In Dime Novel Mormons, editors Michael Austin and Ardis E. Parshall invite the readers to experience late nineteenth- to early twentieth-century portrayals of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its members. Beginning in the 1860s, dime novels gained popularity in the United States. These novels, full of thrilling storylines and heroic characters, often included negative stereotypes of various groups of people. Among them, “Mormons” were often depicted as murderous villains who kidnapped women for polygamist marriages and operated an underground society of Danites—dangerous vigilantes out to kill “gentiles” (x–xi).
After a short but informative introduction, the book presents the full text of four dime novels that include examples of how members of the Church were portrayed in these sensational stories. Dime Novel Mormons includes the following novels: Eagle Plume, the White Avenger. A Tale of the Mormon Trail (1870), by Albert W. Aiken (1); The Doomed Dozen; or, Dolores, the Danite’s Daughter (1881), by Prentiss Ingraham under the pseudonym Dr. Frank Powell (59); Frank Merriwell among the Mormons; or, the Lost Tribe of Israel (1897), most likely by Gilbert Patten under the pseudonym Burt L. Standish (149); and The Bradys among the Mormons; or, Secret Work in Salt Lake City (1903), by “A New York Detective” (185).
The editors bring combined expertise in both literature and history. Michael Austin, who has a PhD in English literature from the University of California at Santa Barbara, is an author or editor of seven books and many smaller works. His book Useful Fiction was named a CHOICE outstanding academic title in 2011. Ardis E. Parshall is an author, historian, and freelance researcher specializing in Latter-day Saint history. With Paul Reeve, she coedited Mormonism: A Historical Encyclopedia and is presently writing a history of the Church told through the lives of Mormon women.
Dime Novel Mormons will appeal to readers interested in American and literary history, nineteenth-century pop fiction, and specifically the history of the calumniation of the Latter-day Saints.