As a glib, dreamy-eyed kid in Los Angeles' teeming Central Avenue neighborhood, Charlie Edwards felt himself a cut above the other Negro youngsters. He had bold ideas of becoming a great writer or famous legal light. But school bored him. When unappreciative teachers filled his report card with F's, Charlie brightly forged them all into A's.

It took Charlie a while to find himself. He drifted restlessly from job to job. Once he tried writing a column for a Negro weekly. After he had described an imaginary interview with Hitler, the editor demoted...

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