Pulp Fiction
March 24, 2006 3:15 AM   Subscribe

Penny dreadfuls, six cent weeklies, and dime novels were aimed at youthful, working-class audiences and distributed in massive editions at newsstands and dry goods stores. Though the phrase conjures up stereotyped yarns of Wild West adventure, complete with lurid cover illustration, many other genres were represented: tales of urban outlaws, detective stories, working-girl narratives of virtue defended, and costume romances.
posted by hortense (18 comments total)
† Beedle Dime usted to sell a dime novel for $.10 cents which was pretty cheep for a dime novel i tell you. they was bully stories about filing indians and killing bears and wolfs and cutting a notch in your gun when you had killed a nother indian, a feller can read one of them all day and sumbody is killed on every page and it is terrible xciting. Beedle dime died very ritch and they dont sell enny of his novels now. it is too bad for they was the best I have ever seen."—Richard E. Shute, Success Magazine, November, 1907,
posted by hortense at 3:18 AM on March 24, 2006

posted by hortense at 3:20 AM on March 24, 2006

I'd like some lurid cover illustrations of working-girl narratives of virtue surrendered.
posted by SenshiNeko at 4:19 AM on March 24, 2006

Well, are there any that one can read online? Presumably they're all out of copyright. As it stands we're just getting teased by all the intriguing covers but can't read what's it's all about...
posted by Morbuto at 4:21 AM on March 24, 2006

hortense, this is a great post (and I'm now enjoying browsing through your prior posts, as well). Thanks so much for sharing this with us!
posted by anastasiav at 4:39 AM on March 24, 2006

MetaFilter: Sumbody is killed on every page and it is terrible xciting.
posted by Wolfdog at 4:57 AM on March 24, 2006

Fantastic post hortense - plenty to keep me busy today instead of working hard heheheheh...
posted by longbaugh at 5:05 AM on March 24, 2006

Which reminds me...

Long before it became commonplace to buy novels by gay women at your local Borders and long before there were feminist puiblishers, there was Ann Bannon's Beebo Brinker series -- lesbian pulp fiction.

Things have some a long way since then, but hats off to authors who laid the groundwork for where we are now.
posted by bim at 6:16 AM on March 24, 2006

When I think of Penny Dreadfuls, I usually think of Varney the Vampire.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:19 AM on March 24, 2006

Short hijack:
I teach Mass Communications and would LOVE to have almost any copy of a penny dreadful. Where should I be looking?
posted by cccorlew at 7:34 AM on March 24, 2006

I usually think of Varney the Vampire.

Damn you Astro Zombie! You beat me to the punch! Although I didnt realize you read the whole book online.

"All is still -- still as the very grave. Not a sound breaks the magic of repose. What is that -- a strange pattering noise, as of a million fairy feet? It is hail -- yes, a hail-storm has burst over the city. Leaves are dashed from the trees, mingled with small boughs; windows that lie most opposed to the direct fury of the pelting particles of ice are broken, and the rapt repose that before was so remarkable in its intensity, is exchanged for a noise which, in its accumulation, drowns every cry of surprise or consternation which here and there arose from persons who found their houses invaded by the storm."

Then again, why would you want to? ;-)
posted by elendil71 at 8:02 AM on March 24, 2006

Yeah. Focus on Dreadful.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:23 AM on March 24, 2006

Porno for women.
posted by HTuttle at 8:32 AM on March 24, 2006

Hehe, I first read about Varney the Vampyre in the anthology Vampires by the improbably named Burnhardt J. Hurwood, who also wrote his fair share of more contemporary dreadful novels.

I recommend his anthologies, but interested parties may want to skip his fiction. They're almost as bad as Varney. Although, given his obvious scholarship of the subject, I suppose his wordsmithing could be an homage of sorts.
posted by elendil71 at 8:39 AM on March 24, 2006

Whoops, that's Bernhardt J. Hurwood. Sorry.
posted by elendil71 at 8:48 AM on March 24, 2006

Morbuto:some text and some more cover art, index
posted by hortense at 10:53 AM on March 24, 2006

They weren't all atrocious, but the majority were pretty flipping bad. I've read a couple, found in piles of old magazines at junk stores and antique shops back in the 70's.

P.G. Wodehouse satirized the genre, which he thought pernicious bilge, in a couple of ways: he invented Rosie M. Banks (author of Only a Factory Girl and Mervyn Keene, Clubman) who turned out to be the pseudomym of Bingo Little's wife, an otherwise sane and stable woman who extrudes gushy sentimentality. And there's a short story about a writer of hard-boiled crime stories who is left a house by his aunt, Leila May Pinkney, a writer of the squashily sentimental, with near-disasterous results.
posted by jrochest at 2:45 PM on March 24, 2006

Well, are there any that one can read online?

Blackmask Online has loads of them.
posted by dilettante at 4:11 PM on March 24, 2006

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