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Dime novels

Parent categories: dime - novel

Related: dime novels - commercial - escapism - exploitation - low - magazine - paperback - pulp - sensationalism

In other countries Groschenroman (DE) - penny dreadful (UK) - romans de gare (FR)

Malaeska: The Indian Wife of the White Hunter (1860) - Ann S. Stephens
On June 9, 1860, Malaeska: The Indian Wife of the White Hunter became the first dime novel to be published.
image sourced here.

Dime novels and penny dreadfuls

In the United States is the 19th century, a dime novel was a low-priced novel that could be purchased for a dime. The original dime novels were published in a tabloid format.

The British English equivalent term was "penny dreadful."

Dime novels and penny dreadfuls often involved melodramatic tales of vice and virtue in conflict, often with strong elements of horror and cruelty.

Many American dime novels, on the other hand, had inspirational themes. Horatio Alger, Jr. was a notable writer in this genre. Theodore Dreiser and Upton Sinclair often wrote dime novels under pseudonyms. New York City-based firm Street & Smith, founded in 1855, was one of the most prolific publishers of the genre.

On June 9, 1860, Malaeska: The Indian Wife of the White Hunter became the first dime novel to be published.

Philip Pullman has written several "modern penny dreadfuls" in this style including Ruby in the Smoke, The Shadow in the North, The Tiger in the Well, (The Sally Lockhart Trilogy) which, while themselves penny dreadfuls, also incorporate the atmosphere in which the novels thrived.

Stanford University has a collection of over 8,000 individual dime novels, and a web site devoted to the subject. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dime_novel [Feb 2005]

Rise of pulp

With dime novel sales declining due to the rise of motion pictures in the late 1890s, a number of enterprising publishers developed a new genre--pulp fiction, which was aimed specifically at adult readers. Frank Munsey, a dime novel publisher, consolidated his juvenile publications and transformed them into a story paper for grown-ups, The Argosy All Story Weekly. The team of Street and Smith responded in kind with Popular Magazine, a review featuring the early work of H. G. Wells and H. Rider Haggard. By 1920, pulp fiction was readily available at newsstands around the country and achieved a readership much larger than that of dime novels in their heyday. --http://www-sul.stanford.edu/depts/dp/pennies/1920_pulp.html [Jun 2005]

Men's adventure

Men's adventure is a genre of pulp magazines that had its heyday in the 1950s and early 1960s. Created for a male audience, these magazines featured pinup photography and lurid tales of adventure that typically featured wartime feats of daring, exotic travel, or conflict with wild animals. These magazines are generally considered the last of the true pulp magazines; they reached their peak of circulation long after the genre fiction pulps had begun to fade. These magazines were also called the sweats, especially by people in the magazine publishing or distributing trades.

Titles of notable men's adventure magazines include Argosy, the longest running and highest in reputation among the magazines classed in this category; others include Real, True, Saga, Stag, Swank, and For Men Only. During their peak in the late 1950s, approximately 130 such magazines were being published simultaneously.

The adventure tales contained within their pages usually were written in a realistic style and claimed to be true stories. Damsels in distress, usually in various states of deshabille, often featured in the painted art that illustrated their pages and their covers. They were notoriously depicted being menaced or tortured by Nazis or, in later years, Communists. Artist Norman Saunders was the dean of illustrators for these magazines, occupying a classic position similar to that enjoyed by Margaret Brundage for the classic pulps; many illustrations are credited to corporations or are anonymous. Historical artist Mort Künstler also painted many covers and illustrations for these magazines. A number of well known figures worked on these publications; Bruce Jay Friedman wrote for and edited them, as did Mario Puzo; Playboy photographer Mario Casilli started out photographing pinups for these publications.

The title of Frank Zappa's album Weasels Ripped My Flesh was borrowed from a man-against-beast cover story in the September, 1956 issue of Man's Life.

These magazines' circulation began to drop precipitously in the mid-1960s. Their tales of wartime adventure appealed to American male readers of the World War II and Korean War generations and these men were reaching an age that they were no longer quite as interested in girlie pictures. For those who wanted pornography, more explicit and less old fashioned forms were available by this period in different publications. The Vietnam War and the social controversies surrounding that war in the USA did nothing to create an appetite for similar entertainments that would have involved rescuing damsels from the Viet Cong. The vision of adventurous, fighting masculinity presented within their pages also became unfashionable during this period. Some of the publications survived by turning into explicitly pornographic magazines; others ceased publication during this period. There have been several attempts to revive the Argosy title; one in the 1990s, and most recently in 2004. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Men%27s_adventure [Apr 2005]

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