Slater has a point. Dickens was a prolific writer. While working on his novels, he wrote sketches, letters, reviews and occasional essays for contemporary periodicals. He wrote pieces for the stage. He wrote shorter tales, travel books and a history for children. Some of this writing, like the annual Christmas tales were among Dickens most popular with his contemporaries, despite the fact that it is probably only A Christmas Carol that remains popular today. And as Slater's impressive scholarship shows, this work is indeed a neglected goldmine filled with nuggets of insight into the novels' themes, characters and plots, and in some cases an intrinsic value of its own.
If at times, Slater seems more concerned with the writing than the life — he barely mentions, for example, the birth of Dickens' son Walter, concentrating instead on the author's labor pains with Barnaby Rudge — who can gainsay him? After all, the only reason we are reading Dickens' life is that he wrote Barnaby Rudge, well, maybe not Barnaby Rudge, specifically, but the novels that it stands for. Still, while the details of Dickens' life are here, they are sketchy at best, and if a reader is looking for a complete account of the writer's life rather than insights into his work, there are certainly better places to go.
Slater's Dickens biography is probably better suited to the scholar and the enthusiast than it is to the general reader, to the reader who wants to learn something about "The Mudfog Papers," The Haunted Man, Sunday Under Three Heads, and countless other minor pieces. The story of his life is here, but the reader will have to dig through a lot of ephemera to get at it.