DIE DOG OR EAT THE HATCHET
Author: Adam Howe
Publisher: Comet Press
Release Date: November 2015
Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet is a three-pronged collection of novellas from Adam Howe, a fast-rising British author whose arresting fiction reads like a toxic blend of crime and horror. Opening story Damn Dirty Apes is a degenerate action adventure yarn about washed-up boxer-turned-strip club bouncer Reggie Levine, who finds himself suckered into a stomach-churning rescue mission to capture high school football mascot Boogaloo Baboon from the clutches of the mythical Bigelow Skunk Ape. Funny, dirty and pretty damn violent, the story grabs you by the balls and drags you through the mud, crud and blood of Howe’s nightmarish world.
The stakes are raised with title story Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet – probably the nastiest of the bunch – which follows escaped mental patient Terrence Hingle, who kidnaps diner waitress Tilly and bolts for the border. When Terrence stops for gas at a rural filling station owned by a pair of demented hillbilly brothers, the tables are turned on the escaped sadist, and he may just have met his match. In this brutally effective story Howe slices and dices established serial killer conventions and stirs them into a hellishly bleak broth.
Howe arguably saves the best story until last, however. Gator Bait tells the story of Smitty, a talented piano player, who is forced to flee the city after sticking his fingers – and other parts of his anatomy – somewhere he shouldn’t have. He ends up at a Louisiana honky-tonk called the Grinnin’ Gator, which is owned by the merciless Horace Croker. Smitty’s wandering eye lands on Croker’s trophy wife, Grace, and not even the hulking presence of Big George – the giant alligator that Croker keeps in the pond out back – can dissuade him of his reckless flirtation. Gator Bait is an impeccably written, deftly constructed novella, with not a wasted word, or a line out of place – a pure shot of noir in a filthy glass.
If you are a fan of lurid, grindhouse-style storytelling, this queasy, sleazy collection comes highly recommended. Adam Howe brings a lot to the table, and while the first two novellas are excellent, the vicious Gator Bait is a pitch-perfect slab of backwoods noir, and worth the price of admission alone.
Reviewed by Tom Leins