“Wilson’s heartfelt story is a Faustian American tale, dramatic, Dreiserian, and delicious.” —J. Michael Lennon, author of Norman Mailer: A Double Life
This compelling story converges at the 3-way intersection of an up-from-nothing coming-of-age memoir, an insider’s account of the colossal business failure of Arthur Andersen, the iconic international professional firm and, in the aftermath of the acutely personal effects of that calamity, a search for and rediscovery of a higher purpose and spiritual meaning.
It is the story of a boy abandoned by his too-young, recently-divorced mother when he was 1-1/2 years old, succored by a “foster” family until he turned four, then forcibly wrested from this family by his birth mother when she reappeared with a new husband. The author grew up in Aberdeen, Washington, a tough, immigrant, harbor town of plywood factories, lumber mills and labor wars, pollution, merchant seamen and dozens of whore houses, dubbed by the popular press as “Hell-Hole of the Pacific” at the turn of the last century, and ground zero in “America’s war on sin” in mid-century. Like Kurt Cobain, another native son a generation later, the author wanted nothing more than to escape the shackles of Aberdeen. But his path was the corporate world, not grunge music, where he climbed the greasy corporate pole to the partnership at Arthur Andersen.
Arthur Andersen collapsed in 2002 under the weight of Enron and other financial scandals. While the book chronicles the author’s unlikely ascent to the partnership at Andersen, it also provides insights into what went phenomenally right during the firm’s heyday, and disastrously wrong in the end. When Arthur Andersen died, the author’s world imploded as well. He was left with no choice but to re-examine everything he thought he knew about myself. What he discovered at the dead end of the path of self-flagellation was a new beginning radically different than the one he left behind.
Robert Wilson was a partner in Arthur Andersen, the international accounting and consulting firm, and, later, the chief financial officer of both public and private companies. He has also been a member of several corporate boards of directors. Robert lives with his wife in Scottsdale, Arizona and Newport, Rhode Island.
Praise for "Hellhole, 98520"
“The first virtue of Hellhole, 98520 is its portrait of Aberdeen, Washington, where Wilson grew up in the 1950s. The early chapters are a stunning evocation of this tough, immigrant harbor town of plywood factories and lumber mills, the residue of past labor wars, bars, brothels and merchant seamen, labelled “Sin City” by the tabloids of that time. Like another native son, Kurt Cobain, Wilson broke free, and by dint of extraordinary effort rose to a partnership at Arthur Andersen, one of the Big Five accounting firms. His searing anatomy of the firm’s vertiginous collapse in 2002, which produced in him a spiritual reawakening, is the brunt of this powerful memoir. Wilson’s heartfelt story is a Faustian American tale, dramatic, Dreiserian, and delicious.” --J. Michael Lennon, author of Norman Mailer: A Double Life,
and Mailer’s Last Days: Remembrances (Etruscan Press)
“A first-person partner perspective dissection of the meteoric rise and calamitous fall of Arthur Andersen, the once-iconic international accounting firm, as a result of the Enron and other corporate scandals. A cautionary tale that is must reading for all aspiring business professionals and executives.” --Jeffrey R. Alves, Dean Emeritus, Jay S. Sidhu School of Business and Leadership, Wilkes University
“Although the details of Wilson’s story are uniquely his, the brushstrokes are universal to the human experience: economic hardship and striving for betterment; loss, resiliency and recovery; spiritual search and rediscovery; and, above all, the rescuing power of love. This evocative book will thrust the reader into personal reflection about the bigger questions that, one way or another, inhabit all of our lives.” --Lydia Jumonville, President and CEO, SCL Health, Intermountain Healthcare
“Some wag once observed, ‘Everyone has a book in them—and that’s where it should stay.’ Luckily for us, that does not apply to Robert Wilson’s gracefully written, compelling memoir of his complicated childhood and search for clarity. It’s a great read” --John C. Hughes, Northwest historian