Definition of Dime Novel and Its Examples

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A dime novel is a cheap form of melodramatic and exciting fiction, so called because it cost a dime. Most of the stories are concerned with romance, historical episodes, warfare, and violent action.

Many of them were set in America, during the Civil War, Revolution, and frontier periods. There was a great vogue for them from 1860 to c. 1895, beginning with the publication of Ann Sophia Stephens’s Malaeska: The Indian Wife of the White Hunter. They were superseded by Pulp magazine and series about Tom Swift, Frank Merriwell, and the Rover Boys. Such stories celebrated the robustness and individualism of Americans.

Among the more famous authors were E. Z. C. Judson, Prentiss Ingraham, Edward L. Wheeler (the creator of ‘Deadwood Dick’), and J. R. Coryell (the creator of ‘Nick Carter’). The dime novel was akin to the shilling shocker and the penny dreadful.

Examples of dime novel series that illustrate the diversity of the form include Bunce’s Ten Cent NovelsBrady’s Mercury StoriesBeadle’s Dime Novels, Irwin P. Beadle’s Ten Cent StoriesMunro’s Ten Cent NovelsDawley’s Ten Penny NovelsFireside SeriesChaney’s Union Novels, DeWitt’s Ten Cent RomancesChampion NovelsFrank Starr’s American NovelsTen Cent NovelettesRichmond’s Sensation Novels, and Ten Cent Irish Novels.