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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: #1,268,371 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Matthew T. Carpenter on August 4, 2006
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
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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I've wanted to read this book for ages, and was unable to find it. Mythos fiction tends to "disappear" in public libraries, if the reader knows what I mean. The pity is, now I know it's no loss.
This book is a waste of time. It's filled with poorly done stories, offensive story lines and bad editing. I realize that my reviews may contain grammar and spelling errors, but then I'm not an editor of anthologies. Whoever let this book be published without doing the most basic spell- and grammar check?
Alright, so the book contains the lauded "Eldritch-Fellas", a mythos version of (duh) "Goodfellas". Fine, I enjoyed that, it was a good combination of mythos, humor and Mafia cliches. However, the book also contains the utterly crappy sword and sorcery(!) story "Day of Iniquity". Hello, editor? Anybody home? Why was this story included? It's not even a good S&S tale ...

The quality of fiction gets worse from there on, and pretty much bottoms out until the very end. R. Lupoff's "Dreems.biz" was a neat little piece of mythos fiction, and heads and shoulders over the majority of this collection. Unlike many of the stories it didn't include extreme violence, abuse of animals and/or sex. It was simply well written, carefully plotted and entertaining. Take note of this, mythos fiction need not be offensive, gross, hyper-violent and/or pornographic.
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