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Regaining consciousness after someone repeatedly bashed his head against a brick wall, a man finds himself in a bar. The patrons call him Bob, but he has total amnesia. When he asks for a drink, the bartender owner named Juke says, “I don’t think so.” Bob had come from Back East a decade ago and has been sober since. He learns that his wife, Helen, had committed suicide two weeks before, and Juke is his brother-in-law. Like a Gregorian chant, an almost-audible mantra resonates in Bob’s head: “Get out. Run. Break free.

"BACKSTORY is a cutting-edge psychological thriller that leaves readers pondering whether or not they like JR Hunter."

Later, Bob sees a suspicious car, and someone has broken into his home. Did someone murder Helen and stage the scene as a suicide? Snippets of memories begin to haunt him, something about his real name being Jackson Robert (“JR”) Hunter from Philadelphia. Was he really a dirty cop? Memories of a young girl named Penny calm him, but he can’t recall anything about her. He can no longer function in small-town Kansas.

JR’s odyssey takes him to Philadelphia, where he hopes to find answers to questions he doesn’t know how to ask. He learns that he had lived on both sides of the blue line: good-guy cop and in cahoots with a drug-dealing mobster. He comes across people who remember and like him --- as the good cop. Others despise the bad cop persona. Were the conflicting personalities tearing him apart, prompting him to flee Philly?

BACKSTORY may be compared somewhat to Erin Kelly’s stupendous WATCH HER FALL. Contemporary psychiatry may consider the main characters in these novels as having dissociative identity disorder. Kelly’s protagonist realigns her disorder and succeeds. William L. Myers, Jr. (known for his Philadelphia Legal series) leaves readers in suspense regarding the outcome of JR Hunter, perhaps setting the stage for a new series.

Reminiscent of classic art and literature, this novel engages elements of George Grey Barnard’s 1894 sculpture, originally titled Je sens deux hommes en moi (I sense two men in myself), and Oscar Wilde’s The Ballad of Reading Gaol: “Yet each man kills the thing he loves.” Poetic license may have the meaning of “kill” as destroy. The sculpture and ballad seem to have inspired portions of this intriguing book. BACKSTORY is a cutting-edge psychological thriller that leaves readers pondering whether or not they like JR Hunter.

Reviewed by L. Dean Murphy on June 10, 2022

by William L. Myers, Jr.