Hearts of three by jack london





I hope the reader will forgive me for beginning this
foreword with a brag. In truth, this yarn is a celebra
tion. By its completion I celebrate my fortieth birth
day, my fiftieth book, my sixteenth year in the writing
game, and a new departure. " Hearts of Three " is a
new departure. I have certainly never done anything
like it before; I am pretty certain never to do anything
like it again. And I haven t the least bit of reticence in
proclaiming my pride in having done it. And now, *^ r
the reader who likes action, I advise him to skip the rest
of this brag and foreword, and plunge into the narrative,
and tell me if it just doesn t read along.

For the more curious let me explain a bit further.
With the rise of moving pictures into the overwhelmingly
most popular form of amusement in the entire world, the
stock of plots and stories in the world s fiction fund began
rapidly to be exhausted. In a year a single producing
company, with a score of directors, is capable of filming
the entire literary output of the entire lives of Shake
speare, Balzac, Dickens, Scott, Zola, Tolstoy, and of
dozens of less voluminous writers. And since there are
hundreds of moving picture producing companies, it can be
readily grasped how quickly they found themselves face
to face with a shortage of the raw material of which mov
ing pictures are fashioned.

The film rights in all novels, short stories, and plays
that were still covered by copyright were bought or con
tracted for, while all similar raw material on which copy-


right had expired was being screened as swiftly as
sailors on a placer beach would pick up nuggets.
Thousands of scenario writers literally tens of
thousands, for no man, nor woman, nor child was too
mean not to write scenarios tens of thousands of
scenario writers pirated through all literature (copyright
or otherwise), and snatched the magazines hot from the
press to steal any new scene or plot or story hit upon by
their writing brethren.

In passing, it is only fair to point out that, though only
the other day, it was in the days ere scenario writers be
came respectable, in the days when they worked over-time
for rough-neck directors for fifteen and twenty a week
or free-lanced their wares for from ten to twenty dollars
per scenario and half the time were beaten out of the due
payment, or had their stolen goods stolen from them by
their equally graceless and shameless fellows who slaved
by the week. But to-day, which is only a day since the
other day, I know scenario writers who keep their three
machines, their two chauffeurs, send their children to the
most exclusive prep schools, and maintain an unwavering

It was largely because of the shortage in raw material
that scenario writers appreciated in value and esteem.
They found themselves in demand, treated with respect,
better remunerated, and, in return, expected to deliver a
higher grade of commodity. One phase of this new
quest for material was the attempt to enlist known
authors in the work. But because a man had written a
score of novels was no guarantee that he could write
a good scenario. Quite to the contrary, it was quickly
discovered that the surest guarantee of failure was a
previous record of success in novel-writing.

But the moving picture producers were not to be de-


nied. Division of labor was the thing.