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.
Edgar Lawrence (E. L.) Doctorow was born January 6, 1931, in New York, New York. He received an A.B. in philosophy (with honors) in 1952 from Kenyon College and did graduate work at Columbia University 1952-1953. He served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps from 1953-1955. He began his career as a script reader at Columbia Pictures and as a senior editor for the New American Library, 1959-1964. He was editor-in-chief for Dial Press from 1964 to 1969, where he also served as vice president and publisher in his last year on staff. It was at this time that he decided to write full time. He has written novels, short stories, essays, and a play. His debut novel, Welcome to Hard Times, was published in 1960 and was adapted into a film in 1967. His other works include, Loon Lake, The Waterworks, The March, and Andrew's Brain. He won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1986 for World's Fair and the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in 1976 for Ragtime, which was adapted into a film in 1981 and a Broadway musical in 1998. Billy Bathgate received the PEN/Faulkner Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the William Dean Howells Medal in 1990. The Book of Daniel and Billy Bathgate were also adapted into films. He received the 2013 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters for his outstanding achievement in fiction writing.