Rough breakdown of dime novels by genre.

Some raw data coming out of the current book:

Some comments:

  • Detective: the jump in detective dime novels 1889-1894 is entirely due to M. Sherlock Holmes. But the percentage of detective dime novels before Holmes is a reminder that the American detective/mystery tradition was a strong one long before Conan Doyle set pen to paper, even if the insertion of Holmes fracked that tradition to hell.
  • General: what leaps out at me is how strong the general pulps remained even after the rise of other genres. In the pulps, once single-subject pulps appeared, the general pulps dwindled–the market fractured into lots of competing genres, with a few relative heavyweights and lots lightweights. In the dime novels, the general dime novels remained the strongest, and the center of the dime novel market, until near the end.
  • Romance: not as strong as I thought, and actually slightly weaker (avg 17.7%) than Westerns (avg 19.2%). If I were researching the history of dime novels–which I’m not, because I’ve got more than enough on my plate, and I promised my wife, using the kind of words which husbands cannot go back on, that after this year it would be only fiction for me, no more non-fiction–I would want to see what caused the 1874-1879 jump. Was there a mainstream romantic novelist who achieved such colossal success as to boost the dime novel market for romance? I don’t know. But–look at romance’s increasing strength after 1889–it’s nearly unbroken growth up through 1919. Romance began respectably in the pulps, if not from a position of strength, because, I think, romance in serial form was seen as the province of the slicks, the mainstream magazines. But romance’s strength in dime novels is indicative of the growing strength of the female market post-New Woman and during the suffragette years, as well as hinting at the growing strength of the teenaged female market during these, the years when American teenagedom was invented.
  • Western: interesting–to me, at least, and who else but me am I writing this for?–that the high point of the Western in the dime novel was 1874, and after that it was in third or fourth place forever more–this, despite “dime novel Western” being part of our critical vocabulary. Westerns just weren’t as big as the General and Detective. And, perhaps strangely, it was even less popular in early film–not until 1924 were Westerns more than 10% of all films made. The increase begins after 1919, which (not coincidentally) is the same year that the first single-subject cowboy pulp, Western Story Magazine, appeared. I think it fair to say that it was the pulps, not the dime novels and not Hollywood, that really made the Western into a popular genre.
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