That's the first sentence of Stave 1 in A Christmas Carol. What? Is he no longer dead? Was he not dead at the time of the story? Or should Dickens have written: “Marley is dead: to begin with”?
It's my son's fault. He gave me a book to read, Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy, in which the author played with the present tense. I say played because he wasn't consistent in its use. I wish he had been. It's the reason I read the book.