Poor Charley Dickens! Things are not going well for him as he turns 30. His close friend and fellow club member, the eminent historian Thomas Carlyle, enjoys Charley's windy hokum as a journalist but thinks he has no future in literature; besides, he's living above his means, especially with four children and a fifth on the way. Charley's venomous, bloodsucking father, John Dickens (no Micawber he), hits on his son's empty pockets and whines about falling into debtor's prison. Charley's wife, Catherine, who keeps the family's books, doesn't have the heart to tell him before their dinner of moldy potatoes, stale bread, and stretched mutton that the bills can't be met. Royalties are overdue from his publisher, Ledrook and Squib, Charley declares, but when he goes to see Squib he's told that, well, in Hollywood terms, he's lost his edge. There's only one problem with his books, Squib tells him: "They don't sell. They haven't sold in a year. They are dead.— There are no royalties—in fact, his publishers have been carrying him. So when Charley comes to them with the tale of a miser's regeneration, which he plans to write in six weeks and then have on the streets by mid-December for Christmas sales, Ledrook and Squib pretend skepticism. Why? Because they really think the story pure gold., but Charley wants to own it. And so it goes with Davis's realistic, immensely enjoyable version of how Charley wrote A Christmas Carol. A much better book than another Christmas tale Dickens penned about this time (see The Life of Our Lord, below).
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