REVIEW Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet

die dog or eat the hatchetDIE DOG OR EAT THE HATCHET
Adam Howe
Comet Press

When I came back to reviewing for CrimeSpree, I had one main objective.

A mission I gave myself.

I want to shine a bright light on the niche stuff: the independents and the underground writers of crime fiction. That’s what I wanted. The major publishers have enough muscle behind them. They don’t need more. However, after 2 and a half years in the woods, the landscape was vastly different from when I left and I had no idea who is doing what. So I reached out to some people whose opinions I highly respect. One name came up multiple times and that I needed to check this guy out…..

Adam Howe.
Now, a lot of you are going to be asking who the fuck is Adam Howe.

I asked that myself. I found out and I’m glad I did.

This is a shot across the bow for you all to go find out for yourselves.

DIE DOG OR EAT THE HATCHET is a collection of 3 southern fried, sweaty novellas in the vein of early Joe Lansdale.

I’m already thinking of Howe as that bastard, illegitimate son of Lansdale.

That’s my seal of approval.

The first tale is called Damn Dirty Apes. It’s a swampland tale of an ex-boxer turned strip club bouncer on a hunt for a Skunk Ape. The opening of the story feels familiar in a good way but quickly goes in a bizarre yet fun direction while moving at a fast pace. Howe establishes his powers of description and subtle but huge details. It kept me guessing and giggling to the end. Think Scooby Doo and the gang meets Deliverance.

Side note – the concept of a book of novellas is brilliant and underused. It keeps things tight and in this case leaves you wanting more. However, I’m going lite on details because I don’t think I can do proper justice to how cool these stories are without spoilers.

The second story is the album’s title track Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet. By now the last story had taken you in one direction. Howe makes a sharp right turn on a dime and goes 0 to 60 in the blink of an eye. This is whiplash for the reader but in a way that feels good. Billy Joe Carrick is one year from being pensioned off the police force. However 4 years ago there was a massacre at a sorority house. Carrick needs to know why it happened. He can’t understand how Terrence Hingle could do it. It’s the ghost that attached itself to Carrick and for him to rest, he needs answers. I am floored by this story. This is next level originality. And next level brutality. It’s almost a screenplay written by a tweaker John Carpenter. This story is the pale horse ridden by death with hell following. So much comes at you so fast… I’m going to leave this one off here. When you all take the plunge, you best brace yourselves.

At this point, I’m beginning to think Adam Howe and Donald Ray Pollock would be the best of friends along the lines of Leopold and Loeb.

And now we approach the final novella called Gator Bait.

At this point I knew enough to not expect an appearance from Claudia Jennings but a man can hope.

This story opens with the aftermath of an affair gone wrong. You know the type. You find yourself walking along a dirt road wondering how it went bad not to mention you’re missing some fingers. We’ve all been there. However this was written by motherfucking Adam Howe so get ready for the mayhem. Well our hero, if you could call him that, of course wanders into the juke joint because why not? Did I mention our hero is a badass honky tonk piano player? Or there is a gator in a pond out back? And the juke joint’s owner has a wife who is a piece of ass?  What could possibly go right or wrong or everything in between.

Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to introduce Adam Howe. He is going to be a force in the world of crime fiction. This book is something I’ve been looking for a long time. It’s perfectly brutal. Read it and spread the gospel.


Dave Wahlman