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Jack London: A Life Paperback – February 15, 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 334 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1st edition (February 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031219904X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312199043
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,540,188 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Alex Kershaw plunges readers into the world of Jack London by using lots of direct quotations and maintaining a fast-paced narrative--just right for dealing with an author who crammed as much action into his brief, 40-year existence (1876-1916) as can be found in his classic adventure fiction The Call of the Wild. Kershaw does justice to London's ardent socialism and pioneering efforts to protect the natural environment; his distasteful racism is acknowledged, but only briefly. This heartfelt tribute aims to kindle our admiration for "the passion and energy with which [London] lived, and which still sustains his best prose." --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Written with verve in a direct and emphatic style, this most recent biography of the legendary California-born adventurer and author of The Call of the Wild may prompt a reassessment of London, as its author hopes. Kershaw describes London's emotionally and materially disenfranchised early years as an oyster pirate on the San Francisco waterfront and Klondike adventurer to account for his conflicting lifelong adherence to both Darwinism and socialism. Kershaw also discusses the writer's nourishing relationship with Charmian Kittredge, London's obsessive long-distance travel, his costly attempts to create an environmentally friendly model at his Beauty Ranch, and the drinking and ill health that led up to his death at 40. Preferring living to writing, London nonetheless drove himself to write 1000 words a day. Yet this life reveals that all the money and celebrity that eventually came his way did nothing but starve London's soul, leaving him a broken man with only a reputation as a writer of dog stories. Kershaw's reassessment sees beyond the legend and examines neglected London works. Recommended for all libraries.?Charles Nash, Cottey Coll., Nevada, Mo.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Alex Kershaw is the New York Times best-selling author of several popular WW11 titles. He is a British born journalist.

Please visit alexkershaw.com for his full bio and some great web-sites devoted to his books. He would be happy to answer any questions and sign books and help in any other way.

You can also catch up with him and his work at his facebook page - alex kershaw, author's page.

He blogs at www.alexkershawauthor.com and provides video/images/posts on facebook.



THE LIBERATOR Q&A

What inspired you to write the book?

I was researching a story about men who liberated the camps in WW11. I came across an extraordinary photograph which showed a young American officer, Felix Sparks, firing his pistol into the air on 29 April 1945. He is in a coal-yard at Dachau, which he has just liberated, and some of his men have opened fire on SS soldiers. He is firing his pistol and shouting to make them stop. The image captures an amazing moment of incredible humanity when one considers that Sparks had by then spent over 500 days in brutalizing combat, losing an entire company at Anzio and a battalion to the SS, since landing on the first day of the invasion of Europe. Most people would not have stopped the killing of such evil men, just minutes after discovering the full horrors of Hitler's first concentration camp. I had to meet this man and in 2007 I interviewed him, literally on his death-bed. No other American fought for longer or suffered more to free more people from the greatest evil of modern times.


- What surprised you the most during the writing process?

I was often astonished by the sheer violence and trauma endured by the so-called Greatest Generation. Over 150,000 mostly working-class Americans died to liberate Europe. Hundreds of thousands came home and never talked about it. Why would you want to recount what felt like being in a terrible car crash each day? I interviewed many men who served with and under Sparks and because they opened up to me I was struck over and over by how great their suffering had been. None came home unbroken. They all paid a huge price if they were in combat.

- What would you be doing if you weren't a writer?

I'd be a retired banker, sipping cocktails in St. Lucia, lazily scanning the Wall Street Journal to see how my investments, taxed at almost nothing, are doing. Sadly, l decided to try to do something a little more interesting....

- What else are you reading right now?

I am utterly absorbed in the Civil War and Revolutionary War America - my son is studying these periods at middle school. It's hugely colorful history. Even as an expat "limey" who has lived here for twenty years I'm astonished by how radical the idea was that all men should be equal before the law, not subjects of a king. As concerns the Civil War, Michael Shara's The Killer Angels is amazing. The Civil War has not ended of course - just look at the red and blue states.

Customer Reviews

This is an excellent and fascinating read.
M. Walton
This book provided a wonderful perspective on a very complex, unique American icon.
Gerald B Fried
A reader gets too little social context, and with London--that's really necessary.
Irving Warner

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 12, 1998
Format: Hardcover
It was about time that someone wrote a biography that is as passionate and fast paced as Jack London himself. The biography reads like a heroic novel and does justice to his life.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 9, 2002
Format: Paperback
A brilliant book because it captures the magic of London's life and reads as if he had written the book himself - fantastic stuff, and the academics should take note - this is how you bring a man and writer alive, not kill him with turgif analysis and prose. London would be proud.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By M. Walton on August 23, 2009
Format: Paperback
I've always loved to read Jack London, from "The Call of the Wild" to "On the Makaloa Mat" and many of the books and short stories in between. His stories always take you to another world, an adventure, and another incredible feat of survival. I've often wondered where these amazing stories came from and now I know, he lived them.

Alex Kershaw tells an amazing story of an even more amazing man. He leaves nothing out, the many strengths and human weaknesses bring us all a lot closer to one of the finest authors this country has ever produced. This is an excellent and fascinating read. I just loved this book.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 16, 2002
Format: Paperback
Simply the best biography I have ever read. Jack London wrote stories that pale in comparison to the excitement and drama of his life.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 29, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This is a biography that races along like a novel, but with a healthy dose of quality writing (much of it London's own words) Kershaw makes it eminently nourishing. I am recommending this book to everyone. . .
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Gerald B Fried on October 20, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book provided a wonderful perspective on a very complex, unique American icon. I recommend it highly for individuals who want to gain more knowledge and be entertained at the same time.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By TC on November 27, 2007
Format: Paperback
It would appear that others have read previous London biographies and that Kershaw's work doesn't tread any new ground. I will have to take the word of the many reviewers who have stated this. That said, since this is my first Jack London biography I will review it accordingly.

Alex Kershaw does a sufficient job of describing Jack London's early life of poverty, struggle and devotion to unleashing his creative vision. His exploits on the docks, pubs and back alleys of San Francisco are documented in lively, rough fashion. Jack's wanderlust and exploits to the North are likewise given adequate treatment as are his years as a "success." In fact, for the entirety of the book we are given a good overview of the many stages of Jack's brief but fascinating life; adventures, friendships, loves, fatherhood, etc. What's missing however, is a more intensive look at the man himself. Jack's alcoholic rages, absentee roll as a father, proto National Socialism, gluttony, mood wings, regrets, emotional exhaustion, depression and realization of mortality and many, many contradictions are given superficial treatment in the beginning and middle stages of the autobiography. It's almost as if Kershaw is willing to skim over many aspects of London's personality because Jack's genius as a writer overshadowed whatever shortcomings or riddles he possessed as a man. The problem is however, as any fan of London's work will tell you, Jack is the literature and the literature is Jack. Very few writers were able to inject themselves quite so thoroughly into their work as Jack London. His presence smothers every page of his work. It's not until the end that Kershaw begins to thoroughly explore Jack London's psyche. As Kershaw clearly points out, Jack associated his physical prowess with his creative drive.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
We are reading and studying about Jack London's life and works at an adult education class. This book was an excellent choice.
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