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Penny Dreadfuls: Tales of Horror (Book Review)

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 11.03.15 PMShowtime’s television series Penny Dreadful is a feast for the eyes with its brilliant art direction, costumes, and eye candy cast. Among its characters are Dracula, Frankenstein, and Dorian Gray. It seems likely that Skyhorse Publishing is aware of the show’s popularity, as they have recently compiled the classic novels Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Picture of Dorian Gray in one volume; thinly trying to connect Bram Stoker’s, Mary Shelley’s, and Oscar Wilde’s writings with the pop culture literary tradition of the penny dreadful.

This certainly can be construed as good marketing. While the TV show takes license with the characters, the book simply reprints the classic horror novels, plus Stoker’s often anthologized “Dracula’s Guest.” The connection between the cheap pulp serial fiction fad of mid-Victorian England and these great literary works is tenuous, at best. In addition, it can be argued that Shelley’s Frankenstein, published in 1818, pre-dates the penny dreadful. The Picture of Dorian Gray was a shocking novel for its time. It would not, however, likely be described as a descendent of pulp fiction. Bram Stoker possibly could have been influenced by the penny dreadful, since Dracula, in its epistolary style, is a bit like a sensational serial.

The Penny Dreadfuls: Tales of Horror: Dracula, Frankenstein, & The Picture of Dorian Gray is a barebones reprinting of works that reshaped the face of horror fiction. Having them together in one volume is convenient.

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About Sheila M. Merritt

Sheila Merritt wrote book reviews for Mystery Scene Magazine. Currently she writes essays for Scream Magazine. For several years, she had contributed reviews, articles and conducted interviews for the newsletter. She was friends with a British ghost hunter who happened to be the author of a biography of Boris Karloff. She’s had a brief and embarrassing conversation with Christopher Lee in a department store, but also had a much more relaxing exchange with director-writer Frank Darabont at a horror convention. She became enamored of horror films and dark fiction as a child. Mother didn't approve of them. The rest, as they say, is history.

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