Jack London
The Call of the Wild
Martin Eden
The Sea-Wolf
The God of His Fathers
The Sea-Farmer
The Sickness of Lone Chief
The Whale Tooth
White Fang


"The chief qualification of ninety per cent of all editors is failure. They have failed as writers, and right there is the cursed paradox of it. Every portal of literature is guarded by those watchdogs."

Jack Griffith London was born in San Francisco in 1876. His father worked as and astrologer while his mother was a spiritualist. The name he took was that of his stepfather, John London, although he grew up without a father. He grew up in difficult and deprived circumstances. This led him in his early years to earn a modest living as an oyster pirate at fifteen, a worker in a canning factory and at seventeen as a deep-sea sailor. He also showed literary promise early, winning $25 for his first story in a competition for the San Francisco Morning Call. London was also involved in the Klondike gold rush in 1897. Crucially, at eighteen he was arrested for vagrancy at the Niagara Falls. Deloused and sentenced to thirty days' hard labour he was put on a chain gang and witnessed appalling conditions the images and thought of which he never escaped.

The hardship and adventure of these years did however offer literary ammunition and gave him a hard-line socialist edge despite his distinctly non-politically correct views on race and women. London included many of his experiences in his novels. He made his name writing stories about the Far North although hardly aided by using a typewriter that only printed capital letters. The first of these was The Son of the Wolf (1900) gave him some success but hardly great fame. That was to come with the publication of The Call of the Wild (1903), the story of a dog named Buck who is mistreated after his master's death and later becomes the leader of a pack of wolves. Its warmly sentimental attributes made the book sell hundreds of thousands of copies. Sadly this did not make London his fortune since he had sold the rights to the book in 1903 for $2,000 and therefore missed out on more than $100,000 by not taking royalties. Of course this would have gone against his anti-capitalist tendencies anyway.

Also in 1903 the author wrote about his namesake capital city and its slums in a characteristically emotive piece of reportage called The People of the Abyss. The novels which followed often contained the themes already covered in his first works: adventure, hardship, animal behaviour and happy retribution in faraway places. The Sea-Wolf was the first of these in 1904 and his second most famous book, White Fang, appeared in 1906. The latter, like Call of the Wild, had a canine protagonist and the two books have often been published together.

Before his interesting and well-respected later semi-autobiographical works, Martin Eden (1909) and John Barleycorn (1913), London wrote books that increasingly displayed his socialist tendencies in stories about the class struggle and a return to simpler agricultural ways. In 1905 he even ran as the socialist candidate for mayor in California. His other works included various essays, political treatises and numerous pieces of journalism but it is for his novels of anthropomorphised animals that he is best remembered.

sunsite.berkeley.edu Searchable guide to information about Jack London, an extensive archive of images, text of correspondence and more
Jacklondon.com Resource site on Jack London which contains a brief biography and other information on the author
The German Jack London site Includes a biography, text in German and more information on the author
Jack London's Ranch Jack London's home

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