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‘Marley’ Brings Dickensian Character Back to Life

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By Jon Clinch

Fiction

It’s December and ‘Tis the Season! So we’re kicking off the month with a seasonal classic. Sort of. It’s more like a twist on a seasonal classic, called Marley.

As in: If you thought Ebenezer Scrooge was a piece of work, wait till you get a load of Jacob Marley.

Yes, Marley. Scrooge’s deceased business partner. He appears briefly in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. He’s the chained and tormented ghost doomed to wander the earth forever as punishment for his greed and selfishness when he was alive (He also looks a lot like Alec Guinness in the 1970 musical, Scrooge).

Back Story

Clinch’s vividly imaginative and enjoyable novel fills us in on Marley’s back story of greed, duplicity, and treachery. This guy makes Scrooge look like a piker. If lying, cheating, and stealing were Olympic sports, Jacob Marley would bring home the gold. Every time.

No Low

Indeed, there’s no low to which Marley won’t stoop in order to make a buck. There’s no one he won’t betray, swindle, back-stab, or extort. No prevarication, conspiracy, fraud, or murder he won’t deploy in order to feather his own cap and advance his own self-serving agenda.

The guy gives vermin a bad name.

Besides being an expert forger, Marley is getting rich off the slave trade, using the firm’s shipping business to transport kidnapped Africans to slavery. Scrooge wants to wed. But his intended’s father, who knows about the wretched business, refuses to approve the match unless Scrooge and Marley divest themselves of same.

The Consummate Con

Meanwhile, Marley is hatching a get rich quick scheme that would put pyramid marketing cons to shame. Everything’s just ducky until consummate swindler Marley gets out-swindled himself. (Think Newman and Redford in “The Sting.”) Eager to wed, Scrooge presses Marley to cut all ties to the slave trade. But Marley blames Ebenezer for a huge financial setback and is determined to take the losses out of Scrooge’s hide.

The “unimaginative” Scrooge is buried in his ledgers busily cooking the books. Marley tries to cover up losses related to his shipping empire in America and hide the paper trail from his partner, “the automatic counting machine.”

But Scrooge isn’t as dull as he seems. Ebenezer soon realizes he’s been had. A permanent, complex rift results as the two try to out- fleece each other. In the process we learn how and why Scrooge become a cold, calculating miser. Ditto how Marley earned those accursed chains he’s destined to haul around for all eternity, and where that blasted head scarf came from (Alec Guinness again). We also find out more about Belle, Fan, and Bob Cratchitt.

Keep a Look Out!

Adding flavor to this delicious novel is Clinch’s deft inclusion of minor characters from other Dickensian novels. Alert readers will recognize characters from The Pickwick Papers, Nicholas Nickleby, David Copperfield, Our Mutual Friend, Great Expectations and Bleak House, to name a few. Indeed, all of Marley’s “fictional allies” in his shady business dealings bear the names of characters from other Dickens books. Sharp-eyed readers will also recognize namesakes from other classics, including Moby Dick and Kidnapped.

Too. Much. Fun!

Delicious!

Indeed, Marley is clever, witty, and nimble. You can almost smell the reek of city streets, hear the jingle of carriage harnesses, or feel your empty stomach growl as you bundle up against London’s winter cold in this delicious read.

Beautifully written, Marley is an eminently engaging read from a master storyteller. I read it cover to cover in one day. Couldn’t put it down!

Rating: 4.5

Rating System & Submission Guidelines

This might also be a good time to re-introduce our Rating System & Submission Guidelines.

We’re getting quite a few review requests that do not meet our submission parameters. Please save yourself and us some time and effort by taking a few minutes to read our submission guidelines prior to contacting us for a review. We’re picky, okay?

Thanks! and Woof!

2 thoughts on “‘Marley’ Brings Dickensian Character Back to Life

  1. Clinch brings some very clever twists to old stories. And the video you have from “Scrooge” brings back great memories! My brother and I saw that in theaters when it first came out. Like the old Disney classics, it was one of those movies that transported me into that magical place movies used to take us to when they were still entertaining. It’s been my favorite version since then.

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