Ballads of a Cheechako by Robert W. Service

Robert Service (b. Preston, England, Jan. 16, 1874; d. France, Sept. 11, 1958) was born of Scottish parents who were blessed with many children and little else. He grew up in Glasgow, Scotland and immigrated to Canada when he was 21. After drifting up and down the west coast as hobo, farmhand, ranch worker and store clerk, Service finally accepted employment with the Bank of Commerce in British Columbia and soon thereafter was transferred to Whitehorse, Yukon. He settled comfortably into the Whitehorse environment, where he was a favoured performer reciting popular poems at social gatherings. His repertoire grew threadbare through repetition and, to augment it, he was inspired to write the immortal Shooting of Dan McGrew. Service then produced, in rapid succession, The Cremation of Sam McGee, The Spell of the Yukon, and other uniquely Yukon poems. In 1908 he was transferred to the Dawson City bank, and a few years later left the Yukon to become a war correspondent for the Toronto Star newspaper in the Balkan War of 1912-13 and in World War 1. After the war, Service married a French girl and settled in France which, except for the Nazi invasion, became his home for the remainder of his life.

White Fang by Jack London

Jack London (b. San Francisco, Calif., USA, Jan. 12, 1876; d. Glen Allen, Calif., Nov. 22, 1916) was born the illegitimate son of an impoverished spiritualist, and as a young man tramped around the USA, worked as a sailor and labourer and, as he described it, exulted in his own strength. The discovery that strength was not enough came when London was exposed to the world of broken and failed men, the 'social pit'. It propelled London towards socialism. The early novels, especially the Alaskan story The Call of the Wild (1903), dramatize Darwinian and Spencerian themes. London's protagonists are often 'blond beasts', heroic and dominating figures who struggle against society and nature. Though he remained a committed propagandist for the cause of socialism, its collective dimension was remote from his worldview. London's work was closer to Nietzsche than it was to the temperate spirits who dominated the Socialist party in the USA.


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