Showtime’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.