Friday, September 28, 2012

The dime — and half-dime — novels of yesteryear

I like finding covers of old dime novels during my internet travels. I don't own the novels pictured, just digital scans of the covers. I clean up the scans because the illustrations are usually outstanding. Dime novels, the predecessors of pulp magazines, paperback books and comics from the last half of the nineteenth century through the first years of the twentieth, were written quickly and aimed at an audience of young readers who were more into action and thrills and less discriminating about literary quality.

The heroes were noble. You could tell a hero was pure of heart when his name was “Fred Fearnot.”

The covers I've seen aren't signed by the artists, although there were some excellent draftsmen doing them. I don't know how anyone could resist a cover like Secret Service, with the giant finger pushing the hero out a window. If I ever see the actual novel I might have to read it just to find out what that's all about.

I also have a before-and-after cover so you can see what I've done with it.

Isn’t “The Steam Man of the Prairies” what would now be called steampunk?


When football was a lot rougher than it is now. No pads, no helmets.


Mitt Romney would have probably loved novels about young capitalists getting rich. 

The article below is from a 1956 issue of American Heritage magazine. AH was a very deluxe magazine, printed with hard covers and sewn binding. It was more of a book than a magazine; expensive, so people usually saved them. The dime novels, unfortunately, didn't fare as well. Being cheap, throwaway items printed on pulp paper, not too many of them survived. There are major collections of dime novels in university and college collections. One of the collections is of Wild West dime novels, collected by Senator Barry Goldwater. The people who collected them may have donated them in order to preserve them. I have no idea how many major collectors of dime novels there are now, and whether private collections of them are still being built.

Copyright © 1956, 2012 American Heritage

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