Sunday, October 10, 2010

Dime Novel???

The closing comment on the last thread about Fox Burns was By Robin Shelly. "Shhhh!We're writing a dime novel here!"

I thought that the comment was very appropriate here, especially coming from a once-upon-a-time newspaper reporter. Reporters seem to soak up literary knowledge, and know little tid-bits about arcane things. But, haaa.. She didn’t get me, because I know about Dime Novels. Dime Novels were all the rage in the 1860’s, about the time Fox Burns was being born. The books were the entertainment of the 1860’s clear up until Television was invented. They were very sensationalized books about adventure and intrigue.

Most of the dime novels had two titles like “The Bradys and the Fire Marshall” or “Hot Work in Hornersville”. Most of them had a “Damsel in distress” that needed a hero to save her. Some of the novels were quite lurid and they talked about how she bared her ankle or something equally wicked.

A lot of the Dime novels were about the Wild, Wild West, like Buffalo Bill. Some were about Jessie James, or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, or other less savory “scumbags”, as one of our fair readers pointed out. There wasn’t much law and order around Laytonville back in the days of the Dime Novel. Butch Cassidy and the Scumbag Kid probably wouldn't have sold that good. Every Dime Novel needed a "Hero". (capital "H")

It’s a little known fact, but true, that Butch Cassidy hung out in Covelo, just over the hill from Laytonville. I had to laugh at the characterization of “scumbag”. As times and mores change, I wonder how many of us will be “scumbgs” 150 years from now. I can almost bet that anybody who eats meat today will horrify the people 150 years away from us. That is, unless the world economy collapses, and we are eating each other. I would bet if you got hungry enough, even that would be okay. Then sometime in the future they will be judged for eating people. But, that has happened before hasn’t it? The Donner party became quite famous for that back in the mid 1800’s. About the timeframe of the “Scumbag”. Maybe a little before the Dime Novel, but I’d bet that it was a subject of at least one of the “Dime Novels”.

If you are interested in reading a few Dime Novels on-line click the blue link below. My fave is “Deadwood Dick’s Doom” or “Calamity Jane’s Last Adventure”.

There was an amazing amount of stories about frontiersmen, and battles with the “wild Indians”. The white guy was always the hero, and the Indian was always the villain. Some times a white guy would have a wild savage buddy, much like the buddy movies that you see today, trying to prove that a white guy can have an Indian or a black friend, like that proves something. “The Lone Ranger and Tonto” comes to mind. Or today, Danny Glover and Mel Gibson. We really haven’t changed that much have we.

The hero was always saving white women from the ravages of the Indian Warriors. Some white guys would take Indian princess wives, that was okay as long as they were princesses. But, the Dime Novels expressed the mores of the day.

Dime Novels or Penny Dreadfuls Before you read any of these Dime Novels, they are very racist by today's standards. By our standards today, it's hard to believe how little respect that they had for other people. I think that Suzy is right, there were a lot of "scumbags" back then. It's strange when juged by today's standards, to believe that this stuff was the entertainment medium of the day.

On a lighter note: I made more pies. See if you can guess what they are.


Anonymous said...

You don't need dime novels to know there are still scumbags in this world.


olmanriver said...

So glad you said something more Ernie, Suzy had given us her two bits worth when it was only a dime novel.
Penny Dreadful?! doesn't show it, but could she have been the mother of the Gate Dreadful family? Funny how the spellings change around.
Normally I would go on and on, but I am getting a totally psychic calling to get to 429 Maple Street.

suzy blah blah said...

Hey, you all may be surprised to know that Suzy's writing a novel too. The price will be 39.95 hardcover, 11.95 paperback. It's all about maintaining a legend while also uncovering the real truth about a certain questionable character's reputation. I'm still collecting old photographs and researching some of the background.

There's soooooo much background to research, sometimes it's hard to get all the fine details straight ... For instance, you learn something new everyday, I had heard the usual cheap novel version about how much Gabby Hayes liked to yak, etc. But I didn't know the hidden truth that details the fact that Hopalong had a lesbian sister called Butch who's lover was some Kid who did the Sundance over near Covelo back then. I've also heard tell that they did a ceremonial dance called the Dreadful Gait, although others claim it was the name of one of their sexual activities. I donno, there may be some truth to it, or it may be merely some more highly exaggerated story lines of someone trying to promote yet even more Bullhistory. Fortunately there is today a more modern kind of journalistic study going on which says that the truth is the truth and reality TV is reality. Suzy continues to diligently look into things. I wonder if there are any old true fact newspaper reports on the real story of Hopalong's family's sex lifes? Or, for that matter, I wonder if my research will turn up anything on the gambling habits of Lucky.

ps, the working title is, "The Nice Man Who Gave Candy to Children", but my editor says we'll sell more copies if we change it to "Scumbag" --what do you think?

olmanriver said...

Sounds like a wonderful book Suzy, little is know, less is shared, and nothing blogged about the sexual proclivities of Hopalong... the fact that there were so many "Hoppy's kids" suggests that he did not use a scumbag... but then Google will tell you stuff like "Hopalong was a Western cowboy Robin Hood who never had a love interest in the stories." Or, "he would help a lady across the street but never kiss 'em."
It would seem that he raised his kids with good morals though: "Hopalong Cassidy's
Troopers Creed for Boys & Girls

* To be kind to birds and animals
* To always be truthful and fair
* To keep myself clean and neat
* To always be courteous
* To be careful when crossing streets
* To avoid bad habits
* To study and always learn my lessons
* To obey my parents."

As you have probably found in your researches, he wore black, which everyone said made a nice contrast with his white horse. Now this is just my take, but didn't villains wear all black? Maybe he was going for bad boy image to get the gals, to make so many Hoppy's kids. Probably deniable implausibility, or retroperspectual distortion or
something...but it's fact that he sold a bunch of pajamas, roller skates with spurs, and Hopalong beds... so... well, maybe some dots are connected here.

Now somewhere or other I read where Kid had a gal Etta Place, possibly related through a fifth cousin somewhat removed to Ernie(s) Place. (And why is Ernie a plural here, I thought that was a Gemini thing.)
There is nice early Facebook for singles pic of the gang lookin' good.
Feel free to use my research for your book, though I need to verify what is opinion and what is suppositorial gossip.

Any ideas for the picture on the front cover of your book?

(Conspirincidently, 38 years ago tomorrow, Hopalong rode off into the Sunset--maybe you could Ouija him for your book)

olmanriver said...

ps. the apple-blueberry and apple-blackberry
pies were incredibly scrumptious--as I have come to expect.

I used to get a whole pie back in the days... but those were the good ol' days.

suzy blah blah said...

Right now I'm googling the symbolism of the parts of the body involved in happenstances concerning bodily attacks, like the area between the eyes for instance, and what it means if the third eye is attacked or cursed either by pulling out a weegie board or not. But when I get a spare moment to spare, you can bet your boots I'm gonna find me some spur bedecked roller skates on Ebay.

Gosh maybe there'll be a picture of my feet in em on the back cover. I talked to my editor on the phone and she said, it fits. We're also working on a new title and revising the story line to make it a historical fictionary semiautobiographic modern western adventurestory of this supposed girl that was carried off as an infant in a brown paper bag. She wants me to call it, "Hippy's Kid" ... Scumbag will be the name of the chapter that enlightens folks to the proven fact that the scumbag didn't use a scumbag, although he left some stale candy behind, and hence our story :)

olmanriver said...

Gosh maybe there'll be a picture of my feet in em on the back cover.
Please say you will bare your ankles!

Robin Shelley said...

Speaking of Covelo, shilling shockers & arcane tidbits, has anyone seen "Day of Vengeance"?

Robin Shelley said...

Nobody? I'm looking for a review.

olmanriver said...

Robin, I had never heard of the movie and so had to look it up online. The reviews I read went from kinda pathetic to as good as any movie I have seen this year.... the two may not be mutually exclusive.
How did you hear about it, when they were filming?

Robin Shelley said...

I don't remember, OMaR. But something in Ernie's latest remarks triggered a vague recollection of a movie filmed (& set) in Covelo not too long ago. I remember thinking that I would have to watch for it... then, apparently, promptly forgot about it! I was hoping for a "local review". Will check with my local Blockbuster to see if I can rent it there.