Friday, December 21, 2012


Novels and Stories: The Call of the Wild, White Fang, The Sea Wolf, Klondike and Other Stories. / by Jack London. Published by The Library of America, 1982.

Dialog in novels and short stories reveal a character's persona more than any other technique of writing. And yet it’s the description of a person or place that really sets the stage for a story and provides credible background that cultivates the reader's imagination. In both methods Jack London excelled because he really was captivated by human struggle and dignity. Out of these two compelling conditions he created stories about sailors, the Gold Rush in Alaska, factory workers, and many more. People whose social circumstance or biological inheritance fascinated him and so became the focus of his writings. He was of course deeply fascinated by the romantic, yet his works pay tribute to the grit of life.

Novels and Social Writings: The People of the Abyss/ the Road/ The Iron Heel/ Martin Eden/ John Barleycorn. / by Jack London. Published by The Library of America, 1982.

A powerfully-engaged man, London got involved and traveled to Asia as a war correspondent in the Russo-Japanese War, photographing people and conditions there. He also appeared in England where he posed homeless along London’s quays so he could study the struggles of poverty and wrote "The People of the Abyss", an acknowledged and socially-charged statement of the times (early 1900). About ten years later he designed a yacht and with his wife set sail on his personal travels to Pacific island destinations.

The Los Angeles Maritime Museum Books in the Los Angeles Maritime Museum Research Library are available for borrowing by Museum members. See books in collection in our online catalog.

Museum volunteer: At the Los Angeles Maritime Museum, volunteers answer questions at the front desk, give museum tours, operate the tug ANGELS GATE, use the Morse code, build ship models, and staff The Sea Chest, the museum’s gift shop. Visit the web page for more information.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Aloha, Jack London

Stories of Hawaii. / by Jack London. Compiled by A. Grove Day. Published by Mutual Publishing Company, 2007.

Originally published in various forms, as "House of Pride and Other Tales", 1914, and "On the Makaloa Mat", 1919, this compilation was published in 1986 with subsequent printings until 2007. The editor is A. Grove Day, a professor at the University of Hawaii whose love of the literature about Hawaii is evident in his introduction to the book.

The 15 stories describe the lives of Hawaiians in the time before statehood, the times between the first King Kamehameha and 1898 when Hawaii was still a kingdom of clans ruled by chiefs or kings and queens.

A. Grove Day says in the introduction to "Stories of Hawaii" that London had a habit of “turning out 1000 words per day of printable manuscript”---that occurred before 1916, when there was no MSWord, no spell-check, no control “f”, and no cutting and pasting! For at least two pages of text we can print-out today, his work was created daily on the voyages he and Charmian (his wife and companion) made in the South Pacific. So not only did the lifestyle, the environment and the people make an impression on him, despite the fact that he was always involved in new jobs, he managed to digest and synthesize his experience for readers who were not as fortunate as he in venturing forth into the lesser-known half of the world.

The Library is currently building a small collection of Jack London's works.

Short stories on a web site you can read are here.

See also an article on Jack London on

Monday, December 3, 2012

Foreign Traveller in Drake's Galley

At Drake's Command: The Adventures of Peregrine James During the Second Navigation of the World. / David Wesley Hill. Published by Temurlone Press, November 2012. ISBN 978-0983611721.

The Grumpy Old Bookman’s prediction is that the author stands next in the line up of well-regarded maritime storytellers. Accordingly, Hill is in good company with C.S. Forester and Patrick O’Brien---much loved among those whose passion for historical fiction evokes their own earlier days on the seas, or perhaps the romance of danger and daring that this kind of tale elicits. Our story, At Drake's Command: The Adventures of Peregrine James During the Second Navigation of the World, begins in late Elizabethan England in 1577, when European nations sought wealth by claiming foreign lands and ports, thus securing ownership of coveted resources they had discovered around the world. At the time England’s only measurable rivals were Spain and Portugal. Queen Elizabeth authorized Captain Francis Drake to guarantee her sovereign power by circumnavigating the world and obtaining for England the wealth and power of her rivals.

David Wesley Hill is an accomplished author whose newest book relates the adventures of Francis Drake and crew on the Pelican (an earlier version of the Golden Hind) on a voyage around the globe to find treasure and the route through the Straits of Anian, outdoing efforts of the Spanish and Portuguese to maintain control of foreign coastlines.

Piracy was common, as was escape from a near-death experience; surprise and capture was often the only means of survival at sea. A captain, by unscrupulous manipulation of his crew, used the tools of his trade well. He had already calculated his risk by selecting sailors who exhibited personal courage prior to the voyage. So the captain was confident his crew had the guts to meet extreme danger with nerve and bravery, although none of them were as acquainted with that edge in their character as the captain. And the ideal captain maintained a wary outlook: he was in constant vigil for behavior that might reveal plans for mutiny. As fate would have it, this knowledge often led to expelling a sailor mid-voyage from the ship. So intimate was the trust expected between captain and sailor, that once betrayed, no amount of reasoning could persuade a reunion.

Peregrine James, Hill’s main character who is boy turned sailor turned sea cook, is an innocent and pure type who accepts Drake as his master. In just three months, Mr. James manages to rise from public disgrace in Plymouth, England, to become one of Drake’s favorites at sea and just as quickly to fall from that privilege into exile. Yet he meets this fate with the least effort, over a moral issue rather than any other. When climbing aloft, sailors handle personal danger with cunning, prayer, or cursing, relying on no one else to prove their valor. In this story Perry James seizes any opportunity to become a hero and keep his own honor in tact, as well as his captain’s.

Known as the seafaring life, the trials of sailors live on as true accounts or sometimes fantastic tales. The truth is hidden in past eras and obscured by the attention paid the famous captain. In these tales of adventure and subsequent personal maturity, the precarious advance from boyhood to manhood always comes into question---will the character escape with his life and prove his worth despite his master who cares not for his safety? And will his master again show appreciation or be relegated to history as a scoundrel who secured an empire for the Queen? Readers await the sequel “Desperate Bankrupts” for part two of the story.

See a partial catalog of books on the heroes and scoundrels of maritime history in the Los Angeles Maritime Museum Research Library here.