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Hardboiled Cthulhu: Two-fisted Tales of Tentacled Terror Paperback – July 15, 2006

2.9 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

James Ambuehl is the author of numerous fiction collections, including Correlated Contents and From Between the Star-Spaces. He lives in Bemidji, Minnesota.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 325 pages
  • Publisher: Elder Signs Press, Inc.; 1st edition (July 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0975922971
  • ISBN-13: 978-0975922972
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,946,546 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Hardboiled Cthulhu is the latest jewel in Elder Sign Press' splendored crown. I wish there was an editor's introduction explaining the history of this title, who thought of it, how the stories were selected and the publication history, because this book is fabulous. So many mythos collections have workman-like slogs through common mythos tropes that are really burdensome to read. I bought a very expensive copy of Weird Shadows Over Innsmouth and I am still working my way through it months later. Working is the operative word. I devoured Hardboiled Cthulhu in two sleep deprived evenings, chortling to myself the whole time. Dang it, this collection was just plain fun to read! In just about every title I can almost feel the author's sheer enjoyment writing their story, how much they relished the concept and how they probably typed with break neck enthusiasm. Although most of the critters, creatures and books are tried and true for the mythos, these authors are all confident and brimming with talent; the stories are marvelously original.

Some housekeeping: The book is a handsome trade paperback, well up to Elder Sign Press' usual excellent standards. No autographed collector edition signed by the authors, more's the pity! The wonderfully evocative cover art is by David Senecal and is perfectly in tune with the collection's theme: world weary private eyes and HPL's mythos, kind of Raymond Chandler and extradimensional tentacles. Price is $11.67 at Amazon, with free shipping available if you buy at least $25 worth of stuff. This is heavily discounted from list $17.95. Page count is a generous 330, just about all devoted to the stories and counting a few pages of mini-bios of the authors at the end. Production qualities are high; I can't recall any typos.
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Format: Paperback
Hard-boiled is a branch of crime fiction wherein typically the main character is a private detective with a cynical world view. If Ambuehl uses a different definition he should have noted it in the book so readers are not confused, there's nothing wrong in trying something different so long as people aren't sold something under fasle pretences.

Only 6 of 21 stories have a private detective in them, 1 is even Conan-like sword and sorcery (how that got included beats me). The rest are OK Mythos tales but are not really "hard-boiled" in the traditional sense.

Either Ambuehl didn't specify what he wanted from the authors strictly enough or he let them get away with shoddy work, either way it's bad editorship.
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Format: Paperback
The concept is brilliant, though drawing from the film _Cast a Deadly Spell_ in the idea of 1930s detectives and Cthulhu Mythos. Some of the stories work well, others are forced. I do hope others write more stories in this vein! Especially set in NYC. (Recently I stopped by HPL's old residence at 169 Clinton St., Brooklyn.)
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Format: Paperback
Editing an anthology is hard work and I can easily imagine editing one that embraces the cosmos of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos even more so. The editor has to make a decision as to whether s/he will choose tales that are classic Lovecraft that create an atmosphere of growing awe and dread or embrace the more modern definition of horror with its splatterpunk and graphic sexuality. Then there is the matter of theme.

James Ambuel took on the mantle, but unfortunately, with this anthology he did not actually succeed. A collection of uneven stories, the works were to embrace stories that are “hardboiled,” with the impression they are basically pastiches of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett.

The result is a mishmash of detective noir (Ambuehl’s opening story, The Pisces Club), detective noir satire (Tim Curran’s entertaining Eldritch-Fellas), an Iraqi war story (Jeffrey Thomas’ Pazuzu’s Children), a reporter investigating the Starry Wisdom cult (Robert M. Price’s The Prying Investigations of Edwin M. Lillibridge) and others. Buyer beware, you are getting a book of Cthulhu Mythos stories, but they embrace all sorts of themes and tropes.

All in all, the collection holds its own. Jonathan Sharp’s The White Mountains introduces us to two moonshine runners who fall on the wrong side of an inbred mountain family who just happen to worship one very nasty monstrosity. John Sunseri has a little story about professional thieves stealing the Necronomicon from the heavily guarded library at Miskatonic University. The anthology also has offerings from the late J. F. Gonzalez and the late C.J. Henderson, so collectors of their works may find some value in the book.

All in all, the collection is not a waste of time. Just be aware of what you are buying.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Down and out PIs, doublecrossing dames, and wiseguys mix surprisingly well with the Cthulhu Mythos.

Some of those wiseguys are "Eldritch-Fellas". Tim Curran's tale of that name mixes said fellas trying to avoid an indictment by the Elder Gods with several hat tips to famous scenes from modern gangster movies and tv shows. Cthulhu, here, is, in the words of his bosses, "getting out of hand". Funny, something of a tour de force, and one of the best stories in the book. The mob hitman narrating William Jones' "A Change of Life" happens to be temporarily possessed by a member of the Great Race of Yith. The unusual perspective of the story, and the reason he involves himself with a singer fleeing Dutch Schulz, make this another highlight.

The mob enforcer of David Witteveen's "Ache" has unexpected sympathy for his quarry, a youngster studying the Yellow Book and on the run for stealing mob money. E. P. Berglund's "A Dangerous High" puts an ex-military policeman on the trail of a gang dealing in Tind'losi Liao, the drug from Frank Belknap Long's classic mythos story "The Hounds of Tindalos".

Lesser Lovecraft stories inspired Patrick Thomas' "Then Terror Came" and Cody Goodfellow's "To Skin a Dead Man". Thomas' story has the Department of Magical Affairs, a mostly overt Federal agency that handles occult menaces, and an ex-serial killer who works for them. The confusing plot of Goodfellow's story is full of doublecrossings. But the plot isn't the point. The story takes off on the black humor of Lovecraft's "Herbert West - Reanimator" as we meet backstreet corpse revivalists, zombie boxers, and a bored wizard.

Things need to be stolen in several stories .
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