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How the Pulp Fiction Novels Began With Dime Novels

May 25, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 138

Dime Novels Begin

In June of 1860 the United States, and the world, changed with the printing of the first dime novel titled: Maleaska; The Indian Wife of the White Hunter. The novel itself would seem to be nothing special, it essentially being a reprint of a serial in Ladies' Companion magazine. The novel, however, was a bestseller with over 65,000 copies sold in the first couple of months.

The working class masses gobbled up these cheap novels immediately. To meet the public desire for more Irwin P. Beadle, Erastus F. Beadle, and Robert Adams produced hundreds of thousands of the ten cent books. The "novels", usually only 20,000 to 30,000 words long focused on the western and mystery genres. Lasting heroes like Nick Carter and Deadwood Dick were born from these quick reads.

As the name suggests, Dime novels were cheap, as well as entertaining. The so-called "literary" novels were priced usually around a dollar, but "dime" novels were sold in the range of five cents to a quarter. The most common price was a dime (of course).

Laws of the Time Help Propel the Pulp Success

Congress began to pass compulsory laws in 1870 that required young men to go to school. They had to learn how to read. Suddenly the states were full of young men who had the skills to read and were excited for action and adventure. Dime novels were the answer. When faced with literary novels or romances verses a mystery or western, the action novels won hands down. Related with the huge new demand the railroads helped keep the cost low by providing affordable freight prices.

How the Pulp Novels Sold

The novels often sold because of the cover illustrations. Just like the pulp fiction novels that would follow, the covers were the main advertisement for the books. One company recognized this and in the late 1890s decided to do away with the title and author on the cover. Instead they commissioned sensational art work first and would have a story produced that would match with the painting. The covers themselves would only show the cover picture.

Both Sides of the Civil War Would Read the Same Books

During the Civil War the demand for the dime novels did not diminish. Often both sides of the conflict were reading the same book. They may have fought one another, but they had the same fictional heroes.

Our modern Bestsellers, books meant to appeal to the masses, were paved by the dime novels before them.

In 1860 the cost was ten cents. In 2012 that cost would come out to be about $2.52.

David is a pulp fiction guru who restores and produces digital editions of pulp fiction novels. Find a collection of digital pulp novels and magazines priced FREE to $2.99 at

Source: EzineArticles
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