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With his life imperiled by the Mafia, Dr. Bob earns his keep by treating addicted Clairvoyants who fear they've lost their ability to reach souls in the hereafter - a rambunctious character's story told as literary fiction with a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, according to critics.
He learned to listen to the downtrodden of Skid Row by indulging in the ubiquitous squalor of their misery. Then he scrubbed up to court female patients beyond all ethical boundaries. The true love he found demanded that he straighten up and fly right. Wrapped up in the mysteries of the Universe as a sort of security blanket, he wandered toward infinity and his mysterious destination, an awkward pioneer of self-discovery.
His exploitations ranged from creating one of Florida's most pristine upscale treatment centers to dallying in West Coast neighborhoods named after Tarzan of the Apes.
Along the way Dr. Robert Bennett pioneered the kind of treatments that put nutty astrophysicists back on track to explore the Universe, observe time run backwards to the exploding Hindenburg where the fallen zeppelin actually went unnoticed. He learns from the scientists he treats the Albert Einstein belief that imagination is the preview of life's coming attractions. So, Dr. Bob indulged his adventurous life as best he could imagine it. Complete and unadulterated.
As in all his novels the author remains steady in his belief that well-written literary fiction doesn't have to be "highbrow"; it has to embrace ideas about destiny in a storyline that holds the readers' attention and occasionally prompts laughter. No room for the hoity-toity. During his classic presentation at the 200th anniversary writers' conference of North American Review, the nation's oldest literary magazine, he poked fun at his own novels for their obscurity, implying clarity in the digital age demands simplicity. Then he toyed with the digital age itself:
"Some nut will find a way to blow up the electric grid. All these electronic gadgets that rely on electricity will go dark. The batteries will run down. We're talking Cormac McCarthy darkness, black on black. . . except for one distant flicker of light. It's on a beach probably Australia. Survivors will make their way through the dark and find the light from a single candle. Next to the candle will be a lad with a notebook scribbling away with the last pencil on earth. He's writing about what happened. He hopes someone will read what he writes. That's what writers do. They hope."
In "Doctor Bob" Kelton's characters are marvelously extraordinary, eccentric and bizarre. They are just as real as Studs Terkel's real folks in "The Great War." Instead of a war to bind them together, they share the odyssey of a fantasy.
As a series A PETER KELTON NOVEL began to emerge in print in 2005 after 40 years of incubation. Originally conceived in 1965 with the help of literary agent Perry Knowlton, the series hoped to show that well-written literary fiction does not have to be "highbrow"; it should embrace ideas about destiny in a storyline that holds the readers' attention and occasionally prompts laughter. No room for the hoity-toity. The author believes the best way to do that is through characters who are as real as relatives and friends of readers, often odd but compelling people we all know. .