Wednesday, January 25, 2012

DIME NOVELS by Susan Frances

Dime novels, discernibly the precursor to today’s paperback novels, set the stage for writers to lure audiences into their imagination. Gaining vast popularity from the 1860’s until the 1940’s in America, dime novels were mass marketable stories that shared a counterpart in England known as the penny dreadfuls. These stories were commonly perceived as sensationalized puff pieces, because of their themes and topics being considered unsophisticated, completely lacking any intellectual or social significance.

These serialized stories invited audiences to stay tuned each week to find out what was going to happen to their favorite characters, or going on in their favorite fictional town or planet as the case might be. The dime novels are similarly to today’s televised drama series, actually becoming a forerunner to televised dramas and comedies. Imagine TV shows like “Chuck” or “The Mentalist” featured in daily periodicals instead of shown on television. In their day, dime novels were the television for their time.

Dime novels were generally written by hack writers, meaning the writers received a flat fee for their stories and no royalties from the reprints. Inexpensive periodicals like Scribner’s Monthly and the New York Weekly, and pulp magazines, pulp describing the paper that the stories were written on, like Marvel Tales and Amazing Stories brought new episodes each week starring characters whom the public became enamored of, from super heroes to amateur sleuths and daily life folks.

Some serials described the adventures of figures that have become icons of the twentieth century such as Buffalo Bill, Sinbad, Conan the Barbarian, Tarzan, and Detective Nick Carter. Comic strips remain one of the few remnants of dime novels as episodes of “Superman” and “Batman,” both characters that were initiated in the late 1930’s, continue to be serialized in periodicals.

Where would the world be without dime novels and the publishers of dime novels? Dime novels not only carved out a niche for fiction writers to serialize westerns, mysteries, action adventures, sci-fi suspense, and romances, but they also gave directors a subject to put on film. Now in the age of intelligent technology, the publishing industry continues to adapt to the times turning works of fiction into ebooks, and Champagne Books is a part of that new wave.


About the author:

A graduate of New York University with a BA in Liberal Arts, I have been a freelance writer for several years and have contributed thousands of articles to various e-zines including: Yahoo Voices,,, Jazz Times,, Authors and Books,,,,, Hybrid Magazine, and

1 comment:

  1. There is something romantic and ole world when you think dime novels, but always hated the term hack writers. Shame, shame on that era for thinking that, for some of those stories were better written than what we find in major houses today. At least in our humble opinion. Great article, enjoyed it!