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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Behind the Literature

A couple of years ago, my husband and I moved  from San Francisco to the Sonoma Valley, or the Valley of the Moon, as it was called by the indigenous people.  About eight miles from where we live in Sonoma is a little town called Glen Ellen.

Even before moving to Sonoma, we liked to picnic in Glen Ellen at one of my favorite wineries there. I have since found out that both Jack London and Hunter S. Thompson once lived in Glen Ellen.  It seems that neither of them had great luck there. Thompson only lived there briefly in 1964.  He initially arrived to find that the house he had arranged to rent was no longer available.  He found another place to settle, but was allegedly evicted from there for shooting gophers in the front yard. London's stay was longer lived, from 1905 to 1916, during which time he purchased and developed a 1000-acre ranch. 

Although London had innovative ideas, his ranch was an economic failure.

In 2014, my dad and I took a trip to the Jack London State Park where we explored the Jack London ranch, grave, house, museum, and the Pig Palace.

I found out a lot more about Jack London than I ever knew just from reading The Call of the Wild in school.  For example, London was an entrepreneur and experimented with growing eucalyptus trees for use in building.

The wood turned out to be unsuitable for building, however, so London, ever the optimist, turned to breeding livestock.  London's piggery, the Pig Palace, was built in a circle to save labor and had a central feed house for efficiency.

London spent $50,000 building an impressive house that he called Wolf House.  He never got to live in his dream house, however, as it was destroyed by a fire, presumably ignited by spontaneous combustion.

London died at age 40.  He had requested that a red boulder from the ruins of the Wolf House be used to mark his grave.

Although he only lived to be 40, London lived a life of adventure, on top of his great literary contributions. 

If you're ever in the area, I highly recommend a visit to the park.  I also suggest looking into the history of your own town or area.  Were there great literary or historical figures living in your back yard?  You might be surprised at what you find!

Angela Crider Neary is an attorney by day and writer by night.  She is an avid mystery reader and especially enjoys reading novels set in interesting locales.  She was inspired to write her first mystery novella, Li'l Tom and the Pussyfoot Detective Bureau: The Case of the Parrots Desaparecidos by one of her favorite areas in San Francisco, Telegraph Hill.  To learn more, visit her on Facebook and Amazon.


  1. How interesting! I love those old stone buildings. It looks like a place weill worth visiting sometime. Thank you for the post.

    Robyn Echols w/a Zina Abbott

    1. Thank you, Robyn! I have visited there twice now and it is very peaceful and beautiful.

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