Series: Reggie Levine #2
Published by Comet Press on 9th December 2016
Genres: Thriller, comedy, Crime
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Reggie Levine, ex-boxer turned bouncer, and hapless hero, has barely recovered from his ordeal in Damn Dirty Apes, when he is called back to action. Recruited to a retrieve a Chinese crested terrier from a fleapit roadside zoo, where the ugly effing showdog has been mistaken for the chupacabra, Reggie finds himself embroiled in a deadly criminal conspiracy involving neo-Nazi drug smugglers, a seedy used-car salesman, a wannabe serial killer, an ornery Vietnam veteran, a badass veterinarian, a freakishly endowed adult entertainment donkey named Enrique, and in an explosive cameo, an Academy Award winning Hollywood icon.
From Adam Howe, writer of Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet, Black Cat Mojo, and the winner of Stephen King’s On Writing contest, comes another slice of pulp Southern crime, 80s action, pop Americana, and pitch-black comedy.
Back in July when I reviewed Adam Howe’s collection of novellas entitled Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet, I went on record as saying the middle novella, Damn Dirty Apes, was my least favourite of the three within the collection. That same record, however, will reflect that I awarded the collection an overall 4.5 stars, meaning it will feature highly on my much-read and highly coveted (insert self-depreciating and sarcastic snigger here) Top 10 Reads of the Year list.
Which is my long winded way of saying: Damn Dirty Apes is one damn fine read.
And the basic essence of the remainder of this review can be distilled down to this singular point: Tijuana Donkey Showdown is even better.
Picking up the story of stripclub bouncer, orangutan-beater, and drug-dealing motorcycle club defeater, Reggie Levine, soon after the events of the previous novella, Tijuana Donkey Showdown wastes no time in throwing Reggie into the (literal) shit when he happens across a patron of the stripclub being drowned in the establishment’s lavatory. From there, things go quickly from poorly advised to outright insanity as Reggie finds himself in the employ of a dodgy used car salesman. After a particularly disastrous attempt to repo an old lady’s car, Reggie then has to call upon his boxing skills, laconic wit and natural luck to win the day against … well, that would be telling. And half the fun in Tijuana Donkey Showdown is not knowing what’s going to come next. Because let me tell you, no-one is going to see what is coming next. Howe is an expert at crafting ludicrous scenes that strain the limits of plausibility, and yet his characters are so far from being superheroes themselves, that they somehow ground the hyper-reality of what is taking place around them.
He also manages to make just about all of his characters likeable in some way. Reggie is, of course, the stand out as the protagonist of the piece, but Howe creates a fantastic supporting cast for him to bounce off. Walt, his boss and supposed best friend who spends most of his time tormenting Reggie; Harry, the shonky used car salesman who somehow manages to be just pathetic enough that the reader (like Reggie) is willing to forgive him his latest sin; and bar-regular Lou with his obsession for rotund stripper, Marlene. All interact with Reggie in engaging and entertaining ways.
Which leads me to my favourite part of TDS and most of Howe’s writing in general: It is actually funny. As someone who rarely finds much humour in what he reads, Howe’s writing is like a blast of invigorating air. I read much of Tijuana Donkey Showdown with a small smile playing about my lips and even chuckled a dozen or so times OUT LOUD. This was such an outlandish occurrence that my partner asked me what was wrong the third time she witnessed this phenomenon.
So Tijuana Donkey Showdown is entertaining, outlandish, and good ol’ fashioned fun – as long as your idea of fun involves people being badly beaten, moments of extreme violence, and things being done to a donkey. Of course it’s not perfect – what book is? – as toward the end of the book Howe is forced to break away from Reggie’s POV to cover other things occurring simultaneously. It’s a small thing, but it felt like a bit of a cheat given the rest of the book is very much exclusively told from Reggie’s third person limited perspective.
Regardless, if you’ve yet to read any Adam Howe, correct this oversight post haste! But maybe go back and read Damn Dirty Apes in Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet first, because you’re likely to enjoy Tijuana Donkey Showdown far more if you’re already familiar with Reggie and the type of trouble he so readily finds himself in.
And here’s to more Howe (and Reggie Levine) in the very near future.
4.5 Rat-Like K9s for Tijuana Donkey Showdown.
Full disclaimer: I received an eARC of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. If you think I’ve therefore improved my score on this basis, you haven’t read my previous reviews.