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Broken Meats

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Broken Meats

By David Hambling

London, 1925: Harry Stubbs, former heavyweight boxer and sometime debt collector has been coerced into escorting ? and spying on ? an enigmatic visitor from Shanghai set on a secret mission of vengeance. Unspeakable horror stalks the midnight streets, science and magic are blended and s?ance goes terribly wrong. Harry finds himself in the middle of a battle between occult forces, facing the dark art of necromancy, with only his deductive powers and his formidable fists to save him. How can you fight an opponent who is already dead?

The Harry Stubbs adventures draw on local London history and the Cthulhu Mythos of HP Lovecraft for an impeccable and unforgettable read.

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2 reviews for Broken Meats

  1. Randy Stafford

    “I do at least understand a little more how fact and fiction work together. It’s like a steak and kidney pudding: without steak, there’s no substance; without kidney, there’s no savour. You need the proper mixture. Pure fact is too indigestible without the imaginative part that fills in the spaces between. That’s the only way to make a satisfying pudding.”

    Like his character Harry Stubbs, David Hambling knows how to blend fact and fiction.

    Between jobs after the events of The Elder Ice, ex-boxer and bill collector Harry Stubbs, our narrator, finds himself conducting Mr. Yang about the Norwood neighborhood of South London. It’s a favor to his old friend and sometime patron Arthur Renville — the “Consignment Man” who makes his money disposing of items reported as lost to insurance companies. Arthur wants to know the real reason Yang, member of the sinister Si Fan triad, has come to England in 1925.

    East meets West in an adventure that brings in Theosophy, real life occultist Robert D’Onston Stephenson, Chinese politics, and a walking corpse. H. P. Lovecraft fans will come to attention when we hear about the local Whatley family and the notion that you can reconstitute the dead from their ashes.
    I liked the continuing hat tips Harry gives to his literary models and his asides on the art of boxing.

    Unflappable, a bit naïve at times, Harry keeps on growing as a man, and I certainly look forward to his next adventure.

  2. C.T. Phipps

    The HARRY STUBBS series is probably the best H.P. Lovecraft fiction which is currently on the market today with the possible exception of the ANDREW DORAN series by Matthew Davenport or my own CTHULHU ARMAGEDDON (I may be biased). This is because it dials down the squid and the splatterpunk horror elements so many authors dial up to return to the occult mystery element that Lovecraft’s best works were famous for.

    The premise of the series is Harry Stubbs is a out of work boxer and World War 1 veteran living as a working class Londoner after an encounter with the Cthulhu Mythos results in him becoming unemployed. It’s a dark period of human history and an especially rich and fascinating one as the aftermath of World War 1 is a great time to imagine Cthulhu Mythos based stories. The Spanish Flu, occultism, crime, and the general apocalyptic malaise makes for a perfect Pulp-ish setting. The fact it’s in Britain and not America also removes a lot of Pulp’s more lurid silly elements that people imagine when they think of the Roaring Twenties.

    In BROKEN MEATS, Harry Stubbs is offered a badly needed job of escorting a Chinese traveler around town and making sure he’s not hustled too badly by the locals. Harry and his friend are hustling him himself but the “tourist” isn’t nearly as gullible as people around him think. Also, Harry isn’t the kind of guy who wants to take advantage of someone just because they’re foreign–which makes him a rare breed in the 1920s.

    Basically, the appeal of Harry Stubbs is he’s actually fairly outside of the occult weirdness of your typical Lovecraft protagonist. He often encounters cultists, the weird, and the supernatural but rarely gets face-first with the horrors of Yog-Sothoth or the Elder Things. The first book, Elder Ice, had him mostly deal with the attempt to get a Antarctic expedition going versus actually reaching the Mountains of Madness. Yet, this actually makes it more interesting because you never know when the other shoe will drop.

    I also give credit to David Hambling for his meticulous research into the period of Post-WW1 Britain as well as the (dying out) occult movements of the time. Part of what makes the stories so good is there’s a lot more connection to real life versus simply having every Masonic Lodge be a secret den of Azathoth worship. The handling of race is also amusing as it’s done in a manner that indicates the author clearly didn’t share Lovecraft’s prejudices but knows they were common at the time. Harry, himself, is more enlightened than the average Londoner but also believable for the time period.

    In this book, the plot is related to THE STRANGE CASE OF CHARLES DEXTER WARD, the Theosophy movement, seances, and Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu (except not really on that last part). Harry Stubbs is hard up for cash and ends up hiring himself out as a tour guide to a mysterious Chinese visitor who gets him involved with a man who claims to be able to raise the dead. This is after, conveniently, a local pimp claims to have murdered an already dead man in Harry Stubbs’ presence.

    The story is good from start to finish and feels like an exceptionally well-researched Chaosium module for the old Call of Cthulhu gameline from the eighties. I prefer the audiobook version of this story to the text version but both are exceptional.

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