Charles Dickens (181270) had a happy childhood until age twelve when, due to his fathers confinement in debtors prison, he was forced to leave school to work in a factory. He taught himself shorthand and worked as a parliamentary reporter until his writing career took off with the publication of Sketches by Boz (1836) and The Pickwick Papers (1837). As a novelist and magazine editor, Dickens had a long run of serialized success, including Oliver Twist (1838), David Copperfield (1850), A Tale of Two Cities (1859), and Great Expectations (1861). In later years, ill health slowed him down, but he continued his popular dramatic readings from his fiction to an adoring public, which included Queen Victoria. At his death, The Mystery of Edwin Drood remained unfinished.
Frederick Busch (19412006) was the author of eighteen works of fiction, including Closing Arguments, Girls, and The Mutual Friend, a novel about Charles Dickens. The winner of numerous awards, he was the Fairchild Professor of Literature at Colgate University.
Jane Smiley is an American novelist. In addition to her many novels (including Ten Days in the Hills, Horse Heaven, and A Thousand Acres), she wrote a short biography of Charles Dickens for the Penguin Lives series (2001).