Pioneers  Passionate Ladies  and Private Eyes by Larry E. Sullivan

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Author
Larry E. Sullivan
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Book review

Despite efforts of contemporary reformers to curb the availability of dime novels, series books, and paperbacks, Pioneers, Passionate Ladies, and Private Eyes reveals how many readers used them as means of resistance and how fictional characters became models for self-empowerment. These literary genres, whose value has long been underestimated, provide fascinating insight into the formation of American popular culture and identity. Through these mass-produced, widely read books, Deadwood Dick, Old Sleuth, and Jessie James became popular heroes that fed the public’s imagination for the last western frontier, detective tales, and the myth of the outlaw. Women, particularly those who were poor and endured hard lives, used the literature as means of escape from the social, economic, and cultural suppression they experienced in the nineteenth century.

In addition to the insight this book provides into texts such as “The Bride of the Tomb,” the Nick Carter Series, and Edward Stratemeyer’s rendition of the Lizzie Borden case, readers will find interesting information about:

  • the roles of illustrations and covers in consumer culture
  • Bowling Green’s endeavor to digitize paperback and pulp magazine covers
  • bibliographical problems in collecting and controlling series books
  • the effects of mass market fiction on young girls
  • Louisa May Alcott’s pseudonym and authorship of three dime novels
  • special collections
  • competition among publishers

    A collection of work presented at a symposium held by the Library of Congress, Pioneers, Passionate Ladies, and Private Eyes makes an outstanding contribution to redefining the role of popular fiction in American life.


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