BOOK REVIEW: Tijuana Donkey Showdown
– By Zombie Rob
We left our very own Reggie Levine as something of a star at the end of the last book “Damn Dirty Apes”. He’d hunted the legendary, nay mythical, skunk ape. He’d uncovered and blown up a Hell’s Angels meth lab. He’d had a fight with, and got mostly battered by, a half-drunk biker orang-utan. All of these proceedings had been made into a film starring Nicolas Cage as Reggie and for a brief and ephemeral moment, life seemed to improve for old Reg.
Barely months have passed since the skunk ape period, and the latest offering from Adam Howe finds Reggie back in the gents of The Henhouse, the titty-tonk in which he works as a reluctant bouncer, covered in human excrement & urine, trying to prise hapless used car salesman Harry Muffett from the clutches of a murderous and massive Otis. Harry sold Otis a car which didn’t perhaps meet each of Otis’ exacting standards of quality, so Otis has decided that reprisals must be swift, violent & very very shitty.
So within the first handful of pages we have the set up, as Harry will later involve Reggie in a hair-brained mad-cap scheme. This is where things begin to get tricky for our hero (as duffing up the great ape Otis in a faeces soaked toilet is simply part of Reggie’s normal day) because it brings into his orbit Old Man Grabowski, owner of Grabowski’s gas station and the most depressing and cruel roadside zoo; Mitchell Coogler, aggressive & prolific prison rapist; Billy Barnes, fay and soppy prison rapee, and tattooed property of the aforementioned Mr Coogler; and finally Enrique – a retired & prodigiously membered porn donkey of no small repute that has been giving very inappropriate donkey rides to the younger visitors of Mr Grabowski’s dreadful zoo (fifth leg dragging behind him for the most part). Now, this is all within the first third of the book, I was breathless at this stage but the action, unpleasantness and laughs only increase from here.
Adam can always be counted on to create the most absurd and hilarious stories but then sets them within such detailed and textured environments that they seem not only plausible but likely. Of course, Reggie will find himself being dragged down the highway by a feverishly panicked and massively knobbed donkey after being shot at by a prison-hulk with a shotgun. Even a peripheral character like Old Man Grabowski was saved in Vietnam by a howler monkey – ‘course he was!! This is what Adam Howe does – without wasting a word, he creates a world where normal is abnormal with details, back story & exposition that enthralls. I specified this during the review for “Damn Dirty Apes”, it’s his eye for detail that fans the flames of the reader’s imagination. You become involved with the characters, empathise with them, root for them because of the tiny moments & vignettes from their history that the author has fed us, almost without us knowing. Billy Barnes is a weasly little gobshite but after finding out a little more about him, you come to understand how he has arrived at this point in his life – owned by a ferocious psychopath, missing an eye and out-cold unconscious in a rubbish gas station and zoo.
A great book doesn’t just happen, it’s the bringing together of great ingredients, aligning the literary stars, when the magic can happen. I’ve read the best stories that were let down by amateurish writing, and weak stories that have been somewhat redeemed by great writing. It’s rare that everything comes together within the same dust-jacket however and Adam Howe seems to do it every time. Having great ideas is never enough in writing, but if you can couple these ideas together with strong prose, a commanding vocabulary, a witty and intelligent turn of phrase and the imagination of a Victorian madman – we’re on our way to something very special!!
Adam has now got quite a body of work behind him now and I implore you to reach for every title. If you were going to read the latest Dan Brown tome of utter religious hokum, give your mind something to actually do – hunt out Mr Howe’s back-catalogue, your intelligence and cultural awareness will thank you. And you’ll have a bloody good laugh in the process.
Here are the Amazon links to pre-order your copy – release date, December 9:
Adam Howe writes the twisted fiction your mother warned you about. A British writer of fiction and screenplays, he lives in London with his partner, their daughter, and a hellhound named Gino. Writing as Garrett Addams, his short story Jumper was chosen by Stephen King as the winner of the international On Writing contest, and published in the paperback/Kindle editions of King’s memoir. His fiction has appeared in places like Nightmare Magazine, Thuglit, Mythic Delirium, and Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Volume 1. He is the author of Tijuana Donkey Showdown, and two novella collections, Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet, and Black Cat Mojo.
In the pipeline: the occult thriller Scapegoat, co-written with James Newman, a horror/crime collaboration with Adam Cesare, and 80s action throwback, One Tough Bastard. Stalk him at Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter @Adam_G_Howe.