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Jack London in California


Camp Internet has relied on Jack London's writings about surfing in the Explore the California Channel Islands section of the Camp.

For Explore the California Backcountry, we will be looking at his life and writings about the California Mountains.

Jack London - Biography London was an internationally enjoyed writer whose travels to far corners of the earth gave him excellent experiences and material for his well-known books The Call of the Wild, White Fang, The Sea wolf and Valley of the Moon.

But through it all, London was a lifelong Californian, and an expert in capturing the energy and vitality of western living. By the time he was 26, he had published numerous short stories and two books, had purchased a comfortable home in the hills on the eastern side of San Francisco Bay, and had a one-year-old daughter.

He was surrounded by a crowd of friends - artists, poets, playwrights, and critics - who came to enjoy the Piedmont Hills around London's home regularly.


From the introduction of Jack London's California by Sal Noto, we learn that " London was always proud to say he was first and foremost a Californian, and with rich material at hand, he dew heavily from personal experiences in his native state for much of what he wrote.

So it is not surprising that over half of his books contain something concerning people, events, and landscapes of the Golden State during the colorful and sometimes turbulent period at the turn of the century" (early 1900s).

The UC Berkeley Sun Site introduction to Jack London describes him as a " prolific writer whose fiction explored three geographies and their cultures: the Yukon, California, and the South Pacific. He experimented with many literary forms, from conventional triangle love stories to science fantasy. His noted journalism included war correspondence, boxing stories, and the life of Molokai lepers. A committed socialist, he insisted against editorial pressures to write political essays and insert social criticism in his fiction. He was among the most influential figures of his day, who understood how to create a public persona and use the media to market his self-created image of poor-boy-turned-success. London's great passion was agriculture, and he was well on the way of creating a new model for ranching through his Beauty Ranch when he died of kidney disease at age 40. He left over fifty books of novels, stories, journalism, and essays, many of which have been translated and continue to be read around the world. "

London was born on January 12, 1876 to parents Flora Wellman and William H. Chaney, who were not to marry. Eight months after his birth, Flora did marry John London, and the young boy was named John Griffith London. The family moved frequently trying to find a stable source of income. Their efforts at farm living were not successful, and they lived most often in the growing cities of the San Francisco Bay area. By the time London was 15, he was trying his hand at oyster pirating, and eventually joined the California Fish Patrol that gave him a legitimate income and kept him sailing the waters with the exhilarating freedom that he so loved. He was impatient in school, had several troubles with law, and became even more determined to get his schooling. He passed, through self-study, the entrance exams to UC Berkeley, even though he had not formally completed high school. But it was soon the call of gold in the Klondike that caught his attention, and after only a semester at college, he was on the road for northern Canada. All this before he was 20 years old, and before the end of the 1890s.

While these many experiences didn't prove profitable - not in gold ore - these experiences gave Jack London a wealth of materials and maturity for his writing. The experiences in the Klondike proved to be some of the most important in his life and he said, "It was in the Klondike that I found myself. There you get your perspective. I got mine." He came back in 1898 and began writing short stories for magazines such as the Overland Monthly and the Atlantic Monthly. By the time he was 24, he had written and published his first book, "the Son of the Wolf" using inspiration from his Klondike and Alaska travels. He married, had two daughters and wrote one of his most famous works "The Call of the Wild" by 1903.

After separating from his first wife, London was ready to try out country living, and began spending time in Sonoma, a fertile valley surrounded by mountains north of San Francisco. There he met his second wife, Charmain Kittredge, a spirited young woman who was an excellent 'mate' to London's urge for travel, adventure, and closeness to the land. He had bought a 127-acre retreat in Glen Ellen, near Charmain's family lodge, the Wake Robin.

Soon after their marriage, and following the 1906 earthquake that knocked San Francisco to the ground, the Londons set sail on an adventure to Hawaii, the Marquesas, Tahiti, Samoa, the Fijis, New Hebrides, and the Solomon Islands. By the time they reached Australia two years later, they had to end the trip due to the entire crew's difficulty in overcoming various tropical illnesses. They returned to their ranch at Glen Ellen in 1909. He named it "Beauty Ranch' and it eventually came to cover 1400 acres.

London's life lasted 40 years, and during that time he became a beloved American author who captured the heart and soul of the West. While on assignment for Collier's Magazine to report on the Mexican Revolution in 1914, he became ill again. Respites in Hawaii and returning home to the ranch were unable to cure his illness this time. On November 22, 1916, he died at his Beauty Ranch, which has now become a State Park to honor this remarkable man's life and achievements.

The Golden Poppy

The Valley of the Moon

Burning Daylight

All Gold Canyon

Jack London Creative Writing contest

Jack London Quiz I.

Jack London Quiz II.