And another book, entirely by accident, touching on the 1920s.
Review: Alien Stars: A Harry Stubbs Adventure, David Hambling, 2017.
Another adventure, another new boss for Harry Stubbs, our plain spoken narrator who has a quicker mind and deeper thoughts than he gives himself credit for. No false modesty, though, about his boxing skills.
Stubbs plays “bombardier” to “Sergeant” Skinner, another veteran of the Great War. They perform “curious chores”, some legal, some not, for Randolph Stafford (yes, Hambling has Tuckerized me for this book), a man in the grip of some private obsession.
Sent to toss an apartment, Skinner and Stubbs do find something curious: a carbonized corpse in a suitcase and reference to a “beetle” that Stafford and other parties, violent parties, take an interest in.
And we’re off to another quite satisfying and fresh Hambling take on H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. He doesn’t do Lovecraft pastiches. Using his experience as a popular science journalist, Hambling recasts Lovecraft stories in a modern scientific mode while keeping the 1920s setting. He also throws in some real occult lore, appropriate since he’s a regular columnist for the Fortean Times. There’s also plenty of real-life weirdness to use in the richly detailed London suburb of Norwood where the Stubbs adventures take place.
And, while there are now many Mythos tales cross-pollinated with the private eye genre, Stubbs isn’t exactly a private eye. Nor does Hambling write imitation Raymond Chandler prose (though he has done that elsewhere). Stubbs is a break from both the scholarly gentleman of Lovecraft stories and a mere detective – though Stubbs is taking correspondence courses to become one.
To say more would spoil the pleasant surprises as Hambling picks up threads from the previous two Stubbs books including a woman who has matrimonial eyes for Stubbs. The ending is not something one expects from a Mythos story.
One thing is quite clear. The Norwood of the Stubbs’ stories is the same Norwood as that in Hambling’s collection of linked stories in The Dulwich Horror & Others. The enigmatic and formidable Estelle De Vere, who shows up in two of those stories, has plenty of on-stage time here.
And I fear that one of the stories in that book hints at a bad fate for Harry in the future.
And then move on to The Dulwich Horror & Others to see the full range of Hambling’s skill.
You can see a Google map of Norwood with sites from Hambling’s stories.