Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet

Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet

by Adam Howe


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From Adam Howe, winner of Stephen King's On Writing contest, come three original novellas of hardboiled crime, graphic horror and pitch-black gallows humor.


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.


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.


"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


"Every page ratchets up the tension another notch even as it descends deeper and deeper into terrible darkness. Out of all the books I've read for Ginger Nuts of Horror, this is definitely the most intense." -- David Dubrow, author of The Blessed Man and the Witch


"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 Dir

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781936964253
Publisher: Comet Press
Publication date: 11/02/2015
Pages: 250
Product dimensions: 8.80(w) x 5.90(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt

Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet

By Adam Howe

Comet Press

Copyright © 2015 Adam Howe
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-936964-25-3



The Society for the Preservation of the North American Skunk Ape wishes to remind readers that the following is a work of fiction. Although the study of these remarkable hominids in their natural habitat is a rich and rewarding activity, the capture of skunk apes should only ever be attempted by trained professionals.

— Lambert Pogue, General Secretary, S.P.N.A.S.A.


They arrived in a thunder of bike engines, hitched their hogs in the parking lot and swaggered inside the bar with their leathers creaking, shaking the road dust from their long lank hair. They wore weathered denim vests, sporting arm sleeve tattoos that would've made a Ku Kluxer blush. The patch on the back of the vests was a snarling ape skull wearing a Kraut soldier's helmet, the kind with a spike on the crown. DAMN DIRTY APES was spelled out in silver studs across the shoulders. The four bikers muscled their way through the Friday night crowd to the slab of oak bar. They demanded pitchers of beer and bottles of firewater and I knew it was going to be one of those nights.

The Henhouse was a titty tonk on the outskirts of town. The joint wasn't much to write home about, and why the hell would you? Dear Mom, Getting a lap dance and thought of you ... Lit by neon beer signs, fairy lights, and a gaudy glitter ball above the T-shaped stage, the place had a seedy Pleasure Island ambience. A shrine of dusty bottles was shelved behind the bar. Butcher-block tables corralled the strippers' stage. Lurking in the shadows at the back of the room were a few horseshoe booths with slashed vinyl seats, a cigarette-scarred pool table, a rotary dial phone kiosk with an OUT OF ORDER sign, a jukebox that played both kinds of music — country and western — and a Smokey and the Bandit pinball machine on which I held the high score with damn fool pride.

As far as strip clubs go, the girls who danced there — the usual waifs and strays on the low road to nowhere — could've done a whole lot worse. The owner, Walt Wiley, doted like a daddy on his dancers, Fagin to their gang of lipsticked pickpockets. Hell, I could've done worse myself, though not by much. I was head bouncer at The Henhouse. That's not as grand as it sounds. I was also the only bouncer. Walt gave me the trumped-up title in lieu of a raise. There wasn't much to the job apart from taking out the trash — sometimes literally — and making sure the girls got home safe each night. For that I could pay the rent on my room above the thrift store in town, and keep that Smokey and the Bandit pinball machine fed with quarters. And gals love a tough guy, so I even got laid now and then.

Sensing trouble from the Damn Dirty Apes, I closed the Ring magazine I'd been reading. Not moving from my regular perch at the end of the bar slab, I sized them up. The biggest of the bikers was a blubbery giant with a head like an Easter Island statue. His vest looked tiny on him, like a midriff top that had shrunk in the wash. Not that it looked like it had been washed — ever. Next to Blubberguts was a grinning idiot with rotten brown teeth like shit-smeared punji sticks. The face of the guy next to him was shrapneled with metal piercings. The last guy was the ugliest of them all, and on second glance, not even a guy. She was a flat-chested, hatchet-faced hag wearing a necklace of plastic doll heads.

Blubberguts, Smiley, Shitface and Baby Doll; it helped me to depersonalize the people whose asses I kicked.

Walt gave them their first round on the house. A mistake, I thought. A crowd like this mistook kindness for weakness. Walt's appearance didn't help matters. With his shiny bald dome and exaggerated sad sack features, big doleful eyes and a red pickle nose, Walt looked like a Muppet with alopecia. As he fixed the Apes their drinks, he said: "Welcome to The Henhouse, fellas." Then he glanced at Baby Doll a second time, realized his mistake and said: "Ma'am."

Smiley saw me eyeing them from my spot at the end of the slab. He nodded at me, and then squinted to read the news cutting Walt displayed in a frame behind the bar.

I kept begging Walt to take that cutting down, but he claimed it made people think twice before starting trouble. It hadn't so far and it wasn't about to now. The headline read BIGELOW BOY BRUTALIZED IN PRIZE FIGHT and there was a grainy photo of yours truly — albeit younger, trimmer, mulleted — with a mug like ripe roadkill and swollen eyes bulging from a bloody mask. I was trapped on the ring ropes. The ref was diving between my opponent and me to stop the big bastard from decapitating me.

I swear Walt kept that cutting on the wall just to bust my chops.

"What's that word say?" Smiley asked me.

I don't think he was being ironic.

"Brutalized," I edified him.

Smiley snickered, and then the Apes took their drinks and commandeered the end of the runway stage, the regulars who were sitting there scattering like vultures when the lions arrive to feast on the carcass.

Eliza was working the stage that way she did, making every man in the room believe she was dancing just for him. I admit I used to have a hankering for her myself, but I knew a classy gal like Eliza wouldn't be interested in a pug-ugly bum like me. Buck Owens was playing on the juke as she danced. As Eliza snaked her hips to Who's Gonna Mow Your Grass? I saw a lot of would-be gardeners who would've lopped off their left nut to give her a trim. Not that it looked like she needed one. Her G-string was leaving little to the imagination.

I saw the way the Apes were leering at Eliza, even Baby Doll, and I knew right away a shitstorm was brewing. The Henhouse runs a strictly hands-off policy. There's a big printed sign above the stage, replete with a red-circled symbol of a hand with a cross for it, for when the grab-assers get too shitfaced to read. Despite the sign, before the Buckaroos had reached Buck's guitar solo, Eliza's lithe body was tattooed with the Apes' grubby paw prints.

Eliza's boyfriend, Lester, who never missed one of her shows, wasn't doing shit to stop them. He clearly wasn't happy about the situation, but if the Apes had climbed on the stage and started running a train on poor Eliza, Lester would've stood back making choo-choo noises. (Lester's buddy, Ned, wasn't with him at The Henhouse that night. At least, I hadn't spotted him. And a guy wearing a baboon costume is kind of hard to miss. But we'll come back to that.)

Walt gave me the nod, but I was already heading over to the Apes' table; if Walt's like a daddy to his dancing girls, albeit an incestuous one, then I'm like their big brother, albeit ditto. I cleared my throat to get the Apes' attention. They must've mistook me for the waiter because they just demanded another round of drinks. "You folks can't keep your hands to yourself," I said, "I'm gonna have to ask you to leave."

Third rule of bouncing: Be nice. Sure, I've seen Roadhouse — only about a hundred times — even used to wear my hair long at the back, just like Dalton, till I got tired of people yanking my mullet when we were brawling. Now I keep my hair short, like my patience was getting with the Apes.

Smiley afforded me a lazy glance. "Ask away, Palooka," he said. "Now fuck outta here, or we'll do more than just 'brutalize' your punchy ass."

To hell with nice.

I fixed his smile with a straight right that snapped his head back. Rotten teeth sprayed like dirty Scrabble tiles. He crashed off his chair to the floor. The other Apes lurched to their feet. Blubberguts swung a haymaker at my head. I ducked the shot and sprang back up, torpedoing the top of my skull into his chin; heard a muffled curse as his teeth snapped shut like a guillotine on the tip of his tongue. The next Ape got ready to pounce, and I booted him in the nuts like I was kicking a field goal, really put my laces through it, only realizing it was Baby Doll when she sank to her knees, clutching her cooter and hissing like a slashed tire. Now I respect the fairer sex — even the butt-ugly gals — I don't hit 'em as a rule and I'd never knowingly kick 'em in the privates. I had half a mind to apologize, when glass shattered behind me, and I turned in time to see Shitface lunging at me with the jagged end of a broken beer bottle. I whipped my head to the side and the bottleneck whistled past my face by a pussy hair. Snatching his wrist, I twisted his arm hard, like I was wringing a wet towel. Shitface dropped the weapon and yowled. Then I hip-tossed him, and he smashed through the table in an explosion of beer and broken glass and lay crumpled on the floor.

I did a little Ali shuffle, looking down at the Apes, waiting to see if they wanted any more.

Then I saw it in their eyes: There was someone behind me.

I suddenly remembered there'd been five bikes outside.

I had time to think, Shit

Then whoever it was wrapped a pool stick over the back of my head, I went down like a sack of cement, and then next thing I knew, the whole colony of Apes were stomping me like they were trampling out a campfire. The only thing stopped them from killing me was when Walt fired a blast from the shotgun he kept under the bar. Plaster rained down from the ceiling, dusting Walt's head like a sugared donut. He masked his embarrassment by racking the shotgun and suggesting the Apes leave before he Swiss-cheesed their ugly asses.

The Apes glanced at the guy who'd sapped me with the pool stick. Built like a silverback, he was clearly in charge. He wore a Confederate flag do-rag, and a hoop toss of rusted iron chains around his neck, like a skid row Mr. T.

Chains eyed Walt's shotgun. "No need for that, old-timer."

Walt was outraged. I saw him mouth: Old-timer?!

"We were just leaving." Chains snapped his fingers at the other Apes.

They didn't like it, but they started filing out, clutching their war wounds and griping. Baby Doll evened the score as she hobbled past me, giving me a sly dig in the nuts with the steel-capped toe of her biker boot. Before I'd stopped rolling on the floor, whimpering, the Apes were outside and clambering onto their bikes.

Chains straddled his hog. A shadowy figure was slouched in the sidecar attached to his bike. The figure flipped Walt the bird as the Apes roared from the lot.

"Did you see that?" Walt said, as he helped me to my feet.

"See it?" I wheezed, not yet fully recovered from that kick in the balls. "Ifelt it."

"Sonofabitch flipped me the bird."

"Oh," I said, or maybe it was "Ow," I'm not sure, I was banged up pretty good.

Walt helped me back to my perch at the end of the bar slab. I sank down on my stool with a groan. He wrapped some ice in a bar towel, which I clamped on my pounding head like a Frenchman's beret, then he poured me a stingy shot of Wild Turkey. Instead I took the bottle from his hand and swigged straight from that. He looked like he was about to object, but instead, he necked the shot he'd poured me, and knowing Walt, made a mental note to dock the bottle of Wild Turkey from my next paycheck. I heard him mutter, "Old-timer, my ass."

Eliza sauntered over, swaddled in Lester's old Letterman jacket, and thanked me for defending her honor. She cut an accusing glance at Lester and he fidgeted from foot to foot and muttered something about being a lover, not a fighter.

"De nada," I said to Eliza, tipping her a weary salute.

Still glaring at Lester, she stood on tiptoes to kiss my cheek.

"Walt," Lester said, "put Reggie's bottle on my tab."

Walt said, "You ever planning on paying that thing?"

But Lester was already walking away with his arm wrapped protectively around Eliza's shoulders. I had to settle for the cold consolation of the bourbon.

The regulars were watching me with interest.

Walt clapped his hands, shooing them. "Mind your business. Carry on with your carryin' on." He fetched the bullhorn from under the bar and with a squawk of static, announced the next dancing girl to the stage.

Out of earshot of anyone else, Walt asked me, "What happened, Reggie?"

How'd I leave my back exposed and allow Chains to sucker me like that? I was wondering the same damn thing myself. There comes a time in every bouncer's career when he stops being Dalton and starts being Wade Garrett; maybe I was getting too long in the tooth for this shit? 'Course, I didn't say as much to Walt.

Dragging myself up off my stool, I steadied myself against the bar slab like a nervous swimmer clinging to the pool edge, and waited for my head to stop spinning. It slowed down enough that I tucked the bottle under my arm and then hobbled behind the bar towards the stockroom, where Walt kept an old army surplus rack. "Gonna take my break," I said to Walt. Before I shuffled off into the stockroom, I pointed at the news cutting on the wall. "And would you please take that damn thing down?" He called out behind me, "But Reggie — you oughta be proud!"

Heeling the stockroom door shut behind me, I collapsed facedown on the cot like I'd been smacked with the pool stick again. Too tired to even kick off my boots, I sank down into deep sleep, and the same old bitter dream.


'The Bigelow Bleeder' Reggie Levine versus 'Boar Hog' Brannon for the light heavyweight state title. Brannon's ring name was well deserved; he looked like the bastard offspring of The Thing from Fantastic Four and a razorback. At the weigh-in, I vowed to the boxing press I'd be leaving it all in the ring. "They're gonna have to carry me out there!" And I was true to my word. For seven hellish rounds, Boar Hog busted me up like he was breaking rocks on a chain gang. The eighth was my best round — I finally hurt him — when Brannon broke his fist on my skull. Sensing a change in the tide, I went in for the kill, forgetting he still had one good hand and walking straight onto a mule-kick uppercut that put me down again for a record ninth trip to the canvas. At the count of six, I dragged myself up onto legs like stilts, chicken-danced around the ring, and then stumbled into the ref. My bloody mug printed a deformed smiley face on the front of his shirt.

"How many fingers d'you see?" the ref asked me.

Fingers? The ref had three heads and more arms than a Hindu god.

"Two," I guessed, and he waved it off.

As he helped me to my corner, I glanced back across the ring, and before my swollen eyes pinched shut, I saw Boar Hog Brannon with his arms raised in victory, and I choked back a sob of shame.

The ref consoled me with a slap on the shoulder that almost put me down again. "Son," he said, "we ever go to war, you're the sonofabitch I want in the foxhole beside me."

It was my first pro loss, and the last time I'd fight in the prize ring.

Brannon went onto bigger, better things.

I got a one-way ticket to Palookaville, via the emergency ward.

The first face I saw in the hospital was Walt Wiley's. He told me he'd lost a good chunk of change betting on me, and if I was interested in working off the debt, there'd be a job waiting for me at The Henhouse. I tried saying, "Who the hell are you, mister?" 'Cause I'd never seen the guy before. But I was higher than God on the dope they'd given me, not to mention my jaw was wired shut, and all I could manage was a pitiful mewling sound. Walt left his business card on the nightstand and told me to think it over. Except it wasn't a business card, it was a flyer for The Henhouse with a cartoon picture of a busty redhead on it. I'd heard of the place; the context was, "Stay away from that place." But I appreciated the flyer Walt had left me. The picture of ole Red kept me company while I convalesced. 'Course, I would've preferred my fiancée, Cheryl-Ann, kept me company, fetching in candy and kisses. But it turned out she and my trainer had eloped while the doctors were patching me up. Mad as I was about that, I was even madder they'd run off with my loser's purse, because without it I couldn't pay my hospital bill. So I took the job at The Henhouse.

When I started working the door for Walt, I told myself it was just until something better came along, but something better never did, and I guess somewhere along the line I stopped even looking. Bouncing at The Henhouse wasn't exactly where I'd pictured myself at age thirty-five. But my childhood dream of being a prizefighter was shattered, along with my jaw, that night I stepped in the ring with Boar Hog Brannon. Turns out I wasn't the contender I'd always thought I was; I was just another bum, and I didn't have no brother Charlie to blame it on.


Excerpted from Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet by Adam Howe. Copyright © 2015 Adam Howe. Excerpted by permission of Comet Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents


Foreword by Randy Chandler,
Damn Dirty Apes,
Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet,
Gator Bait,
Story Notes,
About the Author,

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