Note: Due to subject matter and graphic violence and some sexual situations, I do not recommend this work for children.
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 Hardboiled Cthulhu: Two-fisted Tales of Tentacled Terror 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.
Personal note: On August 5, 2010, I started tracking the books I read. Hardboiled Cthulhu: Two-fisted Tales of Tentacled Terror is #215.