The AAUW: Books-Sandwiched-In 2013 series concluded March 27 at the Joseph & Elizabeth Shaw Public Library. A local author with a passion for Charles Dickens’ classic novel A Christmas Carol entertained a crowd of 30 people. Thom Thomas presented a review of his books …give or take a pebble and …give or take a shilling.
Betsy Butler, a Clearfield resident and long-time friend of Thomas, began the presentation by introducing the audience to the author and presenter. Thomas and Butler were friends in high school, and she was excited for him to present his books to the audience. According to Butler, Thomas’ dream of writing a novel led him to a writing class in New Castle. Now, she says, he is a prolific writer with one published book, another one going through the steps of publication, and two more in the series started.
Thomas has always enjoyed Dickens’ classic tale about three ghosts who visit Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas Eve. He said he has seen many of the 71 versions of A Christmas Carol that have been made for stage productions and movie theaters. Thomas, who was dressed for the presentation in time period clothing, stated that there are inconsistencies and variances with each version.
According to Thomas, Charles Dickens left his characters vacant, and it’s these vacancies that he chose to fill in. His series of four books tells the backstory of many of the characters known to the readers of A Christmas Carol, as well as some new faces. He began writing . . . give or take a pebble, which is the first book in the series, four years ago, and it took him two-and-a-half years to finish it. The second novel in the series, . . . give or take a shilling, took him a year to write, but has not been published as of now. . . . give or take a pebble is a thick book, 735 pages, but engages the reader and flows well, according to Thomas.
The four-book series tells the story of an act of kindness in 1844 and how that kindness is repaid in 2010. . . . give or take a pebble begins Dec. 13, 1843, a date that is significant to Thomas because it is the date A Christmas Carol was published, and runs through Dec. 25, 1844.
Thomas developed a character named Dr. Krump, a brilliant man whose role is to save Tiny Tim. Dr. Krump is a surgeon and an apothecary. He owed money to Ebenezer Scrooge and was given a second chance to make it right after Scrooge received his famous Christmas Eve intervention. Dr. Krump scares people with his talk of futuristic medicine, particularly that of surgery in which he sounds more like Dr. Frankenstein than other doctors of his era.
Thomas also created a character he referred to as the scoundrel. The scoundrel was intended to be a minor role, but Thomas says he never boxes in his characters. He has been told by readers of . . . give or take a pebble that the scoundrel should have his own book. In addition, he also named a character Simon Butler, a connection to his friendship with the Butler’s. Simon Butler is the head of the exchange in London, and Thomas stated that Butler, unlike his friends, is not a nice guy.
As mentioned previously, Thomas fills in the backstory from A Christmas Carol. He addresses Tiny Tim’s illness, which Dickens had never defined. According to the story, Tiny Tim’s illness did not come on suddenly. By today’s standards, it would be minor, but was difficult to treat in 1844. He creates the day that Scrooge and his deceased partner Jacob Marley met, and he also outlines the character of Fezziwig. Finally, Thomas says he takes liberty with the death of Scrooge’s sister, Fan. Fan, who dies in childbirth, was an important person in Scrooge’s life. When he enters the room after learning she has died, he is asked if he would like to see his new baby nephew. Upon learning his nephew’s name is Ebenezer Frederick, he becomes angry. The family decides to refer to the boy as Fred, the name readers have come to know. This scene was entirely made up by Thomas, who refers to it as the “most transforming part of Scrooge’s existence” and turns him into the miserly old man in A Christmas Carol.
Readers of . . . give or take a pebble will find references to the original Dickens’ novel. Characters such as Scrooge’s nephew Fred, the entire Cratchit family, and Scrooge’s love interest Belle all make an appearance. The ghosts are referred to at the beginning and the end of the book.
As the book series progresses, Clearfield residents will see some of references to their hometown. Thomas stated that the descendants from book one will end up living on a farm in Clearfield. He mentioned that The Progress and the Clearfield County Fair both make appearances in book four.
Thomas spent some time discussing the research he conducted to write a novel set in a different historical period, as well as the difficulty he endured to get a cover printed the way he imagined. When writing about the apothecary, Thomas said it was important that he researched what information was known at the time period, in addition to what wasn’t known to apothecaries. He also reviewed what tools would be available to an apothecary at this point in history. In regards to the cover, Thomas said he wanted an image of London. He was originally sent a picture that featured Big Ben, which had not been constructed at the time of his novel. A second attempt included a picture of a double-decker bus. The actual cover is much more reflective of the time period, with stagecoaches on the street instead of motorized vehicles.
The program ended with a conclusion from AAUW member Debbie Marino. She thanked the audience for attending and supporting the AAUW: Books-Sandwiched-In 2013 series. She said she was very impressed with the success of this year’s series.
. . . give or take a pebble is available for checkout or hold at Shaw Public Library. The library is open Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m., and Fridays from 12 p.m. until 5 p.m. Additional information may also be found on Shaw Public Library’s Web site at http://www.clearfield.org/shaw.