cevennes area as the peak of his career after which his writing of Kidnapped and Treasure Island represent something of a falling away. This book, published by the Cevennes Donkey Museum, tells you all you need to know about the 19th-century donkey culture and then some. In France Stevenson is generally thought to be a Frenchman on account of his French Christian names.

RL Stevenson: The Hunter Davies Interview Chatshow Press, £15.99

Face to face with the Sage of the South Seas, the man the natives called Tusitala (which means in the local lingo " You Can Tell My Story 100 Years After My Death") Hunter Davies puts some fairly probing questions to RLS. Questions such as: "Is it meaningfully possible to write stories in a pre-Beatle era?" and "So, what kind of a designer statement are you trying to make with all this Pacific Ocean interior decor kitsch, eh, Robert Louis - and while we're at it, what kind of a poncy name is Robert Louis anyway?"

Kidnapped in Bournemouth Daisy Finstein, Bestseller Press, £17.99

It has always been a source of chagrin to the good people of Bournemouth that RL Stevenson actually wrote Kidnapped while resident in their town, but made no mention of Bournemouth or the tourist attractions of Dorset anywhere in the book - indeed, England itself is hardly mentioned, except in the most negative sort of way. Emboldened by the sequels recently been written to Rebecca, Gone With The Wind etc the Dorset tourist people have commissioned Daisy Finstein to write a version of Kidnapped set in Bournemouth, and this is it. Purists may quibble that so many Scottish clansmen were unlikely to be found in the heart of Dorset, and that Alan Breck would not actually have bought his outfit in Next or The Gap in Bournemouth, but it

still makes a rattling good read.

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