The complete novels and novellas of Jack London - synopses, comments and ratings

(actualisé le ) by Ray

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. JACK LONDON’S 13 NOVELS

2. JACK LONDON’S 5 NOVELLAS

3. 3 NOVELS AND NOVELLAS CO-AUTHORED BY JACK LONDON

4. 2 OTHER WORKS BY JACK LONDON ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AS NOVELS

5. LIST OF TITLES IN ALPHABETIC SEQUENCE

novella = 17,500-40,000 words; novel = 40,000+ words.


1. JACK LONDON’S NOVELS

date pub. _____Title________ Setting/ Genre Synopsis/comments_____________________________________________ Rating words
1 1902 A Daughter of the Snows Klondike Frona Welse is the star of this Klondike tale about the gold-rush and sentimental adventures of an extremely talented, attractive, intelligent, athletic, educated, polyglot, well-traveled, wealthy and just about everything-else young woman of twenty who undertakes on her own the extraordinarily difficult trek over hundreds of miles of dangerous winter wastes from Alaska to Dawson in the Klondike region of northwestern Canada, where she meets up with her ultra-rich father and is courted by just about all the males she comes across.

This was Jack London’s first full-length novel and although there are a number of interesting and even exciting scenes – the struggle to arrive at Dawson at the beginning, the gold-hunting in the middle, the quite stupendous ice-jam drama at the end – it is irremediably flawed by its constant harping on the racial superiority (yes, that is how it is explained over and over again) of the Teutonic/Anglo-Saxon race over the other less gifted ones, notably the Indians, the negroes, the Asiatics and really all the others too. Because of this extremely distasteful aspect, it is the work of Jack London’s that has the most completely failed the test of time – it is practically unreadable today because of that, apart from its over-florid prose style with its avalanche of adjectives and superlatives and its scarcely-credible story line.

Jack must have been tapped over the fingers by his editor and his public alike about this, because he notably toned down thereafter on this (juvenile?) master-race ideology in his following works, thank goodness.
4 87,000
2 1904 The Sea Wolf Sailing This extraordinary tale of high seas and high emotions starts off calmly enough when the thirty-something, well-read and rather wealthy narrator embarks on a modern steam-driven ferry-boat in the Bay of San Francisco and muses on the efficient division of labour in modern society, whereby well-trained men can efficiently operate such magnificent and complex machines for the benefit of people like him in all security. But then a fog comes up, things do not at all follow the modern-comforts path he had expected, and he is off for an experience that has to be lived through - or at lest read about - to be believed.

For our narrator rapidly ends up on a sailing boat setting out on a long and as it turns out extremely perilous hunt for precious seal skins in the wild seas of the northern Pacific, under the command of the forceful, brutal, domineering, intelligent, resourceful and extremely dangerous captain, the aptly-named “Wolf” Larson, one of the most extraordinary and unforgettable sea captains in the whole history of literature, we do believe.

Jack London had himself, at the age of 17, spent many months on such a seal-hunting schooner in the Far Pacific, and this background insight helps to explain, above and beyond the author’s great talent, why this gripping tale of how the bookish narrator learns about life and sailing and hunting and survival and men - and even women - has such a ring of truth and credibility about it.

No doubt one of the master’s best novels, written during his most creative period, one year after The Call of the Wild.
9 105,900
3 1906 White Fang Klondike The first chapters will have your hair standing on end as you follow the desperate search of a team of two men, six dogs and one corpse to escape from a ravenous pack of wolves following them across the frozen wastes of the Northland.

Written at the peak of his writing career in the decade following his youthful participation in the Klondike gold rush of 1897-8, this is the best-known and most widely-read of all of Jack London’s novels (apart from The Call of the Wild, which is a novella). It is perhaps a no-doubt-to-be-regretted fact that this remarkable book with its animal hero and many intense scenes of pitiless violence and bloodshed not to say killings by animals and men alike has always been more a “boy’s book” than anything else. But that’s not a negligible part of the world’s population anyway, and one suspects that a great many members of the feminine and adult portions of humanity have nevertheless enjoyed or will or should enjoy this prime product of one of the finest American writers of all time.
9 72,100
4 1908 The Iron Heel Political Fiction On the face of it, this is way-out political fiction showing an ultra-violent Marxist-type revolution in the USA starting around 1914, with ensuing bloodshed, massacres, resistance, mass executions, dictatorship and final victory of the classless society after seven centuries of struggle!

But the term “socialist” in 21st-century English is a somewhat inadequate term to convey the nature of deeply-felt radical thought at the beginning of the 20th century, when extreme violence was commonplace in labour disputes, when Marx and Engels and Herbert Spencer exercised enormous intellectual influence, when memories of the ultra-violent repression of the Paris Commune of 1871 (when 30,000 resistants were shot in one bloody week by government forces involved in the repression of the revolutionary regime of that city) - here we have the Chicago Commune - were still strong, and when the vision of a classless and non-conflictual society organized in the interests of the common man seemed a perfectly achievable objective. The poor were many and mostly very poor, the rich were few and mostly very rich, suffering and conflict were strife – there was a lot wrong with the way the richest country in the world was functioning!

In the language of today, Jack was a radical, an extremist, a revolutionary, a believer in violence to achieve political aims, a firm believer in the coming downfall of the capitalistic system - a man who would have been delighted with the bolshevik Russian Revolution of 1917 if he had lived long enough. Unfortunately, for him and for us, he died a tad too early, in November 1916 at the age of 40.
7 88,200
5 1909 Martin Eden General Fiction About a strong-willed, rough young working-class fellow with years of sailing all over the four seas behind him getting introduced to high society after having rescued the son of a wealthy family from a street brawl, and promptly falling head-over-heels in love with the lovely and very sophisticated daughter of the house. And thereafter doing his best to rise up to the standards of speech, behaviour and intellect expected of him by the object of his attentions and her family, only to find that the more he studies and masters language and the world of books, the more not only does he want to express himself by writing in various domains – poetry, stories, novels, essays, philosophy, nothing is beyond the scope of his immense confidence in his own abilities, intellectual prowess and destiny – but also the more he becomes contemptuous of the shallowness and limitations of the bourgeois society and their values in which his loved one is so perfectly integrated.

A rather hard-to-read book, infused with florid, sentimental prose and quite endless harangues about politics and ideology, in particular the hero’s obsessional passion about the survival-of-the-fittest social Darwinism of Herbert Spencer and the Nietzschean ideal of human evolution towards a superior race of man. While Mr. London’s hero is a passionate advocate of individualism, the socialism of his working-class friends and bohemian-intellectual acquaintances provides a foil to his rather excessive rantings about superior beings being above the common lot of people and especially of the detested bourgeois class which had so interested him at the beginning of the book.
6.5 139,000
6 1910 Burning Daylight General Fiction This long and quite ambitious rags-to-riches (and back) story has a long first part describing the adventures of the central personage Elam Harnish – known by one and all as Burning Daylight because of his habit of routing his comrades out of their blankets with the complaint that daylight was burning – on his way to acquiring a formidable fortune in the Klondike gold rush in northern Canada in the late 1890’s, and then how he continues his economic adventures in the even tougher world of capitalistic competition down south in San Francisco and New York, to finally discover the truly meaningful objective of his life – living in the hills of the magnificent Sonoma Valley of Northern California with the lady of his dreams.

Written in the more relaxed, vernacular later style of the second half of his all-too-short career, this is perhaps not his best-known novel, but it has passed the test of time better than many of the others - and it certainly addresses themes that are of long-lasting interest: the ambiance of those celebrated gold-rush days, the workings and moral destructiveness of unbridled capitalism, and finally and even more forcefully the urgent necessity to protect and preserve the natural marvels that mankind is surrounded with.
8 112,000
7 1911 Adventure South Seas The central character is a lonely and very isolated faIrly-young man trying to run a cocoanut plantation on remote Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands group in very difficult conditions to say the least – he is the only European on the plantation, the hundred-odd workers are all indentured coolies from the even more savage neighbouring islands, almost all of whom are cannibals who hate him and who are just waiting for an occasion to gang up and carry off his head as a trophy. To top it all off he is deadly sick at the beginning with one of the many deadly Solomon Island diseases that were and probably still are so rampant there (such as the mysterious skin disease that the author caught himself there and that forced him to abandon his voyage to the South Seas and return to the U.S. of A. in search of a healthier climate), so we meet him on page 1 being carried around on a native’s back but wielding a revolver to discourage hostility.

Apart from the nasty natives (always referred to in this opus in the most violently-derogative manner imaginable) and the climate and the financial worries (his only boat gets wrecked early on and the plantation is not making any money) there is also the very disturbing presence of a dashing young woman who lands on his beach (on about page 3 or so) after having been wrecked herself, with a crew of very big and capable Polynesian sailors - the awful locals are only Melanesians, it is explained to us - dedicated to protecting her and helping her to have her own way in whatever she wants to do, which is just about everything including taking over the plantation but not, repeat not, getting married or anything as banal as that.

Well, our fellow is a rather reserved sort of Englishman with you wouldn’t believe how many ideas on what is proper behaviour for women in general and younger ones in particular, none of which fit in very well with the lady’s own vision. She wants adventure and excitement, and one must admit that she does get it! But the book is practically unreadable today because of its terribly antiquated colonial-style constant use of the n-word and the author’s quite off-putting notions about the superiority of the white race (???!!!).
No go.
5 70,800
8 1913 The Valley of the Moon General Fiction Told essentially from the point of view of Saxon, a beautiful young laundry-sweatshop working-girl (named after her Saxon and pioneer fore-bearers of whom she is very proud) who meets at the very beginning of this working-class romance the man of her dreams Billy, a handsome young teamster (driver of teams of horses) and former prize-fighter who also is inordinately proud of his true-blood pioneer ancestors. Billy sweeps her off her feet – the feeling is most mutual – and they get married a couple of weeks after their first encounter.

We follow the couple as they struggle to make ends meet in the difficult economic state of the times, as Saxon has to stop working as soon as they get married (that was the way in those days, apparently) and Billy rapidly gets into trouble and even jail through his quick temper, his fondness for dealing knockout blows to those who oppose him and especially because of the harsh labour conditions of the time, entailing constant labour conflicts, clashes with strike-breakers and the police, and a general shortage of funds to keep up with the Joneses. Culminating in an ultra-violent gunfight reminiscent of the Chicago Commune scene in The Iron Heel between striking mill-workers and strike-breaking scabs right before Saxon’s doorstep, where people on both sides, including one of her closest friends, are pitilessly gunned down by the other side - notably when they are down - right before her eyes. Resulting not only in the loss of her unborn child, but a dramatic decline in the fortunes of the couple, and especially a burning desire to escape the awfulness of urban life in general and working-class life in particular.

So about halfway through the novel the scene completely changes and it becomes a road-novel-on-foot as the couple sets off on a quest with blankets and a couple of pots on their back and twenty dollars in their pockets to wander through California south and north in quest of the ideal “valley of the moon” that Saxon has dreamed about.
Where they learn a lot not only about farming but also about people, as they become very friendly with a group of brilliant bohemian-bourgeois artists (Saxon’s mother was a poet) who help them on their way to the nirvana they are searching for in the magnificent - but then very undervalued - Sonoma Vally in Northern California.

The basic tenet of the tale is that farming is the ideal way for working-class people to have a meaningful and rewarding existence, and while that may or may not appear convincing to the reader, the quite panegyric descriptions of the stunning geography – the redwood forests, the fertile valleys, the splendidly-wild coastline, the mountains teeming with game, the amazingly temperate climate – are on the upside of the novel; while on the downside we have, unfortunately, the tiresomely broken English and off-puttingly aggressive, overweening and uncouth personality of the lead character Billy, the incessant and quite unsupportable denigration by both of its heroes of anyone who is not of authentic Anglo-Saxon stock, the militant verbosity of the first half and the over-florid prose of the latter half, and its excessive, bordering-on-the-boring, length.
6 167,800
9 1914 The Mutiny of the Elsinore Sailing John Parkhurst is a rich, very successful and very blasé 30-year-old writer who has taken passage on a big 4-masted sailing-ship carrying coals from Baltimore to Seattle with the aim of resting his jaded nerves. Right away there are signs that the trip is not going to be an easy one – the crew is a gang of drunken, incompetent landlubbers, his quarters are not the best on the ship much to his annoyance, the captain and first mate are strange fellows indeed and, especially, there is a young woman on board despite his firm specifications that the captain was not to bring his wife on the voyage. But she is the captain’s daughter, so he has to put up with her and off the ship goes on a truly memorable voyage that will mark him, and the other not-so-numerous survivors of those five unforgettable months, forever.

The narrator Mr. Parkhurst must have done some sailing before becoming such a famous writer, because he describes most effectively and even splendidly the complex manoeuvrings of the sails and the ship throughout this quite epic voyage, first criss-crossing the Atlantic to pick up the appropriate winds, down the coast of Argentina with its spectacular sunsets and then the tremendous challenge of rounding the Horn in the face of mighty 5-week-long gales – all that with a sullen and eventually mutinous crew of dropouts, cripples and outright criminals.

A rousing sailing novel at the very end of the centuries-long saga of big sailing ships – we are in 1913, the year of the Titanic – spoiled somewhat by the overweening personality of the narrator, utterly convinced of the innate superiority of his (white-skinned) “race” in general and of his own person in particular. But he certainly writes well!
7.5 114,500
10 1915 The Star Rover (aka The Jacket) General Fiction with mystic overtones A university professor, who has been condemned to life imprisonment in the (in)famous San Quentin prison in California for the murder of another professor in an uncontrolled fit of rage, is constantly subjected to the excruciatingly painful straight-jacket treatment, consisting of leaving him lying on the floor tied up as tightly as possible for hours and even days at a time, to make him confess where the dynamite that a group of convicts is supposed to have smuggled into the prison is hidden as part of a mass break-out plan.

This imaginary plot has been invented by a prisoner to curry favour with the authorities, who are so convinced that it is true that they unrelentingly subject Professor Standing to ever more severe versions of this San Quentin speciality – The Star Rover was entitled “The Jacket” in its first English edition – until he has been reduced to a ruined skeleton of a human being.

But to no avail – not only does our man not know anything about the dynamite in question, but he has a mental method of getting away from his immediate physical surroundings to revisit various episodes of humanity’s past existence that he lives intensely and recounts splendidly in his memoirs with great realism and dramatic effect – although humane California has done away with the death penalty for murder, there IS capital punishment for lifers who assault their guardians, so he is writing these recollections on Death Row waiting to be hung for having bloodied the nose of one of the guards.

We are thus treated to, amongst other things, the saga of the struggle for existence of a prehistoric cave-dweller; a series of dramatic sword-fights of a French nobleman in the Middle Ages; the account through the eyes of a young boy of a caravan of pioneers on their way to California being attacked by the redoubtable Mormon Militia when crossing Utah; the wild adventures of a crew of Dutch sailors stranded on the desolate shores of northern Korea hundreds of years ago who are captured and brought to the country’s luxurious capital to be displayed to prince and population as foreign devils; the successful struggle for survival of a shipwrecked sailor marooned on a lonely rock in the southernmost Pacific; the eye-witness account of a Roman soldier in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus; and other dramatic episodes in mankind’s history that he is able to transpose himself to during the straight-jacket sessions.

While there are mystical passages at the beginning (where the narrator talks about roving among the stars when he first learns how mind can overcome matter to get him far away from the maniacal prison warden) and at the end (where there is a mystical passage about the narrator’s feeling of being in touch with all of the key episodes and participants in human history), the rest of the story is taken up with the practical details of the professor’s voyages though time and human history and his struggle to overcome the tyranny of the prison administration.

On the whole the novel is a not so much a work of science-fiction or fantasy as a work of considerable imagination and power on the theme of mental escapism with a very solid and realistic basis in the cruel hardships of prison life.
8 104,000
11 1915 The Little Lady of the Big House General Fiction Dick Forrest is the very wealthy, very handsome and very charming 40-year-old owner of an immense 250,000-acre (100,000 hectares!) ranch in the rich farmland of the Sacramento River valley, where he breeds prime sheep, prize bulls, cows and thoroughbred horses that he exports all over the United States and elsewhere. Former hobo in his youth, former captain of the U. of California Varsity football team later on, holder of a graduate degree in agronomics, he has also had years of wild adventures in the Klondike and the South Seas. He excels at everything he does – athletics, horse-riding, boxing, managing a thriving business, citing and singing poetry, discussing philosophy with his never-ending stream of guests and in just being his naturally brilliant and extremely generous self.

His wife Paula, the little lady of the title, whom he had met in a night-club in Paris that he was running in his wilder days, and whom he had married there before sailing all over the world with her before settling down to his ranch business, is a quite-perfect woman of great beauty who plays the piano like a concert musician, sings like an angel, dances divinely, dives and swims and rides horses like a champion and is still very much in love with him in spite of his tendency to spend rather too much of his time with his business affairs and his agricultural experiments.

At the very beginning of the story arrives yet another house guest – sometimes there are dozens of them in the appropriately-gigantic Big House (it is 800 feet long!) – and he too is blond and forty and handsome and charming and has spent years adventuring all over the world. Now there is practically a tradition in this palatial residence that male house guests inevitably fall in love with the hostess, and Evan Graham, an old friend of Dick’s who has had many adventures with him, is no exception: not only is he immediately enthralled by her many charms and abilities and sparkling personality, but the feeling becomes more and more reciprocal. And the lord of the realm doesn’t seem to even wonder at the inordinate length of Evan’s stay-over, although towards the end he does finally begin to suspect that the little lady in the big house has something to do with it.

Interesting in a way because of the clearly autobiographical elements in the story and also to a certain degree because of the many rather enjoyable party-scenes scattered throughout, the snail’s pace of the story development, its excessive length, the too-flowery tone of the dialogues and prose and the practically inhuman perfection of its main protagonists do not make this one of the author’s most memorable works.
7 101,000
12 1917 Jerry of the Islands South Seas Jerry is a thoroughbred golden-haired Irish terrier puppy who is being brought up by his master on a colonial coconut plantation in the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific to become a “nxxxxx-chaser”, a dog whose role in life is to keep the indentured native servants (really slaves on a three-year contract) in line and to help hunt them down whenever they try to escape.

So Jerry growls and snarls and bites at any of these lowly creatures – who are throughout the tale referred to in the most derogatory terms possible because of their supposedly inferior black-skinned race – who pass within his reach: that is the way he has been taught by his beloved white-skinned masters.

Because of this continual, insistent, off-putting racism throughout the book, the modern reader has great difficulty following the adventures of this dog through to the end as he voyages with his master from one primitive community to another along the coast of Malaita, the wildest and most dangerous of all the wild, dangerous Solomon Islands, in search of ever more indentured “servants” to be bought from tyrannical village chiefs in exchange for various chattel and trade goods.

Adventures there are, described dramatically enough, but described in a context of colonialism and racism that may or may not have been palatable to the reading public in the far-off days of the early 20th Century when it was written, but which is decidedly hard to stomach in these more enlightened times.
5 70,000
13 1917 Michael, Brother of Jerry South Seas The central character of this wide-ranging adventure story is the thoroughbred Irish terrier that we met at the very beginning of “Jerry of the Islands”: Michael, who has also been brought up to be a “nxxxxx-chaser” on a Solomon Island plantation in the South Seas. But unlike his brother Jerry, whose whole existence was spent in those savage islands, Michael is kidnapped straight away by a sailor who rapidly becomes his “man-god” and brings him all over the South Seas where they have some memorable experiences indeed, notably a spectacular encounter with an enraged mother whale, and then go further over to sunny California.

Where they get separated for good and where Michael not only gets kidnapped twice but finds out the hard way what life was like behind the scenes for the beasts of all sorts in the vaudeville theatres of the times, where trained-animal shows were all the rage.

The best and the most impressive half of the book is taken up by this detailed, heartfelt and highly-convincing account of the brutal and terribly cruel, one might almost sat inhumane methods whereby animals were “trained” to perform stunts to amuse a public generally unaware of the harshness and terrible death toll that such performances really entailed.

But the racist attitudes and language that so marred the first volume about Jerry are very much present in the first half of this episode too, and survive unfortunately right through to the end in the lovely Sonoma Valley area of Northern California.
6.5 97,300

2. JACK LONDON’S NOVELLAS

date pub. _____Title________ Setting/ Genre Synopsis/comments_____________________________________________ Rating words
1 1902 The Cruise of the Dazzler Sailing A rather good story about a restless boy in a wealthy family in the posh area of San Francisco who just can’t concentrate on his studies and has only one thought in mind - to run away from this boring way of life at home and school to lead the exciting and adventurous outdoor life of a sailor. Which he actually does quite early on in the story, after getting zero in all his exams, and he does in fact have a very exciting time at first learning about seafaring in those days of sailing-boats. But also about the dangers sailors constantly face from the elements, from their bosses and above all from the beyond-the-pale kind of people on the criminal side of the life on the sea in those there parts.

Pretty fast-paced throughout, with a very neat twist at the end, this novella is in fact an excellent book for the younger reader, and well worthy of the others too.
8 35,800
2 1903 The Call of the Wild Klondike Jack London’s masterpiece, this dramatic account of the adventures of Buck, a very large, very tough and very resourceful dog that gets kidnapped away from his lovely Californian ranch to meet his destiny in the harsh land of the Far North in the days of the Klondike gold-rush in northern Canada, was an instantaneous world-wide success the minute it was published, selling over a million copies in the first year. It has remained one of the most-read works of American literature ever since.

The author, who had been earning his living writing stories for newspapers and magazines until then at a rate of some $100 a story (when times were good, otherwise less) was offered the princely sum of $2,000 for its book rights, which was precisely the sum he needed to buy the sailboat of his dreams. So everybody was happy, especially the New York publisher Macmillan, who made millions from the enormous sales of the book, of which Jack got nary a cent.

Still, if he had become an instant millionaire he might not have continued his writing career so effectively, so it all turned out for the best after all.
10 31,800
3 1907 Before Adam Historical Fiction The narrator is a prehistoric youth who recounts his adventures in the middle Pleistocene era some many hundred thousand tears before our time, when he and his tribe had to coexist and fight against not only ferocious carnivorous animals such as wild dogs, great boars, hyenas, and sabre-tooth tigers, but also primitive Tree-People who hated his kind and and the newly-emerged Fire-People, who had not only mastered fire but also speech (unlike his own people who did not yet have proper language) and deadly new weapons like bows and arrows.

His exciting experiences and adventures are related in modern language by a 20th-century youth, who has relived the life and adventures of Big Tooth, the prehistoric hero of this very original and interesting tale, via the recurrent atavistic dreams that have plagued his sleep all his life.

A highly unusual – and most readable – narration by the author of The Call of the Wild in his prime period.
8 39,000
4 1912 The Scarlet Plague Science Fiction An old man and a young boy, both dressed in rags, encounter a bear in the neighbourhood of San Francisco that the boy wards off with his bow and arrow. We are in the year 2073, sixty years after the deadly Scarlet Plague had spread all over the land and completely destroyed civilized life – no one was left in any of the cities and the few survivors have had to survive in the wilds where the struggle for survival of the fittest raged its deadly reign.

The old man, a university professor when the catastrophe happened, is the only human alive who had lived through those cataclysmic times. He tries to recount to the boy and his fellow companions the terrible details of how death and destruction rolled through the land and had liberated the worst impulsions in the ever-diminishing surviving population – but the boy can’t read and can hardly understand the elder’s fancy and by then almost completely obsolete language. And they continue their quasi-hopeless quest for a safe haven. Mankind has almost completed its descent into the primitive savagery of its prehistoric forbears.

This exceptionally far-sighted vision of the “plague-fall” (downfall caused by plague) of civilization as we know it was a brilliant precursor of the end-of-the-world variant of the science-fiction genre that has attracted so much attention in recent years.
9 20,200
5 1913 The Abysmal Brute Boxing The narrator of this story-with-a-message (that boxing is a corrupt business) is an (apparently) honest boxing manager who has been introduced to a phenomenally talented 22-year-old young giant whose father, a former boxing champion, has been training him intensively in their hideout in the woods of Northern California ever since the boy was seven. The trainer has one look at this monstrously-talented and very handsome youth who has never been to the big city, and takes him on a circuit of fights aimed at giving him a chance as soon as possible to land the heavyweight championship of the world, which he is practically certain to do if his manager can only arrange the fight.

But one day a spirited lady reporter enters the scene and the things she says and the irresistible impact that her personality and her values make on the “Anonymous Brute” (as he has been dubbed) change the course of the story and the boxer’s life and ambitions forever.
7.5 23,500

3. NOVELS AND NOVELLAS CO-AUTHORED BY JACK LONDON

Type date written/ pub. _____Title_______ Setting/ Genre Synopsis/comments___________________________________ Rating words
novel 1903 The Kempton-Wace Letters
(co-authored with Anna Strunsky)
General Fiction The forward to this long exchange of letters is a quotation from a sonnet of Dante: “And of naught else than Love would we discourse”, that pretty well sums up the book.

It starts off with a missive from Dane Kempton, an English poet in his late forties, to his stepson Herbert Wace, a 25-year old scientist in California, congratulating him in terms over-brimming with joy on the announcement of his engagement to a certain Hester. Herbert calms his ardour somewhat by explaining in a return letter that he is not in fact in love with Hester, but that he has chosen her as a suitable mother for his future chIldren, and follows that up with explanations about love being an artificial cover-up for the basic instincts, that the essential need of man is to perpetuate the race, and that in accordance with the natural-selection processes of Darwin and Herbert Spencer the tendency and the need was “to improve upon nature in the breeding of the human” in the way one breeds race horses and other prize animals.

The literary Dane doesn’t see love in that light at all, and we are off for 150 pages of so of debating about what love is and isn’t.

So this is really a series of essays on love and procreation, with the letters by Herbert (written by Jack London) stressing in a consistently dogmatic tone a biological and “stirpiculture” (eugenics) function of the relationship between the sexes, while the letters of Dane (written by his close friend Anna Strunsky) talk - endlessly - in suitably flowery prose about how essential love is and has always been and always will be.

Apart from the quite predicable dénouement in the last three pages where there are a couple of short letters from Hester, the young lady who started off the whole debate, nothing actually ever happens in this “novel”, that was originally published anonymously to an understandably-lukewarm critical reception.
5 47,200
novel 1916/ 1919 Hearts of Three (co-authored with Charles Goddard) escapist adventure As Jack London recounts in the interesting prefix to this unusual book, not only was he incapable of writing a successful film script, but “because a man had written a score of novels was no guarantee that he could write a good scenario. Quite to the contrary, it was quickly discovered that the surest guarantee of failure was a previous record of success in novel-writing.” And on the other hand, successful scriptwriters such as Charles Goddard, the co-author of this action novel with comic-book overtones, “couldn’t write novels to save themselves”.

So Jack’s editor and Charles’s film producer came up with the novel idea of “novelization” of a moving-picture screenplay, and Mr. Goddard was brought in to write a screenplay of which Jack would write the novel version, and this is the result of that rather original experiment, that Jack London completed shortly after his fortieth birthday in the last year of his life.

Here we have Francis Morgan, a young idler of about 25 who has inherited a lot of money from his very dynamic father, a descendant of the (in)famous 17th-Century pirate Henry Morgan, who decides to go off on a hunt for the hidden treasure of his illustrious forbear after running into a Latin-American adventurer who has a map showing where Henry Morgan had hidden his quite fabulous treasure.

So he is off to the rather wilder part of Panama, where he a) meets a very lookalike fellow-descendant of the pirate Morgan, equally engaged in the same treasure hunt; b) gets accosted and menaced and kissed and whatnot by a wonderfully attractive young woman of Spanish origins; c) gets attacked by savage Indians; d) gets arrested by the local police and sentenced to death for a murder that his lookalike cousin is supposed to have committed; e) is rescued by his cousin and flees into the mountains where he saves the life of a Mayan peasant whose father has an ancient Mayan document showing where the Mayans had hidden their own fabulous treasure; ... q) escapes from the Mayan tomb to discover a hidden valley that is jointly ruled by a vicious old priest and a beautiful princess who is the caretaker of the Mayan treasure chest; r) escapes from the priest and his fanatical followers with the beautiful princess in a most dramatic fashion; ... x) gets married to one of these beautiful women but not the one he is really in love with; y) rushes back to New York to try to salvage his fortune which is being violently attacked by a treacherous friend of his father’s; ... and more.

All in all rather fun to read, an experiment that Jack was right to be quite pleased with. A success on a quite different plane than the rest of his very serious oeuvre.
7.5 111,600
novella 1910/ 1963 The Assassination Bureau, Ltd (completed by Robert L. Fish) crime fiction The secret organization of the title assassinates people that its clients want to eliminate, providing that its Chief agrees that the deed would be morally justifiable and that society would be better off without them. So they target, always successfully and for a sizeable fee, unworthy citizens such as oppressive police officers, morally unfit businessmen, corrupt politicians, etc.

However a clever and very wealthy young social reformer has discovered what is going on, and early on in the story confronts the Chief with such an overwhelmingly logical line of reasoning that the Chief ends up agreeing with him that the Bureau’s acts, while perfectly moral on an individual level, have been socially unjustifiable from a global viewpoint, and therefore feels morally bound to accept a contract for $50,000 on his own head, demanding only a day’s head start to try to get away from the bureau’s team of deadly killers! And the noble young man agrees to replace him as the organization’s distributor of funds to the killers for the duration of the contract! And to complicate matters somewhat he is engaged to be married to a very lovely young woman who just happens to be the Chief’s daughter!

So the chase is on and it is touch and go, as the Chief is an extraordinarily powerful man and expert killer in his own right, so the assassins on his trail are faced with their toughest assignment ever!

Starting off with an ethical attack on the moral and social values of the modern (capitalist) society almost in the vein of The Iron Heel, this convoluted tale full of almost-farcical ethical ratiocinations rapidly becomes almost farcical full stop, and one can easily understand why Mr. London abandoned the writing of this “crime novella” in 1910 after writing 20,000 words, declaring that he couldn’t see how to wind it up.

The remaining 40% of the final version was completed 53 years later by the crime-fiction writer Robert L. Fish (who had won the Mystery Writers of America’s prestigious Edgar Allan Poe award for best first novel in 1962) and published as “a previously unpublished novel by Jack London” simultaneously in hardcover and paperback editions by McGraw-Hill in 1963.
5 32,000

4. OTHER WORKS BY JACK LONDON ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AS NOVELS

Type date pub. _____Title________ Setting/ Genre Synopsis/comments________________________________________ Rating words
novelette 1905 The Game Boxing Joe and Genevieve are shopping for rugs and things for their new life together when they will be married in a week’s time. But first Joe, who is a local celebrity because of his prowess at the Game – boxing – has one last fight to get through before settling down with Genevieve to his new life. And what a fight! 8 15,000
short-story anthology 1912 A Son of the Sun South Seas Described as a novel when first published, no doubt for commercial reasons, this is an anthology of a series of quite separate and independent short stories and novelettes (the format that was Mr. London’s true forte) about a daring trader’s adventures all over the South Seas, all of which are described elsewhere on this site: A Son of the Sun, The Proud Goat of Aloysius Pankburn, The Devils of Fuatino, The Jokers of New Gibbon, A Little Account With Swithin Hall, A Goboto Night, The Feathers of the Sun, and The Pearls of Parlay. 7 55,000

5. LIST OF TITLES IN ALPHABETIC SEQUENCE

A Daughter of the Snows
A Son of the Sun
Adventure
Before Adam
Burning Daylight
Hearts of Three
Jerry of the Islands
Martin Eden
Michael, Brother of Jerry
The Abysmal Brute
The Assassination Bureau, Ltd
The Call of the Wild
The Cruise of the Dazzler
The Game
The Jacket
The Iron Heel
The Kempton-Wace Letters
The Little Lady of the Big House
The Mutiny of the Elsinore
The Scarlet Plague
The Sea Wolf
The Star Rover
The Valley of the Moon
White Fang