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Hardboiled Cthulhu Fiction Review

Posted on November 19, 2008 by Billzilla

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Hardboiled Cthulhu is billed as an anthology of “Two-Fisted Tales of Tentacled Terror”, and mostly it delivers. However, the quality is quite uneven, though in some cases pretty creative. For example, “Eldritch Fellas” by Tim Curran, a “Goodfellas” pastiche with the Great Old Ones as mobsters, while initially amusing, was far too long. It wasn’t really clever enough to justify its genre-bending inclusion here.

Likewise “Day of Iniquity” by Steven Shrewsbury is neither particularly hard-boiled nor terrifying; it more appropriately belongs in an anthology of homage to the genre typified by Conan the Barbarian; it was extremely disappointing to find it here, masquerading as something it clearly is not.

I suppose I should’ve been concerned by the fact that the editor has not only one of his own stories within, but also an original poem, both right up front as Thing One and Thing Two in the collection. If a poem about a hard boiled-type thug offends your sensibilities as much as it does mine, skip to the next page. Actually, if you’re busy or in a hurry, skip the next story too; sad to say, I wasn’t very impressed with that, either.

Still the collection is not without considerable merit. Jonathan Sharp’s “The White Mountains” gave me the same sense of wonder (in a horrifying way, of course) that I had when I first read Lovecraft, lo these many moons ago. Bravo. “Then Terror Came” by Patrick Thomas takes a Lovecraft original (“The Hound”)and gives it a bit of highly successful updating; it left me wanting more stories about the same “Men in Black”-type Agency that deals with the dangerously supernatural.

“A Dangerous High” by E.P. Berglund is a clever premise, though the loose ends are tied up a little too well for it to seem gritty or have a touch of real life to it; still, a well-written and engaging story. “Ache” by David Witteveen does an admirable job of combining hard-boiled and the Cthulhu Mythos, as does “A Little Job in Arkham” by John Sunseri and “A Change of Life” by William Jones. The story “Unfinished Business by Ron Shiflet picks up pretty much where the Lovecraft tale “Pickman’s Model” leaves off, and does it reasonably well, too. “Pazuzu’s Children” sets the Mythos in modern-day Iraq to good effect, though does so in potentially questionable taste.

All in all, an engaging read, if an annoying one at times. Overall, I found Hardboiled Cthulhu a decent if flawed collection. I would recommend this book to anyone in a Lovecraftian mood.

Review by Bill Bodden

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