One of the pioneers of 20th century American literature, Jack London specialized in tales of adventure inspired by his own experiences. London was born in San Francisco in 1876. At 14, he quit school and became an "oyster pirate," robbing oyster beds to sell his booty to the bars and restaurants in Oakland. Later, he turned on his pirate associates and joined the local Fish Patrol, resulting in some hair-raising waterfront battles. Other youthful activities included sailing on a seal-hunting ship, traveling the United States as a railroad tramp, a jail term for vagrancy and a hazardous winter in the Klondike during the 1897 gold rush. Those experiences converted him to socialism, as he educated himself through prolific reading and began to write fiction. After a struggling apprenticeship, London hit literary paydirt by combining memories of his adventures with Darwinian and Spencerian evolutionary theory, the Nietzchean concept of the "superman" and a Kipling-influenced narrative style. "The Son of the Wolf"(1900) was his first popular success, followed by 'The Call of the Wild" (1903), "The Sea-Wolf" (1904) and "White Fang" (1906). He also wrote nonfiction, including reportage of the Russo-Japanese War and Mexican revolution, as well as "The Cruise of the Snark" (1911), an account of an eventful South Pacific sea voyage with his wife, Charmian, and a rather motley crew. London's body broke down prematurely from his rugged lifestyle and hard drinking, and he died of uremic poisoning - possibly helped along by a morphine overdose - at his California ranch in 1916. Though his massive output is uneven, his best works - particularly "The Call of the Wild" and "White Fang" - have endured because of their rich subject matter and vigorous prose.
John Sutherland has been a professor of literature for a long time and in many places. Currently he teaches untechnologically at the California Institute of Technology and is the emeritus Lord Northcliffe Professor at UCL. He is the author of numerous books, including the puzzle-collection Is Heathcliff a Murderer? (probably, yes) and the encyclopaedic Longman Companion to Victorian Fiction (soon to be reissued in a yet more encyclopaedic form). In recent years, he has written voluminously on a variety of literary and non literary topics in, principally, the Guardian and the Financial Times. His interest in literature has become more curious over the years. Martin Rowson is an award-winning cartoonist whose work appears regularly in the Guardian, the Independent on Sunday and many other publications. His books include a novel, Snatches; a memoir, Stuff; The Dog Allusion: Gods, Pets and How to Be Human; and comic book versions of T.S.Eliot's 'The Waste Land' and Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy. He smokes and qualifies as the sharpest literary-pictorial satirist of his time.