REVIEW: Die Dog Or Eat The Hatchet
– By Zombie Rob
It’s happened again, miracle of miracles – the prolific Adam Howe has summoned all of his extraordinary powers of story-telling & narration and dropped the latest of his literary offspring into my lap. I’m barely recovered from Gator Bait, his last tome of low-down and dirty gorgeousness and still have two appointments left with my counsellor who has so far, failed to expunge the memories of The Grinning ‘Gator and the snapping jaws of a rolling Big George. But here I am again – staring into the abyss of Mr Howe’s fevered imagination, wondering if I’m ready, if I’m strong enough: FUCKING RIGHT I AM!!!!
Adam Has returned to the previous format of Black Cat Mojo, insomuch this is a collection of stories. We start with the wonderfully evocative “Damn Dirty Apes” and for a while at least, we’re in familiar territory as it opens in a titty bar from the perspective of a washed-up punchy fighter called Reggie who breaks up the occasional row, checks the occasional I.D. and drinks a frequent beer. One of the dancers, Eliza, is talked into the very niche-market of primate porn by her near-retarded boyfriend, with one of his mates that still wears his “Boogaloo Baboon” costume from when he was their high-school football mascot. Off they toddle into the woods and the boyfriend films while his mate ruts the impressionable Eliza simian-style. This charming scene is rudely interrupted however when the local skunk-ape (think big-foot, sasquatch, yeti) turns up and falls in love with Boogaloo Baboon, carrying him off to start their new lives together or to, more likely, bum the hapless cohort until he dies. And so begins a wonderful track & hunt narrative – but you’ll find yourself taken in directions that never occurred to you. The moment you think you have a handle on this, off you’re taken in a direction you never even thought could be there….
Die Dog Or Eat The Hatchet is a two parter and starts as intricately formed crime thriller, with a sorority house filled with very recently carved up gals, an embittered and close-to-retirement cop and a lovely deranged killer kept under careful supervision at a the local insane asylum (apologies if my words are a touch old-fashioned but these are the building blocks of a very powerful and comfortingly recognisable vignette). The nutter escapes, we cheer obviously BUT off we go again, into the wildly unknown and the story becomes something else entirely.
Adam then presents us with a gift for everyone – in full – Gator Bait. Although he’d previously released this as a stand-alone novella, it sits so perfectly with it’s bookmates. I’ve gone on (and on, and on…) about Gator Bait in a previous review so I won’t say much more other than: do yourself a favour, give yourself a treat and read this as voraciously as you should have already done with every other word Adam Howe has ever committed to the page.
I’ve written long & hard about Adam’s storytelling and it’s here in abundance, more so than ever before in fact. I can’t imagine why he restricts himself to the novella but it makes for a pacy, breathless and tightly wound read without ever feeling rushed or crowded. To compliment the oddest of tales are characters that never feel out of place, and with exquisitely torrid back-stories as a rule. I’ll give you an example- in “Damn Dirty Apes” I mentioned one of the dancers from the titty bar, Eliza. Before starting work as a stripper (with one eye on the cultural advancement that skunk-ape porn would bring) she was hired at the local mental institution – to wank off the more lively inmates and temporarily calm them down. Now, these alarming details aren’t necessarily needed but they give such rich and uncomfortable texture to a character that perhaps I’d already made my mind up about.
His imagery is another of his strengths and the very thought of the daft-as-a-brush Ned still trying to clutch to his glory days of years before by knocking about in his thinning Boogaloo Baboon costume is as poignant as anything an early Bruce Springsteen could conjure. These are powerful & potent ingredients, and in the hands of any other writer would produce engaging and compelling stories. In the shaking and grubby hands of Adam Howe however, we have stories of such extraordinary complexity and addictive prose that other books I read now can seem pedestrian and, dare I say it, even dull. I’m currently re-reading “A Walk In The Woods” by one of my favourite writers of all time, Bill Bryson. As Bill hikes along the Appalachian Trail, I found myself thinking that this book could only be improved by an aggressively rapey skunk-ape.
What have you done to me Adam Howe?