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Book Review: Tijuana Donkey Showdown by Adam Howe

 

Adam Howe has an uncanny, bawdy, and delightful sense of humor that seems almost like a secret super power .”

ComeIn Adam Howe’s recent novella collection, Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet, there’s a novella entitled “Damn Dirty Apes” in which we were introduced to a character named Reggie Levine, a washed up boxer working as a bouncer in a redneck strip club. All Reggie wants from life is his corner at the bar, an ice cold Coors, and the latest copy of Ring magazine. But he’s such an affable, gullible, and extremely unlucky screw-up that he manages to get himself talked into some ridiculously harrowing, violent, and hilariously laugh-out-loud situations. In that book, he found himself on the hunt for the fabled Bigelow Skunk Ape and it didn’t take long for bloody mayhem to ensue as he and his motley companions repeatedly tried to repair bad decisions with more bad decisions. That book was so incredibly funny it didn’t seem possible that Howe could concoct something more outlandish and mirth inducing. But it turns out he can, and in Tijuana Donkey Showdown he’s done so in spades.

Tijuana Donkey Showdown finds the hapless Reggie Levine once again getting suckered into something he has no business getting involved in. And needless to say, chaos and in-your-face violence and hilarity quickly ensue. In spite of a dubious lifestyle and the somewhat questionable company he keeps, he’s a remarkably ingenuous character who will go along with just about anything in spite of being a naturally mistrusting sort and the situations he finds himself in evoke frequent outbursts of raucous laughter. And therein lies the true strength of the work. Adam Howe has an uncanny, bawdy, and delightful sense of humor that seems almost like a secret super power in that he can make you laugh at just about anything, even the frequent horrific episodes of brutal situational violence that pepper the story with excitement and gore. And the way he uses animals in his stories and especially here is outright riotous. There are almost always several different types of creatures in his tales and this one is no different. Here you’ll find donkeys, of course, but you’ll also find a cornucopia of other animals including a Chinese Crested Terrier and even a chupacabra. Yes, if you’re wondering, you read that last bit right, though the image it creates might be a far cry from the reality.

Talking about the work of Adam Howe can sometimes feel like an exercise in futility, particularly when it comes to categorization. You could say he’s a horror writer and you’d be pretty close to the mark. You could make an argument that he’s an author of dark crime, and that would be pretty accurate too. You can call him a humorist and, while that’s dead on, it’s still not a complete definition of the fiction that Howe produces. Possibly the closest you could ever come to fitting him in a niche of any sort—other than as spec fiction author—would be to call him a British incarnation of Joe Lansdale. And considering the type of fiction Lansdale writes, that sort of southern flavored redneck noir, that statement probably sounds outlandish for those who haven’t been educated in the school of Howe, but it’s as close to true as anything else you could say of him. He’s a remarkable talent with an eye for the absurd and an ability to find humor in just about anything and Tijuana Donkey Showdown is his funniest outing to date.

If you haven’t had a taste of Adam Howe’s work yet, Tijuana Donkey Showdown is the perfect jumping off point. It’s a rollicking, boisterously hilarious tale that finds the protagonist in horrific but outrageously funny scenarios that will leave tears rolling down your cheeks. It’s also quite possible that it will be the fastest two-hundred pages you’ve read in a long time. In these sometimes bleak days we live in, everyone can use a good laugh every now and then and Howe is a professional purveyor of such, providing a service that’s more than worth the price of admission.

SHANE DOUGLAS KEENE

Publisher: Comet Press
Paperback: (210pp)
Release Date: 09 December, 2016

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