Programming note: Steyn's Song of the Week can now be heard weekly on Serenade Radio, every Sunday at 5.30pm British Summer Time. If you missed today's show, you can hear the repeat at 5.30am Monday UK time - that's 9.30pm Pacific Sunday evening on the West Coast of North America, or Monday lunchtime in Australia.
If that doesn't suit, Serenade has now added a second repeat on Thursdays at 9pm London time - that's 4pm Eastern.
Meanwhile, welcome along to the forty-ninth audio adventure in our series Tales for Our Time: In the summer months I always like to serialize at least one story that, whatever its other qualities, has a great character whose travails you just want to follow episode by episode, whether every evening twenty minutes before you lower your lamp or with your earbuds at the beach for a good old binge-listen (assuming, for the purposes of argument, that your particular jurisdiction permits you to visit the beach). As I explain in my introduction, this particular character was born out of the very particular circumstances of Jack London's life in 1909. Burning Daylight was phenomenally popular in its day, and rather neglected since, save for a persistent drumbeat of requests for it from Steyn Club members.
Episode One of our forty-ninth Tale for Our Time begins on a yawneroo night in the Yukon:
It was a quiet night in the Shovel. At the bar, which ranged along one side of the large chinked-log room, leaned half a dozen men, two of whom were discussing the relative merits of spruce-tea and lime-juice as remedies for scurvy. They argued with an air of depression and with intervals of morose silence. The other men scarcely heeded them. In a row, against the opposite wall, were the gambling games. The crap-table was deserted. One lone man was playing at the faro-table. The roulette-ball was not even spinning, and the gamekeeper stood by the roaring, red-hot stove, talking with the young, dark-eyed woman, comely of face and figure, who was known from Juneau to Fort Yukon as the Virgin. Three men sat in at stud-poker, but they played with small chips and without enthusiasm, while there were no onlookers. On the floor of the dancing-room, which opened out at the rear, three couples were waltzing drearily to the strains of a violin and a piano.
Circle City was not deserted, nor was money tight. The miners were in from Moseyed Creek and the other diggings to the west, the summer washing had been good, and the men's pouches were heavy with dust and nuggets. The Klondike had not yet been discovered, nor had the miners of the Yukon learned the possibilities of deep digging and wood-firing. No work was done in the winter, and they made a practice of hibernating in the large camps like Circle City during the long Arctic night. Time was heavy on their hands, their pouches were well filled, and the only social diversion to be found was in the saloons. Yet the Shovel was practically deserted, and the Virgin, standing by the stove, yawned with uncovered mouth and said to Charley Bates:—
'If something don't happen soon, I'm gin' to bed...'
Well, the Virgin can relax, because something is about to happen - and not just in the saloons and icy wastes of the Yukon: This Jack London novel roams from the Klondike to San Francisco to the heart of New York City, and takes in not just crazy guys staking claims on the far fringes of the map but the somewhat subtler dangers of doing business in California and dealing with Wall Streeters in the heart of Manhattan. And along the way there is also a marvelous love story.
To hear me read the first part of Burning Daylight, Mark Steyn Club members should please click here and log-in.
I hope you'll enjoy this summer serialization of the always engaging Jack London, but, if a year of lockdown, looting, 'lections and lab leaks have left you pining for lighter fare, we have plenty of cheerier yarns, including Jerome K Jerome's Three Men in a Boat, and P G Wodehouse's Psmith, Journalist - oh, and a certain other fellow's The Prisoner of Windsor. Tales for Our Time in all its variety is both highly relevant and a welcome detox from the madness of the hour: four years' worth of my audio adaptations of classic fiction starting with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's cracking tale of an early conflict between jihadists and westerners in The Tragedy of the Korosko. To access them all, please see our easy-to-navigate Netflix-style Tales for Our Time home page. We've introduced a similar tile format for my Sunday Poems and also for our Hundred Years Ago Show.
We launched The Mark Steyn Club four years ago, and I'm overwhelmed by all those members across the globe who've signed up to be a part of it - from Fargo to Fiji, Vancouver to Vanuatu, Cook County to the Cook Islands, West Virginia to the West Midlands. As I said at the time, membership isn't for everyone, but it is a way of ensuring that all our content remains available for everyone.
That said, we are offering our Club members a few extras, including our monthly audio adventures by Dickens, Conrad, Kafka, Gogol, Louisa May Alcott, H G Wells, P G Wodehouse, Baroness Orczy, Scott Fitzgerald, Robert Louis Stevenson - plus a couple of pieces of non-classic fiction by yours truly. You can find them all here. We're very pleased by the response to our Tales - and we even do them live occasionally, and sometimes with special guests.
I'm truly thrilled that one of the most popular of our Steyn Club extras these last four years has been our nightly radio serials. If you've enjoyed them and you're looking for a present for a fellow fan of classic fiction, I hope you'll consider our special Club Gift Membership. Aside from Tales for Our Time, The Mark Steyn Club does come with other benefits:
~Exclusive Steyn Store member pricing on over 40 books, mugs, T-shirts, and other products;
~The chance to engage in live Clubland Q&A sessions with yours truly, such as this Tuesday's;
~Transcript and audio versions of The Mark Steyn Show, Mark's Mailbox, and our other video content;
~My video series of classic poetry;
~Booking for special members-only events, such as The Mark Steyn Christmas Show, assuming such events are ever again lawful;
~Advance booking for my live appearances around the world, assuming "live appearances" become a thing once more;
~Customized email alerts for new content in your areas of interest;
~and the opportunity to support our print, audio and video ventures as they wing their way around the planet.
To become a member of The Mark Steyn Club, please click here - and don't forget that special Gift Membership. As soon as you join, you'll get access not only to Burning Daylight but to all the other yarns gathered together at the Tales for Our Time home page.
One other benefit to membership is our Comment Club privileges. So, if you think my rendering of an enduring classic is less equal than others, feel free to have at it.
And do join us tomorrow evening for Part Two of Burning Daylight, and every night circa 1am Greenwich Mean Time thereafter.