Broken Meats (Harry Stubbs #2) by David Hambling Book Review

Write on: Thu, 27 Sep 2018 by  in Charles' Reviews Read 2872


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.

Available here

Last modified on Wednesday, 24 February 2021 19:32
C.T. Phipps

C.T Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. He is a regular blogger on "The United Federation of Charles".

He's written Agent G, Cthulhu Armageddon, Lucifer's Star, and The Supervillainy Saga.