This critical review of Stevenson's prose work may help restore the famed LS reputation, although, frankly, it doesn't shake the reader into returning to the novels. Despite the fact that biography is incidental here, Stevenson becomes more interesting as a person than an artist. The ""gay invalid's"" artistry remains questionable, but his late-blooming assumption of mature themes is fascinating. Stevenson's paradox was that, having had a bedridden, sickly youth and manhood, he had the right to indulge in graveyard themes; instead, he turned to high adventure. He ignored the burning roses and wine-stained pages of the late Victorians; he bypassed the vital problems of everyday life, and he settled for the self-contained artificial worlds of romance in which incidents were exploited at the cost of characterization. His reputation during his lifetime was as high as Hemingway's today. And he died ""the right death"" by leaving his sickbed and sailing to Samoa where he spent his last few years. Only then did he begin to write with the seriousness and directness he'd always wanted but never before exacted from himself. Mr. Kiely's is not the last word on Stevenson, but his study does show that a full-dress biography will be highly welcome.