My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Tijuana Donkey Showdown wins, hands-down, for being the most off-the-wall, ridiculous, and endearingly fun read of 2016. Adam Howe is clearly a crazy person, and thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster he's writing down all the weird shit that happens inside his skull for us to consume. Seriously, we owe him a great big debt of gratitude. It's (probably?) not everyday you'll read about a donkey who is a celebrity in the adult entertainment industry, neo-Nazi's, and the redneck titty bar bouncer, Reggie Levine, moonlighting as a repo man for the world's sleaziest used car salesman who just so happens to be caught in the middle of it all when shit goes south at a gas station-slash-roadside zoo (yeah, that's right. A roadside zoo and gas station. Let that sink in.).
Reggie Levine is all recovered from his skunk ape hunt in Damn Dirty Ape, the escapades of which are told as one part of a three-novella collection Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet, in time to have another go-round with the worst the southern US has to offer. Howe states in the book's afterword that his dream casting, should Levine ever make it to the silver screen, is Danny McBride (despite the book's in-story worship of Nicolas Cage and his Con Air mullet), which is absolutely perfect for a character that reminds me of a white trash, low-budget Indiana Jones. After only two stories featuring Levine, I'm a full-fledged fan and hope we get to see plenty of more of him getting suckered into these weirdo hijinx.
Tijuana Donkey Showdown is a pitch-perfect action comedy, and it seems almost criminal that Howe, an England native, can capture hillbilly zaniness this ripely. I'm clearly not alone in thinking this, and I know Odd Man Out author James Newman has my back. If you're the type of reader who skips introductions, don't. Newman provides a lot of wit, and a fair share of a grudge, in his intro here, and it's a terrific tonal start to a book like this.
Levine's latest exploit is all kinds of ridiculous, raucous fun that explodes into a wild, wide-eyed pyrotechnic climax that burns with such ferociousness it's hot enough to keep you warm all winter-long. And that's even aside from a bevy of 80s movie references, crazy redneck side stories, and a guest appearance from a certain celebrity sporting a lovely, flowing mullet.
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