The computer inside my skull beeps in the night. It sets its own time to drive me from bed; usually it is three o'clock in the morning... the title of a song popular in the 20's. The force known as TRUTH haunts me. I spoke out the truth to one of the powerful, at least it was truth as I know it, and he told me that my name and the names of my children would be dragged through the courts and we would be shamed for the rest of our lives. This must be his truth but it is not mine. At the time I was ignorant of all the falseness that I was to uncover in my search for TRUTH regarding the suppression of Joan's memoir.
I had asked about suing the Jack London estate, not for money, but for acknowledgement of truth and rights. His reply was so dire that it set me on a heartbreaking course in a search for truth which was so ugly that my admiration for Jack London the writer, became enmeshed with Jack London the man. The writer still stands on his pedestal. The man, who after all, is of human clay, as are we all, is a figure of monumental tragedy. He died too young and he died alone. He died without the comforting hand of a single human being during that ,last night of agony. Truly, he lost everything he held most dear; his dream of a community on his Ranch, his hopes for a child by Charmian, his need to have a hand in the raising of his daughters, Joan and Becky. He died, I believe, of despair.
He said, once, in a time of despair, that he was sorry he had ever "opened the books." Jack, grandfather of my husband, great-grandfather of my children, I feel the same about having opened Pandora's Box.
But he was still young then and I am old. I am surrounded and comforted by a loving family. I have recovered myself from the despair that filled me when I began this search for Truth. I have accepted the fact of its ephemeral quality. And still I hold to my own truth and even if my truth were challenged in the courts and I lost to a more powerful force than my own, I would choose to spend the last years of my life in prison. I am going on 84 years, and still in my right mind, stubborn as it may be, "I hold these truths to be self evident."
I ask of the historians and the biographers to redeem those women in Jack London's family, namely Flora, the intrepid unsinkable valorous woman who gave to her son his finest traits and talent; Bessie, the woman who was betrayed by a philandering husband, a woman made to pay the price by the biographers and by Jack too. Guilty of what? There is the smoldering passion untapped by an inept man. And Joan, crucified for her socialism? There has been too much of Joan suppressed by those misogynistic men who fear strong women. Search and you will find the real women. They have been clouded over by the myths. Brush the cobwebs aside and open your hearts and your minds. While I still live I offer you my heart and whatever you need of what I may have to aid in such a search for truth.
Is it possible I wonder now, after four years of searching for truth, that I would come to think that truth might not exist; that perhaps the truth in regards to any understanding or opinion of Jack London and his family must needs be varnished or tarnished fables.
It has not been a story I would have wanted told. It has not been a labor of love. Those biographers and historians who wrote of Jack London's life, as separate from his writing, had practically no true accounts to guide them, and so myths and fables surround him and his family; myths and fables that both glorify and debase, leaving only a glimmer of reality or truth.
I have tried to uncover actual facts that might change the sorry picture that has been handed down to Jack London descendants; those who have not been allowed even a minor acknowledgment of their existence, not even a charitable kind word. One person only, of all the historians involved, made an appointment to meet and talk with my husband, Bart Abbott, shortly after his mother's "J.L. and Daughters" memo was published. She came a very long distance for this meeting, stopped to visit with a self-appointed Jack London expert and was advised against visiting us, because "they are monsters". Was this a truth or a fable? Unfortunately for her, she never had the pleasure of meeting Bart. And I think it is unfortunate for other historians that they never did either.
I take great pride and interest in my own ancestors and have cherished the history that has come down through my family, the good and the bad. It gives me a sense of belonging. I must have with me, wherever I live, the few photographs that exist of my Scotch-Irish immigrant Grandparents and my Great-Uncles and their sister, my Great Aunt.
I cannot imagine being disinherited from my ancestors as Joan and Becky had been. I have first hand knowledge of the affect of their loss and of the role each chose for life. I too must step back from the unpleasant role I have played as the "investigator" of this tragic story. I have named those who played an adversary role and did not name those who chose to accept the fables as truths, thereby causing great anguish and near oblivion to some members of Jack London's family. The myths surrounding Jack London as man have mostly debased him in the minds of the average working person. How can the myth possibly represent them?
My truth in writing INHERITORS is simply my own perception and I, as Joan has written, can feel compassion for the doer of the deed without condoning the deed itself. In my book that means I will try to forgive those who have failed in truth and hope they in turn will forgive me. For truth as I know it must be justified even though painful.
Helen Abbot, 2005