Charles Dickens, perhaps the best British novelist of the Victorian era, was born in Portsmouth, Hampshire, England on February 7, 1812. His happy early childhood was interrupted when his father was sent to debtors' prison, and young Dickens had to go to work in a factory at age twelve. Later, he took jobs as an office boy and journalist before publishing essays and stories in the 1830s. His first novel, The Pickwick Papers, made him a famous and popular author at the age of twenty-five. Subsequent works were published serially in periodicals and cemented his reputation as a master of colorful characterization, and as a harsh critic of social evils and corrupt institutions. His many books include Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Bleak House, Great Expectations, Little Dorrit, A Christmas Carol, and A Tale of Two Cities. Dickens married Catherine Hogarth in 1836, and the couple had nine children before separating in 1858 when he began a long affair with Ellen Ternan, a young actress. Despite the scandal, Dickens remained a public figure, appearing often to read his fiction. He died in 1870, leaving his final novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, unfinished.
Frederick Bush's most recent novel is The Night Inspector, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He is Fairchild Professor of Literature at Colgate University.
Jane Smiley was born in Los Angeles, California on September 26, 1949. She received a B. A. at Vassar College in 1971 and an M. F. A. and a Ph.D from the University of Iowa. From 1981 to 1996, she taught undergrad and graduate creative writing workshops at Iowa State University. Her first critically acclaimed novel, The Greenlanders (1988), was preceded by three other novels and a highly regarded short story collection, The Age of Grief (1987). In 1985, she won an O. Henry Award for her short story Lily, which was published in The Atlantic Monthly. Her novel A Thousand Acres (1991) received both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Her other works include Moo; Horse Heaven; and Ordinary Love and Good Will. In 2014 her title, Some Luck, made The New York Times Best Seller List.