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 They were superseded by Pulp magazine and series about Tom Swift, Frank Merriwell, and the Rover Boys.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 Novels, Brady’s Mercury Stories, Beadle’s Dime Novels, Irwin P. Beadle’s Ten Cent Stories, Munro’s Ten Cent Novels, Dawley’s Ten Penny Novels, Fireside Series, Chaney’s Union Novels, DeWitt’s Ten Cent Romances, Champion Novels, Frank Starr’s American Novels, Ten Cent Novelettes, Richmond’s Sensation Novels, and Ten Cent Irish Novels.