Literary Precedents for The Blue Hotel

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Crane's story seems to grow out of the "dime novel" tradition of cheap, readily available pulp thrillers, many of them set in the wild West, the huge crossroads of the nineteenth-century-American imagination, where desperadoes, settlers, strangers, Indians, Mexicans, and only a few law and order types met, and anything could happen. The hugely popular paperbacks such as Seth Jones by Edward S. Ellis (1860) and Deadmod Dick by Edward L. Wheeler (1877) helped shape readers' tastes, not necessarily for the worse. They even provided a genre-pattern for serious writers like Crane to use far more intelligently than the hack writers and literary drudges were using it, just as those commercial popularizers were influenced by James Fenimore Cooper's elegant Leatherstocking Tales (see separate entries) and other frontier sagas, written in the early part of the century.

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