Jack (John Griffith Chaney) London

White Fang

White Fang

Jack London

Jack London (born John Griffith Chaney) (1876-1916), was the highest paid American writer of his time, and with good reason. He wrote wonderful books on subjects that appealed to his readers. They were born of his own experiences, and his life adventures were rather brutal. The illigitimate son of Flora Wellman was abandoned by his father William Chaney, (although Wikipedia states it is unclear whether or not they were married). But in any case, Chaney refused to acknowledge his paternity. Wellman temporarily turned her son over to a former slave, Virginia Prentiss. Mother and son were reunited when she married John London in 1876.

London attended Berkley, but left at age 21 for the Klondike Gold Rush. The harsh conditions didn't fare well on his health. He suffered from scurvy and lost his four front teeth. However, the experience did fare well for his career, providing material for two of his best known and loved novels, White Fang and The Call of the Wild.

London married Bessie Maddern in 1900, a friendly but mutually loveless union that produced two children. They later divorced, and London remarried Charmian Kittredge in 1905. This marriage was one of love, but produced no surviving children.

London's life was certainly filled with varied experiences, which you may read about in the above Wikipedia link. His versatility is reflected in the many varied themes of his novels. He was an Animal Rights Activist and a Social Activist. He owned a yacht called the Snark and in it, he and Charmian explored the Pacific, from Hawaii to Australia. The couple may have picked up tropical infections as a result.

In 1905, London bought a 1,000 acre ranch in Glen Ellen (Sonoma County), California. It was his dream, and next to his wife "the dearest thing in the world" to him, but a financial disaster. He openly admits that his later writings were strictly for commercial reasons. "I write for no other purpose than to add to the beauty that now belongs to me. I write a book for no other reason than to add three or four hundred acres to my magnificent estate." It is now a national park, the London State Historic Park. He died there at age 40, in failing health complicated by alcoholism. It is certainly tragic that so many brilliant writers have died way too young from physical self-abuse such as this. Even so, the volume of works he produced in such a short lifetime is amazing. Check back here frequently, as the list of books reviewed will continue to grow.

Novels by Jack London

Before Adam
The Iron Heel
The Scarlet Plague
The Sea-Wolf
White Fang

Cottage, Jack London State Historic Park

Story Collections by Jack London

Jack London's Boat, The Snark

South Sea Tales

London, age 9, and his dog Rollo

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