Jack_LondonJohn "Jack" London was born in San Francisco to a music teacher and an astrologist. When his father disavowed the pregnancy altogether, London's mother left young Jack in the custody of an ex-slave by the name of Virginia Prentiss. Eventually, his mother married a man named John London and reclaimed her child. 

London's youth is the subject of much mythology, but it is known that he held many odd jobs, had a brief stint as a pirate, and also worked as a miner during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897.

His experiences in the gold rush were especially formative as he was exposed to extreme working conditions, sickness and squalor. When he returned from the mines in 1898, he had become a proponent of socialism and would remain with the cause for the remainder of his life.

He had only completed one year of college, but was committed to making his living by "[selling] his brains" rather than working manual labor. Over the next few years London established himself as a short-story fiction writer, and achieved his greatest fame with The Call of the Wild (1903), and White Fang (1906). 

The Nazis banned London's works purely on the basis of his socialist leanings. Ironically, London's own beliefs on race were mostly in line with Hitler's notion of Aryan supremacy. At times London was convinced of the superiority of the Anglo/German races, and expressed great concern about the immigration of Asians and Indians to the U.S. But strangely, in other instances his characters (often Chinese, Indian or Hawaiian) are notable for their nobility and grace.

London's death was as much a conundrum as his life. Because suicide was such a common theme in his writing, many believed that he had himself committed suicide. However, it was later discovered that London was ill during his last days and that most likely he died of kidney failure due to morphine usage.