In 1860 Irwin P. Beadle & Company started making cheap paperback books and selling them for ten cents each; about $1.80 in today's money. This was cheap enough for literate but unscholarly readers to afford, and opened up a new literary market. By the 1870s these dime novels were all the rage. They were usually dramatic blood-and-thunder adventures. They included mysteries, Cowboy and Indian adventures, romances, and rag-to-riches stories. They were sometimes reprints of existing works, but more often were original stories, which were often made into series. Beadle and Co. produced over 600 different titles, although other companies also produced cheap, exciting stories that were also referred to as dime novels.

Dime novels are akin to big little books and the Penny Dreadfuls, although the dime novels were a bit more drab in appearance.

“Nothin’ but a one-horse twin,”
disparages sexy Sheriff Dyslexia,
staring arrogant at the Dustbite Boys
astride their poor swaybacked pony.

At low noon, a Siamese centaur gallops down,
mythic hooves rolling with the tumbleweeds,
corded torsos backed like Janus,
arrows raised in a riot of elbows.

The Sheriff hears “raw!” instead of “draw!”
and while she scans in confusion
for sores in the absence of saddle
the hostile horsey Cupids pierce her heart.

They steal her star and hit the bar,
sling whiskey, then twinnish insults
about who’s the horse’s ass.
One shoots: they’re both scored.

When the monster’s cold, the ichor dried,
enter the janitors: the Dustbite Boys,
boots and guns shined like Sunday,
swayback pony snorting proud.

They’ll hire a yellow Yankee paperman
and clean up as pulpbound heroes
instead of star-stuck survivors who simply
skipped to the end of the horse opera’s libretto.

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