BLACK CAT MOJO by Adam Howe (Comet Press)
A downtrodden dwarf porn star, a couple of moronic redneck crooks who see a big payoff in a dog’s ass, an ex-gangster living in witness protection who is conned by a kid, and the tale of a carnie and Ed Gein’s car pretty much sums up Adam Howe’s BLACK CAT MOJO, a collection of three novellas and a short story. With a voice that’s all his own and a mind that is clearly comfortable wallowing in the weird and depraved, Adam Howe brings the goods with these gritty, absurdist crime stories.
The first story, OF BADGERS & PORN DWARVES, is an in depth look at the life of a little person who is well endowed and has made quite a living for himself in the adult entertainment industry. In the wake of his floundering career, he finds himself a victim of his own vices and owing the wrong people a considerable amount of money. He agrees to quite an absurd arrangement to pay off his debts, but you’ll never guess where this story is going and how it will end. There were moments when I was tired of reading about the dwarf’s exploits, but in the end this turned out to be quite a roller coaster of an odd crime story.
JESUS IN A DOG’S ASS was the weakest of the bunch. Amongst religious zealots, idiot redneck criminals and brainwashed fools, there is absolutely no one to give a shit about. I would have been pleased to have the entire town in this story bombed. The writing is tight, because Howe knows his craft, but this one just didn’t do it for me. On top of that, the ending fell flat.
The final two stories are where this book shows its teeth. FRANK, THE SNAKE & THE SNAKE is a story about an ex-gangster living in the witness protection program. He has a book out detailing his rise and fall as a mobster and after years as a grease monkey, one of his biggest fans recognizes him, but this fan wants more than just an autograph. This story is great, hands down. Frank has a rich, complex story and though he used to mingle with the mob, you can’t help but root for him. As is the method Howe seems to approach with the stories in this collection, this one takes enough twists and turns that the reader can’t possibly predict where it is going.
The final story THE MAD BUTCHER OF PLAINFIELD’S CHARIOT OF DEATH only upstages the preceding story in that the subject matter is even more interesting. Carnies? Check. Ed Gein? Check. Third-rate amusements? Check. This story is based on the guy who actually carted Ed Gein’s car around the carnival circuit after buying the vehicle at auction. People ate this shit up, but Howe tells us the real story, because what could go wrong with showcasing Ed Gein’s car, right? I can tell you this, what you’re thinking is not what happens, because if there is something you will understand at this point in reading these stories, it’s that Adam Howe knows how to take his readers on a different kind of trip, one that you most likely haven’t thought of, and though his characters are heavily flawed, they have qualities that the reader can identify with (well, except for the dopes in JESUS IN A DOG’S ASS), and that, in addition to the stories being so goddamned weird, is why they work so well, and why I will be looking for more work by this author. Adam Howe is one to look out for, and what better place to look than with BLACK CAT MOJO? (Robert Essig)