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The Fat Man: A Tale of North Pole Noir

3.48  ·  Rating Details ·  505 Ratings  ·  138 Reviews
Fired from his longtime job as captain of the Coal Patrol, two-foot-three-inch 1,300-year-old elf Gumdrop Coal is angry. He's one of Santa's original elves, inspired by the fat man's vision to bring joy to children on that one special day each year. But somewhere along the way things went sour for Gumdrop. Maybe it was delivering one too many lumps of coal for the Naughty ...more
Audio CD, 0 pages
Published October 27th 2010 by Tantor Media (first published January 1st 2010)
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Lolly's Library
2.5 stars
The first two-thirds of this book started out in a rip-roaring manner, easily earning it a four-, even five-star rating for its originality and storytelling. The back third, however, fell off steeply into one- and two-star territory as the story descended into schmaltz and religious proselytizing. I realize there will be some well-trodden referrals to Christianity in association with Christmas (and as much as that bugs me, have no fear, I'm not going to give a dissertation on the fact t
Danny Newell
Jan 30, 2016 Danny Newell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyed this! Wish I’d discovered it a month ago during the holiday season instead of in January, 11 months too early, but it’s short and fun and I suspect I’ll revisit it every December for years to come. It has that “instant classic” feel to it.

Sure, the plot slowed down for me a bit in the final third, but the concept is fantastic and you’ll have a smile on your face more often than not. It’s almost like a Christmas-themed version of the insanely popular READY PLAYER ONE in that it in
Paul Pessolano
Feb 18, 2011 Paul Pessolano rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A "Ho-Ho-Ho" three times over for this book. If you are looking for a "Christmas Read" that is totally delightful and clever, you owe it to yourself to pick up this book. Although this book is catagorized as mystery/thriller, it could just as easily been classified as either humor or fiction/litrerature.

Gumdrop Coal, oneof Santa's elves, has just lost his job. He finds naughty boys and girls and puts coal in their Christmas stockings. I know this guy!!!!!

Gumdrop loses his job when a parent of on
Dec 01, 2013 Stacia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
Things have been busy/crazy lately, so I applied only about 3 brain cells when reading this & that seems about right. It starts out as a fairly hard-boiled noir (well, as hard-boiled as cranky elves can be), but ends up (appropriately?) Christmas-y happy/sappy/all is well in the end. For those who love little references & mentions of other books/movies/cultural references in their reading, you would definitely enjoy this book. There were so, so many, such as Zwarte Piet, Ralphie from A C ...more
Dec 20, 2010 Deb rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book ROCKS. Funny and smart. Elements from every imaginable Christmas story are turned on their heads and incorporated. Written in delicious noir fashion, with gritty dialog and an unflappable hero. Truly brilliant stuff. You just gotta read it. (And Peter Jackson needs to option this for a movie!)
Dec 03, 2010 Brian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It had been, oh, nearly 14 years since I had read the classic crime novels by Hammet and Thompson. Soon after diving into Ken Harmon’s The Fat Man, I remembered how much fun reading those novels had been. Many of the characteristics of those novels were all present here; the snappy similes and clever word-play, a protagonist with attitude, and of course a foxy dame.

Gumdrop Coal, the novel’s narrator, is a likeable (little) fellow despite the pleasure he finds in punishing naughty children with l
Lindsay Stares
Feb 10, 2011 Lindsay Stares rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What a shame. Harmon took a great premise and absolutely ruined it with shitty, shitty execution.

Premise: Gumdrop Coal is a sorry excuse for a noir hero, in a poorly constructed holiday world. Someone is framing him, or muscling him out, or trying to destroy Santa, or trying to ruin Christmas, or something. It isn't exactly coherent.

I loved this idea. Christmas elf noir? That could be great! The dark side of the holiday, maybe the dirty secrets of the elven sweatshops or some artifact is stolen
I found this completely by accident in a used bookstore and immediately knew it was right up my chimney.
This is the author's first novel and, admittedly, it has some flaws. It gets a bit busy during the third act, but even with that, the very idea of doing a pulpy murder mystery set in Santa's North Pole is brilliant. It kind of reminds me of Who Censored Roger Rabbit? which is a VERY different story than a certain movie with a similar name.
So you've got an elf, Gumdrop Coal, who talks like Sa
Dec 10, 2010 Gheeta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor, mystery
I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked this story. I have to admit that I found the holiday cliches a bit tired after the first chapter, but once I got past that and just chalked it up to the writing style I was able to enjoy the story. I think this book is really meant to be heard and not read. Think Sam Spade or the Thin Man--hence the noir style of the story.

It is a pretty quick read, you could probably finish it in a weekend or so. You will see references to many of your favorite Chr
Dec 08, 2015 Keeley rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Initially, I would have rated this one four or five stars. I adored all of the references to Christmas carols and pop culture. And I really, really loved the Christian message of "the child," how mercy and love are more important than justice and making people behave. It was a cute story, but it got a little too strange toward the end and went on just a little too long because of it. Overall, I enjoyed it- Johnny Heller is an AWESOME narrator! I would recommend this for a fun, light, irreverent ...more
Brian Lyons
Started really strong as a blending of Noir and Christmas story elements, and had it continued would have been a great and unique read. Unfortunately, the story devolved in just borrowing phrases and characters of those types of stories instead of making them it's own. This partnered with the occasional and overbearing mentions of the "true meaning" of the season soured me on the book by the end. Not a great read, but if your looking for something for the Christmas season (possibly to read with ...more
Dec 07, 2014 Sara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
A very adorable book. Perfect for getting in the holiday spirit! I was given this as a gift right before Thanksgiving and was told to wait to read it until right after because it will put me in that Christmas mood. And it did! It's noir and humor and suspense and love and Christmas all rolled into one well written super cute and fun read. Very much recommended for year round reading perhaps with a cup of cheer near by whatever that cheer may be. =D
Dec 15, 2014 Amy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this! If you're a fan of the genre and Christmas "classics," this is a great read, chock full of references.
Dec 21, 2016 Lyra rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
Clever for the most part, but at times, the plot was secondary to working in all the characters from beloved Christmas songs and movies.
Nov 23, 2014 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A clever, funny and even heartwarming story. My kind of Christmas book!!
Jul 08, 2017 Barb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What an odd little book.
Amy Bronstein
May 05, 2017 Amy Bronstein rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this book, by accident, at my library and decided to give it a try. I absolutely adored it!! It was a wonderful noir style book that made me laugh and giggle out loud.
JG (The Introverted Reader)
Gumdrop Coal has gotten the axe. Founder of the Coal Patrol, those elves who deliver coal into bad little kids' stockings, Gumdrop is out on his ear when Santa decides that every child deserves a real gift on Christmas. Gumdrop takes it hard. His methods might be harsh, but he believes they're fair and they mostly get results.

He's promised Santa that he'll stay away from children, but he hasn't made any promises about parents. Let's face it--someone is responsible for little monsters turning ou
This month my Speculative Fiction book group (which reads about two or three fantasy books each year) selected Ken Harmon's hard-boiled detective novel, The Fat Man, a story about Gumdrop Coal -- the grumpy elf who founded the Coal brigade -- trying to stop an overthrow of the big man himself. A few thoughts:

- Harmon imagines the North Pole as "Kringle Town," a fantastical place where all the figures from Christmas dwell, each with her or his own odd habits on display. This encyclopedic use of n
Bunny Cakes
Dec 30, 2016 Bunny Cakes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a pretty good book, I want to make it a holiday tradition to read it. I laughed a lot and enjoyed the references.
Carol Evans
But this “Tale of North Pole Noir” is definitely not sugary sweet. Gumdrop Coal has been in charge of the naughty list for ages, delivering coal to all the bad kids, encouraging them to change their ways. And then he gets fired. But Gumdrop is sure there’s more to his being let go than just the idea that Santa needs to show love to all the kids, regardless. No, Gumdrop is sure there’s a conspiracy afoot and Santa’s going to end up dead, working too hard to please too many greedy little kids. Wit ...more
Dec 27, 2013 Yael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"A hard-boiled elf is framed for murder in a North Pole world that plays reinder games for keeps . . ."

1,300-year-old, 2' 3" elf Gumdrop Coal has just been fired from his longtime job as captain of the Coal Patrol. He's mad, and he's not gonna take it. He's one of Santa's original elves, inspired by his boss's vision to bring joy to children on that one, most special day of the year. But somwhere along the way, things began to go bad for Gumcrop. Maybe it was delivering one too many lumps of coa
Christy Lockstein
The Fat Man by Ken Harmon is a tale of North Pole Noir. Gumdrop Coal has lost his position on Santa's Coal Patrol, and he's not about to take it lying down. Furious that naughty children will be rewarded with gifts for their bad behavior, Gumdrop decides to teach the parents a lesson they'll never forget, but when someone is murdered, the evidence all points to Gumdrop, and he'll have to take it on the lam to prove his innocence, but who can he trust when all of Kringle Town seems to be in the s ...more
Dec 07, 2010 Amy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
THE FAT MAN is a spoof of traditional Christmas stories and songs along with a dash of noir featuring one of Santa's elves, Gumdrop Coal. Gumdrop Coal, head of the infamous Coal patrol, gets canned right before Christmas. Rumor has it that he not only took his job too far but that he was also physically threatening naughty children and their parents. As Gumdrop seeks to clear his name, he uncovers a plot to get rid of Santa Claus that may extend all the way to the Misfit Mafia on the Island of M ...more
Ryan (miyu)
Dec 12, 2010 Ryan (miyu) rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, kindle
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 29, 2012 Lindsey rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I borrowed this book from my sister because I thought it looked like a fun premise and it was the Christmas season; it gets 2 stars for trying and having an overall redeeming theme ~ treat everyone with kindness.

That being said it tried a little too hard. If it had just been a fun Christmas tale with a few nods to popular holiday characters or stories I might have given it 3, but the author seemed to be trying to hard to cram in a reference to every pop culture Christmas story and it was just to
Nov 21, 2010 Amanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humorous, noir
I had some reservations going into this book. Those reservations stem mainly from the fact that I don’t exactly like Christmas. I mean sure, when it’s all said and done with, I’m excited to be spending time with my family, but I work in retail. My coworkers and I spend the whole period from the day after Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve just wishing Christmas would be over already. It’s madness. Since I normally side with the Grinch and Scrooge, I tend to stay away from reading any Christmas relate ...more
Jan 02, 2014 Alberto rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What Ken Harmon has attempted to do with The Fat Man: A Tale is craft a book using many characters from our youth to bring to life a heartwarming story of finding your place in your world and redemption, and unfortunately he has failed miserably.

Gumdrop Coal is a flat one dimensional character surrounded by flat one dimensional characters. Despite utilizing five chapters to introduce Gumdrop, little more can be said about him other then he likes to punish children. Worst of all by the end of the
Take an old-fashioned hard-boiled detective story, mix with bits of every Christmas story, movie, song, joke or saying you have ever heard, stir in clever characters, silly/witty dialogue, a bit of mystery, some bizarre situations, and add a valuable lesson about the true meaning of Christmas. Read with glee, and this book is what you get. There is a plot afoot in Kringle Town to do away with the Fat Man AKA Santa- in fact, with Christmas iself! And it all begins with getting rid of Gumdrop Coal ...more
Dec 08, 2011 Lauren rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
An odd mixture of over-the-top noir (almost to the point of parody) and holiday cheer, I started this book loving its quirky mash of well-known holiday characters. Gumdrop Coal, the elf responsible for the Naughty List, finds himself on Santa’s bad list and embroiled in a web of intrigue following the murder of a Naughty List parent. The plot weakens as the book progresses, but the concept (elf noir!) is so unique that I was willing to overlook both that and the sometimes-uncomfortable juxtaposi ...more
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