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Aspiring novelist Jonathan Briggs, whose book Wagon Tracks to California is his passion, has recently had three stories returned unread by the pulp magazine Smoky Trails . Jonathan is despondent until his kindly uncle, Reginald Mason, tells him to leave him and his overbearing aunt Victoria, barge into the magazine's office and demand that they buy the stories. With a $2,000 loan from Reginald, Jonathan goes to the New York office of publisher Phil Hendricks. Unknown to Jonathan, Hendricks and his partner, "Bittsy" Conway, are on the brink of financial ruin. A large company that wants to buy the magazine will not go through with the deal if the next issues fail, while their printer is demanding payment of a large past due bill and their sole writer, "Dusty" King, has apparently gone on a bender. Their only hope is a three hundred dollar bet on a horse, but even that fails. Although a desperate Phil accepts Jonathan as his new writer, he is soon dropped when Dusty shows up. Jonathan and Phil's secretary-girl friend, Margie Blake, go to lunch and his Jeffersonian ideals so impress her that she urges him to approach Phil again. Because Dusty has meanwhile refused to surrender his stories without pay, Phil takes Jonathan as their new writer when Jonathan offers his own money. They take Jonathan's stories and want his novel as well, but when he refuses to give that up, they take him to the company penthouse and order him to deliver a complete novel the next day. An exhausted Jonathan finishes the manuscript, but to Phil's and Bittsy's chagrin, it contains no murders. Now Phil orders Jonathan back to work and tells Margie to take dictation. Using Dusty's "plotter," a device that indicates plot moves at every turn of the wheel, Jonathan is able to finish the novel on time. Two days later, however, he wants to quit because his published stories have Dusty's name on them, but Phil reminds him of his contract and tells him he will get his money back when the magazine is sold. Meanwhile, Reginald needs his money because Victoria is furious, and Dusty, who has secretly been watching Jonathan from the ledge of the penthouse, is furious that his name has been misused. Although Jonathan wants to quit, Margie asks him to stay with Smoky Trails until the sale and secretly forces Phil to sign over one-third interest to him. After the novel is finished, Dusty sneaks into the penthouse and takes the manuscript onto the ledge while Jonathan and Margie are sleeping. Upon awakening, they try to retrieve it, but the pages fall to the ground. Now too exhausted to continue, Jonathan falls asleep and cannot be roused. Phil finds Wagon Tracks to California and decides to print it, over Margie's protests. After writing a note, she then leaves, and Jonathan is awakened by Victoria, who demands that he return the money or pay it back by working for her for five dollars-a-week. Just then Jonathan discovers that the manuscript is missing and thinks Margie has stolen it. He goes to the printer to stop the presses, but destroys the wrong machine and is jailed. Margie visits him in jail and reveals that she has put his name on the novel. As they are confessing their love for each other, C. V. Hutchins, head of the company that wanted to buy Smoky Trails , offers Jonathan a job writing the kind of "sentimental hoakum" at which he excells. Finally realizing that he is a pulp writer and not a great novelist, Jonathan demands four cents-a-word and proposes to Margie.