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Dime novel

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(Redirected from Penny dreadful)

In the United States in the late 19th century and very early 20th century, a dime novel was a low-priced novel, typically priced at 10 cents (a dime). The original dime novels were published in a tabloid format, but later evolved into a more standard book format. In the United Kingdom similar books were called penny dreadfuls, a term also referring to the denomination of coin needed to buy one from a vendor.

Dime novels and penny dreadfuls often involved melodramatic tales of vice and virtue in conflict, often with strong elements of horror and cruelty. Their main audience consisted of young and/or unsophisticated readers, primarily male.

Many American dime novels had inspirational themes, most notably those written by Horatio Alger, Jr.. Respected writers such as 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 The 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.

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