Hoade’s Penny Dreadfuls—Lurid literature is back!

Click on any cover for an enjoyably insalubrious sample!

teslapennydreadfulforwebpage Absinthe in Arkham front cover for Web lovecraft cackles

Hoade’s Penny Dreadfuls, written by Yours Truly, are bringing back the lost literary form from the 1890s on edge of oblivion (is that a Tom Cruise movie?). The 19th Century originals were consumed by the boatload—literally, because the publications were sent to London via the Thames—by a newly literate public who learned how to read during the mandatory education to age 10 enacted in the US and Britain. 

Lots of people now knew how to read and wanted to read (remember, this was pre-Kardsahian), but the hardbacks and triple-decker-novels available then were far too expensive and also possibly boring to a 15-year-old. Nature abhors a vacuum, so in the UK “Penny Dreadfuls” were born! Cheap and fast (much like the girls I dated in high school), the little chapbooks were hugely popular not only overseas but also right here in the good ol’ USA, where they were known as “dime novels.” (British money was the measure back then, and our dime was their penny.)

These quick reads fell into two basic categories, although there were plenty of “red Indians” (cringe) on this side of the pond and lots of “savages from darkest Africa” (facepalm), but generally they were themed thusly:

  • A brilliant scientist or inventor (either a famous real-life person or a “boy scientist” thrown into conflict with something supernatural … or only apparently supernatural. (Usually the latter was the old caretaker trying to get the deed to an amusement park.) My Penny Dreadfuls of this category have featured Nikola Tesla fighting vampires in one and The Slender Shadow Man in the other.
  • Lurid “peeks behind the curtain of the opium den.” These were tales of violence, insalubrious sexual congress, graft, drink, drugs, you name it. (Of course, this content was shocking back in late 1800s, but now seems so tame it could be printed on a kids’ cereal box.) My two Lovecraftian “Penny Dreads,” Absinthe in Arkham and Lovecraft Cackles, are insalubrious as hell and also, I hope, lurid and wrong as hell for today’s readers.

I intend to write many more Penny Dreadful adventures, including Nikola Tesla vs. The Slender Shadow Man and some actual Tales of the Opium Den. How’s that for wonderfully decadent? Do check them out, won’t you? The fun is all to be had by you—and yeah, okay, I have fun writing them, too, fine, you called my bluff. Enjoy!

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