Remember how you reacted when you found out that poet George Sand was a woman? You were probably in high school and astounded by the revelation. How about Harper Lee? Come on, show of hands. How many of you were misguided into believing the author of To Kill A Mockingbird was a man? Or, more recently, do you remember when J.K. Rowling morphed into Robert Galbraith?
It seems women in the publishing world have been attempting to level the playing field for hundreds of years by creating pen names that are ambiguous. When dime novels—the first form of mass marketed books—came into existence in the 1800s, the playing field was no different. If possible, the odds were stacked even higher, as the topics in these books normally contained tales of swashbuckling heroes, gunslingers, gold miners or explorers, and generally harsh surroundings. Things that refined ladies would never know of, much less be able to write about.
The Dime Novel, or the Penny Dreadful, as these books were referred to in England, were the precursor to today’s paperbacks and e-books. Although these dime novels didn’t have as their primary focus the world of romance, they did set the stage for the romance industry, as they were responsible for introducing reading for pleasure to the masses.
Dime novels in America were rough-and-tumble books, mostly about the Wild West. The plots were sensational and melodramatic, making for great reading among the streets of relatively tame east coast cities.
These books were printed in a four by six inch format, and were about a hundred pages in length, with a die-cut cover image that usually contained a spot of color. And thanks to the advancement of the printing industry at the same time the growth of education in America was happening, the dime novel was able to take advantage of both and become a major force in publishing. They filled a void in American literature for several decades, as the education of the working class created a need for reading material. They were published as frequently as every two weeks, and the characters developed in them often went from one tale to the next. The first known dime novel was written by a woman—Mrs. Ann Stephens—and was entitled “Malaeska, the Indian Wife of the White Hunter.” Risque, tantalizing reading in 1839, to be sure.
With millions of dime novels being printed each year, the search for quality authors and stories grew. The fertile imaginations of woman molded from the same cloth as Mrs. Stephens led to the formation of many memorable characters, such as Harry Hawk, the hero in the dime novel I created for my book, The Duplicitous Debutante.The author of the Harry Hawk series is a well-bred young lady, Rosemary Fitzpatrick, who invents the name, F.P. Elliott, to disguise her true identity.
The Duplicitous Debutante is the sixth book in the Amazon best-selling Cotillion Ball series, and will be available from Crimson Romance and through Amazon and other e-book outlets, in the fall of 2014.
Becky Lower has traveled the country looking for great settings for her novels. She loves to write about two people finding each other and falling in love, amid the backdrop of a great setting, be it present day middle America or on a covered wagon headed west in the 1850s. Contemporary and historical romances are her specialty. Becky is a PAN member of RWA and is a member of the Contemporary and Historic RWA chapters. She has a degree in English and Journalism from Bowling Green State University, and lives in an eclectic college town in Ohio with her puppy-mill rescue dog, Mary. She loves to hear from her readers at email@example.com. Visit her website at www.beckylowerauthor.com
A lady gambler who was also one of the founding members of her Episcopal church, the woman who went by the name Lottie Deno was an unexpected sight at the Post-Civil War Texas gaming tables of San Antonio, Fort Worth, and, perhaps the most notorious town of its day, Fort Griffin Flat. Where did this gorgeous, red-haired, southern belle come from and, perhaps more importantly, how did she end up winning money from the likes of Doc Holiday, earning the respect of her patrons for her skill, and keeping her reputation as a lady in tact?
Lottie Deno was born Carlotta J. Thompson in 1844 to a devout Episcopalian family who owned a farm in Warsaw, Kentucky. Her father, an inveterate gambler who frequented the gaming tables of New Orleans when he was there on business, believed his daughter should have some skills in this world and, having no sons, taught her the games of chance that he enjoyed. Carlotta was an excellent pupil and accompanied her father to New Orleans on several occasions. (more…)
Guns were an equalizer in the West and required when there was little order and little visible presence of the law given the size of the territories that had to be covered and the lack of officers to handle it. Throw in the fact that in many counties and municipalities lawmen were in the pockets of the rich and powerful who owned land—and lots of it—and you’ve got some very good reasons why men walked around “well heeled.” The Johnson County War (Wyoming) and the Lincoln County War (New Mexico) are just two examples of violence spurred by lawmen that were the arm of a faction that wanted to retain power at any price.
So it is somewhat surprising to realize that many counties and towns in the West during the late 1800’s had stiffer gun control laws then they do in the modern era. But as western towns attracted more families, business men, and industries, the townspeople could no longer tolerate the “wild cowboys” that were part of area ranch and cattle drives. These were generally young men in their twenties, liquored up, testosterone driven, and with the judgment of a cow on loco weed.
I enjoy reading firsthand accounts of the Wild West to get the “feel” of the time period. One of my favorite authors in this regard is H.H. Halsell.
Texas born Harry H.Halsell was five years old when the Civil War ended. As a boy of six he and his brother O.D. Halsell were chased by Comanches, and survived but his uncle, George Halsell, a line rider for relative Dan Waggoner’s 10,000 acre ranch was killed and scalped. Harry’s lifetime spanned from the Civil War to president Dwight D. Eisenhower for a total of 96 years.
Being we are close to Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d do a post on falling in love western style.
Despite Victorian mores, marriage and courting in the Wild West was a good deal less formal than the overarching norms of the period. This had much to do with the scarcity of women in the West, at least in the early period before the Civil War. After the Civil War, the female population increased somewhat as more adventurous women rode west, mainly in search of men to marry since the War Between the States had decimated the population of young men in the East and Southeast. Of course, women still made up a smaller part of the western population even in 1890 with the West reporting 41% of its population as female while in the total United States females made up 49% of the population.
Surprisingly, the marriage age was later for women in the West, perhaps because they could be choosier about whom they married and had a few more career options that allowed for independence, such as teaching and running boarding houses and stores, than their eastern sisters. The 1890 census reported 35% of men and 36% of females as married in the total United States while the Western Region reported only 30% of the male population married and 39% of western females as married.