First-novelist Simpson uses here the fictional Dear Reader confidential asides, popular a century or two ago and revived by the English satirical novelist Fay Weldon. Weldon, however, grinds some social axes, while Simpson is content to spin a pleasant, popular family-dynasty tale with a Just Deserts close. The story takes place here and there, now and then, but mainly in contemporary New Jersey during a week in June. William ""Wild Bill"" Winslow, 70--indifferent patriarch, tyrant, and a bust as a father--has just taken a header down the stairs in his Far Hills, N.J., ancestral mansion. Now, hospital-bound, he directs young Evangeline--sort of a housekeeper, his lover, and the mother of his two young boys--to gather his eight adult children and even his rotten second wife, Bettina the Greedy. Among the offspring: two failed actresses who wanted to make Daddy's dream of siring a Shakespearean actress come true; a fire-station worker who took the identity of his identical twin, killed in Vietnam; a drug-and-sex hotshot in Aspen; an artist who never found his medium; an unstable son, rapidly going crackers, who's out with a gun in the woods; and a quiet lass living in England who has conversations with ghostly ancestors in New Jersey and the Old Country. We also learn about tragedies in Wild Bill's life and hear the story of his grandfather, Crazy Legs. Most of the children are married, some have offspring--and all gather at Far Hills. Before the hug-all close, there'll be a fire, some scary sighting of the son-with-the-gun, and sibling rebonding. There's nothing too unusual or wild about Wild Bill (the rich, macho, roaring elder is a popular staple), but the tales of the children as they pop up here, one by one, are mildly diverting, and the confidential asides offer some variety.