The Star Rover, REH, and The Jacket
Thursday, April 19, 2007
posted by Rob Roehm
Speaking of Jack London, most Howard fans are aware that REH enjoyed his writing. Howard had London first on his list of “the most powerful men in all of the world’s literature.” Like any self respecting Howard-head, I make it a point to track down and read as much of Howard’s bookshelf as I can. Jack London is a special case.
Wildly popular in his era, London’s work has dwindled in availability. Most bookstores carry The Call of the Wild and White Fang, maybe an omnibus edition, and some will have The Sea Wolf, but for people interested in reading the titles that Howard mentions in his correspondence, or that are listed in the REH Bookshelf, a little work is involved. Much of London’s material is available online through various web pages like Project Gutenberg, but I have trouble reading longer pieces online — give me an old fashioned book. Anyway, a few years ago I ran across an edition of The Star Rover at a used bookstore. Penciled on the inside cover was a note: “not THE Jack London.” After purchasing the volume I informed the clerk that it was indeed by THE Jack London, and then went on my merry way.
Howard loved The Star Rover, saying that it “is a book that I’ve read and re read for years, and that generally goes to my head like wine.” Without giving too much away, the book focuses on a prison inmate who is able to relive his past lives while confined in a straight-jacket. Others have noted the influence on Howard’s James Allison stories.
Home Box Office had a free weekend a while ago. One of the movies featured was John Maybury’s The Jacket, staring Adrien Brody. I don’t remember seeing Jack London’s name in the credits anywhere, but the movie clearly owes a hat-tip to The Star Rover. Brody’s character, rather than reliving past lives, jumps forward in time while — you guessed it — strapped into a straight-jacket. While very different in tone and plot, the two works certainly suggest each other, and for those, like me, who don’t like to read long works online, I’d suggest The Jacket, which manages to catch a bit of the feel of The Star Rover.
Read it here.