Jack London's Tales of Cannibals and Headhunters: Nine South Seas Stories by America's Master of Adventure

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UNM Press, 2006 - Fiction - 276 pages

A ship's captain, his vessel ready to explode from a fire within its cargo hold, desperately searches for a way to save his crew. A missionary in Fiji is clubbed to death by a cannibal chief to satisfy a debt of honor. A scientist agrees to have his head chopped off in return for a last glimpse of a huge alien object half-buried in the jungles of Guadalcanal. A Melanesian youth, sold into slavery, gains revenge against his sadistic white overseer. With unbridled barbarity, the crew of a European ship massacres scores of islanders.

These are some of the incidents in the action-filled short stories found inJack London's Tales of Cannibals and Headhunters. Though London's bestsellers about the frozen Northland are known to most, few readers are familiar with his tales set in the romantic and dangerous South Seas - an area of the world with which Jack London became intimate while traveling aboard his yacht, The Snark, in the first decade of the twentieth century.

For the first time these stories are collected in a single volume with notes, an introduction, and an afterword that help to illuminate the racial tension of the colonial period in the Pacific. The stories are illustrated with the original artwork, several maps (including one of London's own), and photographs of the region.


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About the author (2006)

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.

Gary Riedl is a retired Minnesota schoolteacher and active scholar in Jack London research.

Thomas R. Tietze, 1947-2009, was an English teacher in Minnesota for thirty-two years and a scholar in Jack London research.

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