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The Fat Man: A Tale of North Pole Noir Hardcover – October 28, 2010

39 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Harmon’s debut is a combination of heartwarming holiday story and tough guy noir, an interesting mix that creates an enjoyable story. For over 1300 years Gumdrop Coal has served as an elite and highly dedicated elf for The Fat Man (aka Santa Claus) and is the well known creator of the Naught List; the list of children who will be getting coal in their stockings. After Gumdrop loses his job in what he comes to realizes is a frame-up he goes on a noir style revenge mission that encompasses all the neighborhoods of the North Pole, from the Misfits Island to the depths of dark Potterville. Littered with references to popular culture from both the noir and holiday traditions, with characters like Rosebud the journalist, Citizen Candy Cane and the not very bright misfit Sherlock Stetson. Harmon’s novel is a clever tale, but the ending swings too far into heartwarming land, making it much more of a holiday than a noir story and limiting its appeal to a larger audience. --Jessica Moyer

Review

"Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean...and who wears jingle bells on his curly-toed shoes and stands about two-foot three. A man who is, in other words, an elf. But don't let the green tights and stocking cap fool you: Gumdrop Coal is the roughest, toughest punisher of the naughty since Mike Hammer, even if he does smell like peppermint and fresh-baked cookies."
-New York Times bestselling author Steve Hockensmith (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls) "Noir and Christmas go together like Santa and his reindeer in this stylish elf fable by Ken Harmon, a newcomer who knows noir like he apprenticed with Hammett. An excellent stocking stuffer for the mystery lover in your family."
-New York Times bestselling author John Lescroart "This is one of those wonderful books where I hit my forehead and cry, "Why didn't I think of that?". As I read I kept hoping it wasn't as brilliant as I feared - but it is. It's the "Naughty List" for you, if you don't buy this book for Christmas!"
-Louise Penny, New York Times bestselling author of A Brutal Telling

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Adult; First Edition edition (October 28, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525951954
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525951957
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #171,170 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ken Harmon is an advertising copywriter who has authored everything from headlines to brochures to on-hold messages (yes, he's the one). He studied English at Lenoir-Rhyne College and spent his early years in front of old movies where tough guys and smoldering dames dished a blue-plate-special of banter with a side of innuendo. Since that kind of talk was frowned upon in corporate meetings, with other parents at t-ball, and especially at the DMV, Harmon decided to create worlds where wry heroes liked their rye, redheads and rubbing out rubes. The result is two detective parodies - The Fat Man - A Tale of North Pole Noir & Alas, Pulp Yorick - the Jester's Hat Always Ringeth Twice.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca B. McCraw on November 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Ken Harmon's first novel takes you to the gritty side of Kringle Town and all that goes down while pulling off the Holiday of holidays. You'll find a new appreciation for those characters that strive to keep the meaning of Christmas as pure as the wind-driven snow - no matter what it takes to do it!

This mystery will make you laugh out loud, as well as sit on the edge of your seat, hoping for a Christmas miracle. I would definitely recommend this book to those who love the spirit of St. Nick, as well as a good detective story!
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By W. English on November 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
North Carolina author Ken Harmon's debut, "The Fat Man: A Tale of North Pole Noir" is exactly the kind of thing everyone needs in their Holiday stocking. It's one of those, "Gee, why didn't I think of that?" ideas which will have you hooked from the first page.

Ever wonder how Santa's "Naughty List" came about? You'll find out with the story of Gumdrop Coal, one of Santa's elves who grew weary of watching Santa's increasing workload to appease some of the world's greedier children. However, Gumdrop is fired from his job and is framed for murder! He must take things into his own (tiny) hands, prove his innocence, and save The Fatman (Santa, not William Conrad) himself.

The book is loaded with pop culture references to Christmas movies, TV shows, and songs. (It's no coincidence the murder is committed with a Red Rider BB Gun!) It's laugh out loud funny in many places. Harmon understands the noir genre and is in touch with the rhythyms of the classics which inspired this. It's easier to understand than "The Maltese Falcon" (what isn't?) and 100 times more fun.

I advise you to pick up a copy--or ten. It's one way to assure you don't make the "Naughty List."
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on October 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover
For thirteen centuries Gumdrop Coal the elf has worked diligently and loyally in support of his employer, affectionately known by his subordinates as The Fat Man and by children everywhere as Santa Claus. An original, Gumdrop is highly regarded amongst his peers for creating the Naughty List of children who were not nice so receive a lump of coal instead of a toy in their stockings. In fact he became Captain of the Coal patrol elf unit.

Maybe he delivered one coal to many, had too many artificial sweetened cookies or placed too many nasty kids on the Naughty List though all deserved their placement as an advocate of kick-butt tough love, but Gumdrop is fired from his job. He is irate and fuming insisting no one treats Gumdrop like this. The twenty-seven inch elf turns into a renegade to teach parents to raise their children to remain off the Naughty List. However, his descent into the inferno of hell has not bottomed out yet as a parent is shot to death by a Red Ryder BB Gun that contains Gumdrop's prints. Realizing he is the victim of a diabolical frame, Gumdrop turns vigilante seeking to uncover who in the North Pole communities set him up and why.

This is fun heartwarming holiday Noir starring a tough tiny thug while part of the enjoyment is the allusions to famous Yuletide movies and books. However, it is Gumdrop the rogue elf who makes this a terrific worthy addition to the Christmas repertoire with his nourish investigation into who set him up to take the fall from the front of the sleigh as the top aide to the Fat Man to exile from the North Pole.

Harriet Klausner
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Vallegrrl on July 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Clever lines, tight plot, and a who's who of Christmas dominate this book from the first page to the last. Gumdrop Coal, the story's curmudgeonly elf protagonist--who felt like a kindred spirit in his loathing of the holiday's rampant materialism--is framed for murder. And it looks like his boss, Santa himself, is next on the hit list. So begins a breathless race to find a killer before they strike again. But this is no ordinary hunt. Imagine "The Bourne Identity" set in the North Pole--complete with sleighrides, red-nosed reindeer, and hilarious one-liners--and you're hooked.

Gumdrop is Sam Spade in a stocking cap and curled-toe boots, wonderfully flawed and deep, and easy to root for. Author Ken Harmon reaches into his Santa bag of classic movie riffs, nostalgic holiday themes, and inventive mystery hooks to bring a well-paced and funny plot without coming across as overly chaotic and messy. And his description is so spot on, I started to feel a little chilly myself when Gumdrop entered a desolate Artic forest.

Whether your on the "naughty" or "nice" list, whether you celebrate Christmas in December or July, pick up "The Fat Man" and learn what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mandaberry on February 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I had some reservations going into this book. Those reservations stem mainly from the fact that I don't exactly like Christmas. I mean sure, when it's all said and done with, I'm excited to be spending time with my family, but I work in retail. My coworkers and I spend the whole period from the day after Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve just wishing Christmas would be over already. It's madness. Since I normally side with the Grinch and Scrooge, I tend to stay away from reading any Christmas related books, but the cover caught my eye. A noir mystery set in the North Pole? Ok, you got my attention. After reading the dust jacket, I had to read it and it was great. Every Christmas pop culture reference you can think of is in this book, even some I wasn't familiar with. I enjoyed the narrator (Gumdrop Coal), who's a no nonsense elf out for justice. The noir method of storytelling was a really interesting choice to use in this Christmas world. It got quite a bit preachy towards the end, and the actual ending didn't really work for me. Despite this, it was funny, entertaining, and I'm glad I read it.
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