Introduction (Critical Survey of Mystery & Detective Fiction, Revised Edition)
After the 1870’s, the American publishing world experienced an explosion of literature written for young readers. Many of the early books published for juveniles were didactic and moralistic in tone and subject. Others based on historical characters, events, and situations were educational. There was also another kind of publication read by young people that was generally decried as tasteless, unwholesome, and a bad influence on young people: the dime novel. That “demon-in-print,” as it was sometimes known, was undoubtedly the most widely read of all the works of literature of that day and age in the United States. Dime novels were also diverse; some were written specifically for adults, while others were aimed at younger reader. There were also dime novels written specifically for women, and others written for male readers.
The range of subject matter in dime novels was immense, and mystery and detective stories numbers were exceptionally popular. In the world of the dime novel, Nick Carter and the Old Sleuth series of detective stories, including the adventures of Detective Gay and countless other sleuths, inspired readers breathlessly fans to await new installments in the adventures of their favorite mystery solvers. Moreover, no matter what the subject or theme of most dime novels, mysteries were frequently used as secondary plot devices to hold readers’ interest. Such secondary mysteries might pertain to hidden identities; recovery of lost...
(The entire section is 385 words.)
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