Jack London was born in San Francisco on January 12, 1876. Raised in poverty, he started working part-time to support his family at the age of nine and dropped out of school a few years later to work and travel full-time. He educated himself through reading, deriving special pleasure from the stories of Washington Irving and Rudyard Kipling. London spent his teenage years sailing aboard a sealing schooner, tramping across the country as a hobo, and working at a variety of odd jobs. He later drew upon these early adventures in books such as The Cruise of the Dazzler (1902) and The Sea-Wolf (1904).
When he was twenty years old, London enrolled in the University of California at Berkeley. He had just begun to read Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species (1859) and Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto (1848). The ideas of Darwin and Marx profoundly influenced his thinking and writing. The following year, 1897, London left California for the Klondike gold rush. Although he did not “strike it rich” there, London witnessed a culture and way of life that were to bring him success as a writer. Before he turned twenty-five, London had published his first book, The Son of the Wolf: Tales of the Far North (1900), as well as numerous magazine stories.
Jack London died on November 22, 1916, in Santa Rosa, California, a possible suicide. Although he was only forty years old, he had already written fifty-nine books, including novels, short stories, sociological studies, essays, plays, and an autobiography. By his own admission, much of his writing was “hack work.” Nonetheless, his stories from the Klondike continue to make him one of America’s most popular authors. Many of London’s books have been made into movies, and his most popular, The Call of the Wild, has inspired three major film Adaptations.