Caught by the River

Boy Wonder

Mathew Clayton | 24th April 2009

Mathew Clayton on James Robert Baker’s, ‘Boy Wonder’;

When you stumble across something fantastic entirely by chance, encumbered by the views of critics or hype of any kind, the pleasure you get from it is always greater.

In the mid 90s I was leaving the offices of the publisher 4th Estate and was led to the book cupboard and asked if i wanted to take anything away with me. I grabbed a bunch of random books including Boy Wonder a novel by a Californian writer i had never heard of called James Robert Baker.

I was back in the 4th Estate office a couple of months later and when i was led back to the book cupboard i ignored everything else and took every copy of Boy Wonder they had. As i eagerly stuffed the books into my bag I was told, astoundingly, that no-one at the publisher’s had even read it. The novel was acquired as part of a bigger deal with another company. This deal had turned sour but they still had an obligation to publish the books this other company had contracts for. Evidence of this is in the homoerotic cover which bears absolutely no relation to the book’s contents but refers to another, better known at the time, book by Baker called Tim and Pete.

Accordingly Boy Wonder was published with absolutely no fanfare and quickly disappeared from bookshop shelves. And when in 1997 James Robert Baker fed up, in part, by his stalled literary career took his own life the reading public was unaware they had just lost one of the great voices of American literature. In the spirit of my original discovery i am not going to tell you anything about Boy Wonder. Just get onto the used part of amazon and buy it. If you need any convincing look at the reviews people have left there most say it is the best book they have ever read.