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In his fictionalized account Of Jack London's last year, author Paul Malmont provides some clarity about the man's mysterious life.


JACK LONDON LIVED AS BOLDLY AS HE WROTE. Born in northern California in 1876, he rarely attended school as a teenager, instead seeking out adventure around the world. He formed a notable career of writing fiction works loosely based on his exploits, setting his novels in Alaska, Hawaii, and other exotic locales then unknown to most Americans. Along with his best-selling books, his daring deeds, rugged good looks, and rumored affairs with beautiful women made him a huge celebrity -- and London’s mysterious death at age 40 only added to his allure.

Author Paul Malmont has reimagined London’s last year in the new book Jack London in Paradise (Simon &; Schuster, $25), a dynamic historical novel grounded in real life. “Paradise” is Hawaii, where London lived with his second wife as he tried to salvage his declining mental and physical health and to rediscover his literary muse before returning to California, where he died in 1916. Throughout the book, London is struggling not only with his own internal demons but also with Hobart Bosworth, a floundering actor and director who wants to adapt a yet-to-be-written London novel to the screen in the hopes of reviving his own career.

Although the descriptions of the book’s characters are remarkably three-dimensional, the most vivid depiction is that of Hawaii itself, which is portrayed as it was years before it became a state. As World War I raged elsewhere around the globe, Hawaii remained mostly remote -- a wilderness of flora and fauna, with customs and languages unfamiliar to Americans on the distant mainland. Though natives feared at the time that the encroaching tourist resorts and big corporations were threatening their paradisiacal homeland, London thought the islands would be the cure for what ailed him. An advertising copywriter by trade, Malmont has only one previous novel, The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril, which received positive reviews but not a great deal of recognition. His second effort -- with its impressive research, richly imagined scenes, compelling prose, and attention-grabbing protagonist -- is poised to break him out.