Die Dog: pure pulp and hardcore horror

DieDogThese three very different novellas go far beyond the boundaries of backwoods noir into no-holds-barred horror. Gator Bait (which I read first) is maybe the most mature and most conventional of the trio – stylised, snappy prose in the hard-assed tradition of hard-boiled crime. It oozes the atmosphere of the Louisiana swamps to evoke a sophisticated rendition of southern gothic. Underneath the fast-paced plot, about an archetypal three-time loser who can’t help falling for a dame in distress, there’s a chilling, historically accurate narrative. It tells a nuanced, morally complex tale on multiple levels in a deceptively straightforward form. Firmly grounded in gritty reality, Gator Bait plays with language and perceptions and is a ripping read to boot.

Damn Dirty Apes is an explicit and entertaining romp; an X-rated comedy of errors in which author Adam Howe spins a very shaggy (…shagging) dog story. Biker gangs, brutal beatings and bestiality take centre stage in a tale which twists and turns and tilts more toward humour than outright horror. It’s shocking for the sheer shrieking sake of it and leaves no sacred cow unslaughtered.

Horror fans will most appreciate ‘Die Dog’. It begins as a seemingly straightforward crime caper, in which a police detective aims to extract information from a convicted serial killer. Once the killer’s on the loose, however, things get seriously depraved. Gleefully gruesome and graphic, ‘Die Dog’ makes chainsaw massacres feel kinda mild by comparison.

Like Stephen King and James Herbert before him, Adam Howe creates convincing characters with believable, well developed back stories… right before he shreds their flesh and seals their fate. You never quite know whether you’re being introduced to a major mover and shaker, or to the next victim. Nor can you tell who will survive or who’s next to die – but it’s a pretty safe bet that no one goes gentle into that good night.

Definitely not for the faint-hearted, Howe’s fiction doesn’t simply slash and burn. He crafts a captivating scenario and then unleashes hell – but imbues even minor characters with real heart, true to everyday existence. Observe the all-too-familiar anxiety of an overweight young woman who comfort eats to console herself. Or the minimum-wage waitress, trapped in a small-town existence by her manipulative mother. Even if the subject matter turns your stomach, the writing is nothing less than riveting.

Gator Bait has the depth, but all three novellas show the breadth of this intriguing author’s abilities. One to watch.

7/10

Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason

Die Dog Or Eat The Hatchet by Adam Howe is available as an ebook or paperback

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