As I think I’ve mentioned before on the Ramblings, 13th November is designated as an annual Robert Louis Stevenson day, in celebration of the great author on his birthday. I do love RLS’s writing, and I try to mark the day if I can – although I do have a tendency to often leave it a little late… However, this year I’ve been slightly more organised than usual, and I’ve been dipping into some of the stories in “New Arabian Nights”; it’s a collection of shorter works I picked up moons ago, and it makes wonderful reading!

November being a bit packed with challenges and the like, I’ve only managed to read the suite of stories collected under the titles of “The Suicide Club” and “The Raja’s Diamond”. This consists of six linked tales, joined with commentary by a storyteller (much in the way of the original Arabian Nights, apparently), and they focus on the lively, dramatic and picaresque adventures of Prince Florizel of Bohemia and his faithful sidekick, Colonel Geraldine. Interestingly, the publication of these stories pre-dates slightly the first appearance of Sherlock Holmes, and yet the relationship between the two men is very much in the mould of Holmes and Watson! RLS and Conan Doyle were friends and contemporaries – intriguing…

The first three stories feature dark deeds by the proprietor of the club of the title; it’s an unpleasant organisation, designed to help troubled people end their lives. After an initial adventure in the first story, where Florizel and Geraldine encounter the villain in question, they then pursue him through the other two stories with lively and exciting adventures . The second suite of stories sees Florizel and Geraldine solving the mysteries associated with the theft of a fabulous diamond, as well as observing the effect that the jewel has on people’s morality.

The stories are wonderfully entertaining, and of course RLS writes so marvellously; I really enjoyed following the tales of derring-do, and Florizel and Geraldine make a wonderful pairing of heroes. It’s interesting how Bohemia threw up so many fictional characters in the past… However, what struck me too was Stevenson’s mastery of the form; each tale ends with a little bit of narration, leading into the next one, and then the focus changes with the following story introducing us to a character who’s either new or hasn’t taken the main stage previously. All the threads eventually link together, and it’s an ingenious way of telling a tale and keeping the reader interested and on their toes. What a really great author RLS was!

So I loved reading these short works by RLS to celebrate his day this year; and I still have treats to come in the book, including a story reckoned by no less than Arthur Conan Doyle as being the first short story ever written! As you can see from the image above, I do have a few of Stevenson’s titles lurking on my shelves, and could happily spend many a winter night engrossed in them. Every time I revisit RLS I find more to love and admire in his books, and if you’ve never read him you could do no better than to give his works a look; certainly, these short stories would be a great introduction to a really great author!

*****

For further information about RLS Day, there is a lovely site here which gets updated annually:

https://rlsday.wordpress.com/

There’s also an excellent website all about Stevenson here:

http://robert-louis-stevenson.org/