In 19th century England, Dick Turpin was a name as famous (or infamous) as Robin Hood or Sweeney Todd. Stories of these and other “virtuous” criminals sold hundreds of thousands of copies of serialized books which were soon named “penny bloods” or “penny dreadfuls.” Beginning in the 1820s and declining by the 1890s, penny dreadfuls were often published on a weekly basis. For your penny, you usually got 8 pages of cheaply-made paper containing a lurid story that might pick up in the middle of the sentence it had ended with the week before. Stories stretched out over forty or sixty weeks, sometimes longer. Our copy of The Mysteries of London (George W. M. Reynolds) was published over 209 weekly parts between 1845 and 1848. Pulp fiction, dime novels, comic books and television soap operas are all distant descendants of the penny dreadful.
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