Books: Adventure Heroes!

Wolf: The Lives of Jack London, by James L. Haley     Photo: Courtesy of Basic Books

In Wolf: The Lives of Jack London (Basic Books, $30, June), biographer James L. Haley gives the Oakland-raised writer the chronicling he deserves. At 21, London had already toiled as a cannery stuffer, an oyster pirate, a game warden, a seal hunter, and a coal shoveler. Then a steamship docked in San Francisco with Klondike gold and London hopped the next boat north. His 1897 Yukon folly gave him material for The Call of the Wild and made him vow to give voice to the hardworking poor. There's been speculation that misery caught up to him back in California (some called London's 1916 morphine overdose a suicide), but Haley sees his death as an accident: London went out seeking sleep, not suicide. Haley stakes a claim here as a rising voice of the West, with a biography that's perfectly suited to London's two-fisted, fortune-seeking life.

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