An Interview with DIE DOG OR EAT THE HATCHET’S Adam Howe
You all may have heard of Adam Howe. He’s the dude who won Stephen King’s On Writing contest. Not only is he one hell of a writer (approved by the Pope of Terror himself), he’s also screamingly funny. It’s an honor to have him on the blog and chain for you Hellions to enjoy!
Your latest book, Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet, contains 3 novellas that got my motor humming the moment I read the synopsis. As a guy who wrote a novella about skunk apes, please tell me your inspiration for the tale, Damn Dirty Apes (and now I can’t get Charlton Heston’s voice out of my head).
I’d read about the ‘furry’ subculture – people cosplaying as animals – and the sub-subculture of ‘furry’ pornography. Who are we to judge, right?
So my starting point for Damn Dirty Apes was the image of a bunch of rednecks making a ‘furry’ fuck flick in the backwoods when the leading man, wearing a ‘provocative’ baboon costume, is abducted as a mate by a randy skunk ape.
An overused trope, I know, but I hoped I could breathe fresh life into it.
From there, I imagined a misfit posse – including a ‘heroic’ strip club bouncer in the Jack Burton mould, a wannabe porn starlet, the porn shoot’s director (also the town drunk), and a self-proclaimed skunk ape hunter – embarking on safari to rescue their friend from the beast.
I saw the piece as a redneck Jaws; the style would be somewhere between 80s action/adventure and Looney Tunes. I chose a skunk ape as my ‘monster,’ as opposed to the more familiar Bigfoot or Sasquatch, because it fit my Southern redneck locale, and I felt that skunk apes had been woefully underused in creature fiction. Of course, I was soon to discover why this is.
While researching skunk apes, I stumbled across an article in the Fortean Times relating to notorious hominologist, the late Gerard Hauser, author of the seminal work, ‘Among the Skunk Apes of the North American South: One Man’s Journey of Self-Discovery,’ and Hauser’s doomed final expedition in the Arkansan sticks, in which a amateur cryptozoologist lost his life when he stepped into a hominid snare. In Hauser, I’d discovered a real-life Captain Ahab on whom to base my skunk ape hunter character, Jameson T. Salisbury.
On completing the story, I thought it might make a refreshing change from the norm to request an endorsement from a more unusual source than a fellow author, and contacted Mr. Lambert Pogue, General Secretary for the Society of the Preservation of the North American Skunk Ape. Unfortunately, Mr. Pogue failed to see the humour in the story, and objected to my fictional skunk ape hunter, Jameson T. Salisbury, whom he recognized as a caricature of his late friend and colleague, Gerard Hauser. Mr. Pogue proceeded to rally a small army of cryptozoologists in the Bigfoot, Sasquatch and Skunk Ape fields – typically sworn enemies, as you know – who besieged my publisher with angry calls for my head, and demanded the book be embargoed. Fortunately, I was able to placate Mr. Pogue with a groveling apology and a modest donation to the S.P.N.A.S.A. The embargo was lifted, and Mr. Pogue even kindly provided the somewhat terse disclaimer that opens the story, Damn Dirty Apes.
As the author of Swamp Monster Massacre, I imagine you’ve had your own dealings with Mr. Pogue and the Society for the Preservation of the North American Skunk Ape. Of course, I’ll understand if you don’t wish to discuss such matters on a public forum, and risk reigniting hostilities with them. I only wish I’d known you before making my damn-fool approach to the S.P.N.A.S.A. You could have warned me to leave well enough alone! I would strongly advise other authors to carefully consider the repercussions before writing skunk ape literature. To paraphrase Pet Sematary, “Sometimes ‘squatch is better.”
I have to ask, as a winner of Stephen King’s On Writing contest, how did it feel to get the gold ring? And since then, have you had any communication with our Overlord and Master?
I’ll give your American readers some background on this. To promote the release of On Writing, King’s UK publisher, Hodder & Stoughton, and The Guardian newspaper, ran a short story contest that was open to entrants worldwide, with the exception of the States. (I don’t know why you guys were excluded.) The brief was to write a ‘Stephen King-style’ short story, with the winning story to be chosen by King, and published in the first-edition paperback of On Writing. (The story has since been republished in the Kindle version.) The winner would also be granted an audience with The King. Not too shabby, right?
Now, this was way back around 2000, a rocky period in my life. I’d recently dropped out of university, my girlfriend had dumped me, I was out of work, and living back home with my folks – not a happy guy. I was seriously doubting my abilities as a writer, and for the first time, considered quitting.
Then I won the contest.
Like so many other genre writers, King’s voice was the first I really connected with, so for this Constant Reader, having my work validated by King – not to mention being published in his book, meeting the man – was beyond a dream come true; for me, it didn’t get any bigger or better. For the rest of my writing career, I might achieve more, but I’ll be hard pressed to top that moment, and the elation (and relief) I felt.
Of course, I was young and dumb enough to believe I’d ‘arrived.’ Which wasn’t the case. It was many years before I was published again. But I’ve never thought about quitting again, no matter how times I’ve been kicked in the heart by this writing lark. Looking back, I think ‘someone’ was looking out for me; that I won the contest just to keep me in The Game; a guardian angel who knew that, one day, I would reward the world with a skunk ape noir novella. You’re welcome.
I haven’t seen or spoken to King since. When I met him, he did give me his contact details, but can you believe it, I lost ‘em! Probably just as well. Within a few years of getting my ‘break,’ I developed a drinking problem that quickly spiraled down into full-blown alcoholism. Chances are I’d have embarrassed myself by writing a heartfelt ‘Dear Steve’ letter. I’m happy to say I’ve got my shit together now. It’d be great to speak to him again, if only to let him know he picked a good horse, and that I’m doing OK.
I don’t think I’m going out on a limb assuming you’re a B-movie fan. What are some of your favorites? And what movie script do you wish you’d written?
I’m a film fiend in general, but yeah, I’ve got a soft spot for late 20th century B-movies. Not that cynical Sharknado shit churned out today by the likes of SyFy and the Asylum. My go-to periods are 70s crime, 80s action, 70s/80s horror. I like to think I write B-movie plots with A-list intentions. Steven Spielberg once said, after making Duel and Jaws, he was worried about being typed as a director of “truck and shark” pictures. I’d be happy to be typed as a “truck and shark” writer. (I’ve yet to write my truck and shark books; maybe I’ll just combine the two, SHARK TRUCKER, write it on a cocktail napkin and sell it to SyFy.)
It’s hard to pick a favourite screenplay. Screenplays are an ever-evolving medium, and the text rarely matches what makes it to the screen. As much as Jaws is one of my favourite films, for instance, it ain’t my favourite script. In my early teens, I reviewed scripts for a UK-based mail order company supplying produced screenplays to colleges, writers, film geeks and the like. The first screenwriter I really connected with was Shane Black, who penned Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang and a whole other bunch of B-classics. He’s one of the rare few screenwriters whose text often DOES make it intact to the screen. Black remains a big influence on my style. I also dig David Webb Peoples’s work, especially Unforgiven. If you can find it, you should check out his 1987 draft for the unproduced Sgt. Rock movie that Joel Silver had lined up for Schwarzenegger. Would’ve made a helluva movie.
It’d be cool to be able to say, “I wrote Roadhouse.” You could carve the line “A polar bear fell on me” on my headstone.
Say you were banned from writing horror. What genre would you hop over to and why? And remember, Bigfoot erotica is on the table.
Who’s to say I don’t already write Bigfoot erotica under a pseudonym? Clearly you’ve never read my 50 Shades of ‘Squatch series? If I was banned from writing horror – and it’s definitely possible, the horror community seems unusually prickly and conformist right now – I guess I’d just sidestep into crime. A life of crime, I mean; pays better than writing. I don’t consider myself strictly a horror writer. Or even a crime writer, for that matter. The writer whose philosophy I most admire is the Champion Mojo Storyteller Joe R. Lansdale. Joe resists genre labels and categorizes himself as a writer of ‘Lansdale’ fiction. That’s my aim: To write my own stuff and be my own man, and hope that readers join me on the ride.
As you were working to get the ol’ writing career started, what’s the one piece of advice you wish you’d ignored?
I never had a mentor, so any writing advice came from reading interviews with writers I admired, and of course, On Writing, which is the writers’ bible.
After winning the contest, I landed an agent and embarked on a ‘career’ as a screenwriter, with so-so success – I had a few original features optioned, scraped a few bucks rewriting/doctoring/butchering other writers’ work, but nothing I wrote ever made it to the screen. The agent was forever pushing me to follow market trends, which is impossible; by the time you’ve written to trend, the market’s moved on. As the screenwriter William Goldman said, “Nobody knows anything.”
When I met Stephen King, and told him I planned to be a screenwriter, he made a jack-off gesture, and advised me to “write a fucking novel.” That was advice I should have taken. I’m still yet to write my fucking novel – I really dig the novella format – but I’m working on it.
What’s coming up next and what is the best way for folks to follow you and your wild imagination?
I’m putting the finishing touches to Tijuana Donkey Showdown, the sequel to Damn Dirty Apes, which continues the misadventures (prolongs the misery) of my boxer turned bouncer and hapless hero, Reggie Levine. No skunk apes in this one – lesson learned, I’m not fucking with the S.P.N.A.S.A. again – although (spoiler alert!) the chupacabra makes an appearance, as does Nicolas Cage, in an explosive cameo.
I’m also collaborating on a horror/crime project with Adam Cesare, which we’re pitching as Michael Mann’s Public Enemies meets John Carpenter’s The Thing. Hopefully we can have that one ready to rock early next year.
Beyond that, my partner and I are expecting our first child in July so I’ll be off the grid for a while. Assuming I survive the experience, and don’t reinvent myself as a children’s author, I’ll be back in ’17 with some new twisted shit.
Follow along this tour with the hashtags: #DieDogorEattheHatchet #DieDog #AdamHowe #OnWriting #HookofaBook
Tune into all the stops on the tour at the publicity page: https://hookofabook.wordpress.com/die-dog-or-eat-the-hatchetadam-howe-publicity-page/
Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet, Synopsis
- Publication Date: Nov. 2, 2015
- Publisher: Comet Press
- Publication Length: 250 pages
From Adam Howe, winner of Stephen King’s “On Writing” short story contest, comes three original novellas of hardboiled crime, graphic horror and pitch-black gallows humor.
DAMN DIRTY APES
Washed-up prizefighter Reggie Levine is eking a living as a strip club bouncer when he’s offered an unlikely shot at redemption. The Bigelow Skunk Ape – a mythical creature said to haunt the local woods – has kidnapped the high school football mascot, Boogaloo Baboon. Now it’s up to Reggie to lead a misfit posse including a plucky stripper, the town drunk, and legend-in-his-own-mind skunk ape hunter Jameson T. Salisbury. Their mission: Slay the beast and rescue their friend. But not everything is as it seems, and as our heroes venture deeper into the heart of darkness, they will discover worse things waiting in the woods than just the Bigelow Skunk Ape. The story the Society for the Preservation of the North American Skunk Ape tried to ban; Damn Dirty Apes mixes Roadhouse with Jaws with Sons of Anarchy, to create a rollicking romp of 80s-style action/adventure, creature horror and pitch-black comedy.
DIE DOG OR EAT THE HATCHET
Escaped mental patient Terrence Hingle, the butcher of five sorority sisters at the Kappa Pi Massacre, kidnaps timid diner waitress Tilly Mulvehill and bolts for the border. Forcing his hostage to drive him out of town, it’s just a question of time before Tilly becomes the next victim in Hingle’s latest killing spree. But when they stop for gas at a rural filling station operated by deranged twin brothers, Dwayne and Dwight Ritter, the tables are turned on Hingle, and for Tilly the night becomes a hellish cat-and-mouse ordeal of terror and depravity. The meat in a maniac sandwich, Tilly is forced against her nature to make a stand and fight for survival. Because sometimes the only choice you have is to do or die…to Die Dog Or Eat The Hatchet.
Prohibition-era 1930s… After an affair with the wrong man’s wife, seedy piano player Smitty Three Fingers flees the city and finds himself tinkling the ivories at a Louisiana honky-tonk owned by vicious bootlegger Horace Croker and his trophy wife, Grace. Folks come to The Grinnin’ Gator for the liquor and burlesque girls, but they keep coming back for Big George, the giant alligator Croker keeps in the pond out back. Croker is rumored to have fed ex-wives and enemies to his pet, so when Smitty and Grace embark on a torrid affair…what could possibly go wrong? Inspired by true events, Gator Bait mixes hardboiled crime (James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice) with creature horror (Tobe Hooper’s Eaten Alive) to create a riveting tale of suspense.
Listen to this sample reading from the book over at YouTube from the folks at Manor House:
Adam Howe writes the twisted fiction your mother warned you about. A British writer of fiction and screenplays, he lives in Greater London with his partner and their hellhound, Gino. Writing as Garrett Addams, his short story Jumper was chosen by Stephen King as the winner of the On Writing contest, and published in the paperback/Kindle editions of SK’s book; he was also granted an audience with The King, where they mostly discussed slow vs. fast zombies. His fiction has appeared in Nightmare Magazine, Thuglit, The Horror Library, Mythic Delirium, Plan B Magazine, and One Buck Horror. He is the author of two collections, Black Cat Mojo and Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet, plus the eBook single, Gator Bait. Future works include Tijuana Donkey Showdown, One Tough Bastard, and a crime/horror collaboration with Adam Tribesmen Cesare.
Find him on Twitter at @Adam_G_Howe.
Praise for Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet
“It’s an explicit, hard-hitting, twisted funhouse ride into pulpish horror wrapped loosely in a tattered skein of irreverent, jet black humor. In short, it’s a freakin’ blast.” –Walt Hicks, author of Dirge of the Forgotten
“With Die Dog Or Eat the Hatchet, Adam Howe hasn’t written one of my favorite books of the year, he’s actually written three of my favorites. Stories that are tight, toned, and genre-confounding. Horror fans and crime fans are going to come to blows over who gets to claim Howe as one of their own, but they’re both going to be wrong because Howe’s his own thing.” – Adam Cesare, author of Tribesmen and Mercy House
“The recipe for Adam Howe’s DIE DOG OR EAT THE HATCHET is: Two parts Joe Lansdale, One part Justified, and a heavy dose of WTF. The result is a swampy cocktail darker than any backwoods hayride, stronger than the meanest Sasquatch, and crazier than anything you’ll find chicken-fried at your local state fair.”—Eryk Pruitt, author of Hashtag and Dirtbags
“Adam Howe proves with the three stories in this book that he can basically write anything. And write it very well indeed. To summarise: A three novella collection that you absolutely must have in your collection. I give this one the highest possible recommendation that I can.” -Nev, Confessions of a Reviewer
“Adam Howe’s “Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet,” is equal parts terror and fun, his dark comedic voice dances through each of the works in this collection to create engaging stories filled with bars, dames, rabid dogs, and an ape with one hell of a right hook.”(Nathan Crazybear/Splatterpunk Zine)
“Once again this author has sucked me into the darkness of his stories and unleashed the twisted, disgusting and stomach churning madness that I come to expect. In fact, I would have been very disappointed if this book was not even more mind-blowing than Black Cat Mojo. And he did not disappoint. Hats off to Mr Howe for creating this magnificent novella of pure horror. I would definitely recommend this to readers of horror and make sure you buckle up as you will be in for the most twisted ride of your life!” -Crime Book Junkie
“I’m pretty certain that whatever genre you like to read, be it pulp, noir, horror, anything really, you will find something to enjoy here. It’s fast paced, action packed and brilliantly written. Comet Press has got a diamond on their hands! 5 stars” -Adrian Shotbolt
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Want to Feature Adam Howe?
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