The Wrecker (Stevenson novel)

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The Wrecker
AuthorRobert Louis Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne
GenreAdventure novel
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)

The Wrecker (1892) is a novel written by Robert Louis Stevenson in collaboration with his stepson Lloyd Osbourne.


The story is a "sprawling, episodic adventure story, a comedy of brash manners and something of a detective mystery", according to Roderick Watson.[1] It revolves around the abandoned wreck of the Flying Scud at Midway Atoll. Clues in a stamp collection are used to track down the missing crew and solve the mystery. It is only in the last chapter that different story elements become linked.[2] Stevenson described it as a "South Sea yarn" concerning "a very strange and defective plan that was accepted with open eyes for what seemed countervailing opportunities offered". The book sold well but reviews were mixed, with a New York Times reviewer concluding that:[2]

The Wrecker is a kind of blank-cartridge romance with a big explosion, which raises a dust, and if anything really has happened it escapes you in the flash and the cloud of smoke.

The loosely connected stories reflect how Stevenson and Osbourne wrote the book. Each contributed different sections, but agreed to develop characters and descriptions of places they both knew well. The following are examples:

  • The schooner Equator (1888–1953) inspired the story. Its remains are preserved in a shed at Marina Park at the Port of Everett, Washington.
  • Jack Buckland was a handsome, happy-go-lucky fellow passenger with Osbourne and Stevenson on the 1890 Janet Nicholl voyage.[3] He inspired the character of "Remittance Man" Tommy Hadden.[4][5][6]


James Garner and Jack Kelly as Bret and Bart Maverick in Maverick (1957)

"The Wrecker" is an episode of Roy Huggins' TV Western Maverick (1957) starring James Garner and Jack Kelly. It is described in the closing credits as "From a Novel by Robert Louis Stevenson & Lloyd Osbourne". The Maverick brothers buy the wreck of the Flying Scud at an auction in San Francisco and try to find out why its cargo is so valuable. The supporting cast features Patric Knowles as the character inspired by Jack Buckland and Karl Swenson as a colorful sea captain.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Watson, Roderick (2007). "'"The unrest and movement of our century": the universe of The Wrecker" (PDF). The Journal of Stevenson Studies. 4.
  2. ^ a b "Tales by Stevenson and Others" (PDF). The New York Times. July 17, 1892. p. 19.
  3. ^ The Cruise of the Janet Nichol among the South Sea Islands A Diary by Mrs Robert Louis Stevenson (first published 1914), republished 2004, editor, Roslyn Jolly (U. of Washington Press/U. of New South Wales Press)
  4. ^ Robert Louis Stevenson: A Critical Biography, 2 vols. John A. Steuart, (1924). Boston: Little, Brown & Co.
  5. ^ Treasured Islands: Cruising the South Seas With Robert Louis Stevenson. Lowell D. Holmes, (2001). Sheridan House. ISBN 1-57409-130-1
  6. ^ James Cowan, (1937). R. L. S. and his Friends Some Stevenson Memories. New Zealand Railways Magazine, 12(2):59-61.

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