Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Jack London

When I was a kid, I read Call of the Wild at least twice, and when I got to high school, I (like every other kid in America, probably) read "To Build a Fire." Naturally, having read those two things, I associated Jack London with the Frozen North.

But London also wrote South Sea adventure stories about a man named David Grief. These were the basis for a pretty bad syndicated TV series in the 1950s, Captain David Grief. I vaguely remembered the series, but I'd never read any of the stories until the other day, when I picked up an old Popular Library reprint of a book called Son of the Sun. The reprint, because of the TV series, is titled Adventures of Captain David Grief.

The copyright info in front of the book mentions the Curtis Publishing Company, which I assume means The Saturday Evening Post published the stories originally. In a way, I wish London had been aiming at the pulp market. The stories might have been a little more exciting if he had.

Still, they have their moments. When you're dealing with headhunters, sharks, and hidden treasure, it's hard not to generate some thrills. But I get the impression that the thrills were toned down a bit, especially in a story like "The Jokers of New Gibbon," which would have been a lot better if the action had taken place on stage instead of between the lines of a page break.

Oddly enough, the first story in the book, "The Proud Goat of Aloysius Pankborn," reminded me of some of the SF stories I read in the 1950s about alien contact. It's also a little like Captain's Courageous, in which a wuss is transformed into a real man by hard work and sailing.

The collection is entertaining enough to hold my interest, but then I can't resist stories about the South Seas. And another thing I like about them is that I figure I'm the only person in the United States who's reading them.

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