As we recently noted in Bay Crossings, most Cultural Currents readers will have at least a passing knowledge of literary legend Jack London, few probably know much about his wife and soul mate, Charmian Kittredge London who helped shape his destiny while becoming an impressive creative force herself.
While a biography is now being written by Iris Jamahl Dunkle (who happens to be the poet laureate of Sonoma County), there’s a work of fiction on the subject that deserves your attention.
The Secret Life of Mrs. London – tells the story of a love triangle between Houdini, Charmian and Jack London. The book’s author, Rebecca Rosenberg, is also a Sonoma County celebrity, who is busy now with several other writing projects.
Book jacket flap copy tells it this way: As America teeters on the brink of world war, Charmian and her husband, famed novelist Jack London, wrestle with genius, desire, politics, marital competitiveness… And Houdini’s entrancing magnetism. Torn between history’s most mysterious and charismatic figures, Charmian must find the courage to forge her own path.
In an interview with Bay Crossings, Ms. Rosenberg discloses that by reading Charmian’s correspondence she learned that her life with Jack was one of continual conflict and passion.
“Jack was an incredibly prodigious writer, constantly at work, but also drinking and smoking heavily. We don’t believe he had a death wish, but he certainly lived a hard life. Charmian had to be incredibly strong to deal with that.”
As for Houdini, he died a few years after Charmian ended their affair. An avid world traveler and aviator, his final breath was drawn in a lonely hotel room…a prosaic ending for such a daring hero.