penny dreadful

noun, plural penny dreadfuls. Chiefly British.
a cheap, sensational novel of adventure, crime, or violence; dime novel.

Origin:
1870–75

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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Encyclopedia Britannica
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penny dreadful

an inexpensive novel of violent adventure or crime that was especially popular in mid-to-late Victorian England. Penny dreadfuls were often issued in eight-page installments. The appellation, like dime novel and shilling shocker, usually connotes rather careless and second-rate writing as well as gory themes

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
They can read the penny dreadful, but they cannot darn their stockings or mend their clothes.
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