Jack London in Paradise
A reimagining of the last year of Jack London’s life (1915-16), follows filmmaker and aging matinee idol Hobart Bosworth as he searches out his former friend to convince London to get involved in a movie-making venture. Trickery at competing studios has convinced London and his second wife Charmian that they have been cheated. Bosworth gets to London’s Beauty Ranch and finds the spectacular Wolf House in ruins after a fire, and the couple gone to Hawaii. Bosworth sails off to find them there, and tries to salvage both their friendship and their linked careers. He finds his friend chronically ill with a variety of physical ailments and being nursed by his wife’s various mysterious concoctions. Jack seeks help from native sources as well, and tries to live with his life-long zest, imagination, and appetite—fighting, drinking, surfing, sailing, and questing for male progeny. The mystery of the burning of Wolf House remains, as well as a larger, more crucial struggle for London’s sanity and life.
Rich and textured with period details and concepts, from surfing to Jungian analysis, the novel presents Jack London first tantalizing in his absence, then perplexing in his complexity. Malmont weaves his tale from the perspectives of movieman Bosworth, Charmian London, and the introspective London himself as he ponders the course of his own life. After the strong opening, the point-of-view character of Bosworth is largely missing from the middle of the book. The dramatic push flags as London and the ever-focused-on-her-Mate-Man Charmian take over. A gathering of eccentrics and set pieces entertains, but the novel does not pick up narrative thrust until Bosworth takes it home.