THE DAMN DIRTY APES CONTROVERSY:
THE SOCIETY FOR THE PRESERVATION
OF THE NORTH AMERICAN SKUNK APE
Writing for the indie press, without an advertising budget for promotion, the best an up-and-coming writer can hope is that an established writer will endorse your work, that you might poach a few of their readers.
I’ve been very lucky. Early in my writing career, Stephen King chose my short story Jumper (written under the pseudonym Garrett Addams) as the winner of his international On Writing contest; should you wish to read that story, you can find it at the end of the Kindle edition of King’s On Writing – but cut me some slack, I was very young when I wrote it. Since then, I’ve received encouraging praise from other great writers whose work I admire – enough to keep me plugging away at this writing lark.
For Damn Dirty Apes, an offbeat throwback to creature-features and 1980s action/adventure movies, and one of the novellas in my new collection, Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet, I thought it might be fun to request an endorsement from a more unusual source. Little did I imagine the shitstorm that would erupt when I sent the manuscript to Mr. Lambert Pogue, General Secretary of the Society for the Preservation of the North American Skunk Ape.
Here in full is Mr. Pogue’s letter to my publisher, dated 3rd September 2015:
This morning I received among my usual correspondence a manuscript entitled Damn Dirty Apes by Adam Howe, with a request to provide an endorsement. Now let me say in advance, in my official capacity as General Secretary of the S.P.N.A.S.A, I am not in the habit of reading, much less of reviewing fictional works. Having read enough ill-conceived, ill-researched and illness-inducing titles exploiting the Bigfoot, Sasquatch and Skunk Ape phenomena to last a lifetime, I will politely decline, citing more pressing work commitments. Yet Howe’s manuscript is so deeply offensive that I feel I must respond, frankly and fully.
From a research point of view, it is clear that Howe has exerted himself no further than a cursory Google search, spicing his narrative with only the most lurid tidbits. In so doing, he serves the reader a rancid broth of gross distortions, misrepresentations and half-truths, played for shock value and scatological humor. No doubt the small print prefacing the published book will contain the usual disclaimer: “This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to characters living or dead is entirely coincidental.” And readers would be well advised to take these words to heart. Unfortunately for me, this advice was more difficult to apply.
As I waded through Howe’s nauseating pulp fiction, I became uncomfortably aware that the protagonist named as ‘Jameson T. Salisbury’ was based on a decidedly non-fictional character. And furthermore, someone I regarded as a personal friend. There is no doubt in my mind that ‘Salisbury’ is a thinly disguised, grotesque caricature of the late Gerard Hauser, author of the seminal work Among the Skunk Apes of the North American South: One Man’s Journey of Self-Discovery (Pine Marten Press, 1972, sadly long out of print).
I daresay only a handful of people are alive today who remember the hermetic Hauser well enough to take offense at the injustice Howe does to the man. To the best of my knowledge, he left no next-of-kin to defend his reputation, much less to pursue litigation. So it seems that apart from my own protest, Howe’s slanderous portrayal will remain unchallenged.
For those unaware, it is due to Hauser’s lifelong study of the North American Skunk Ape, that the majority of our knowledge about this reclusive hominid derives. Taken as a whole, the decades of self-sacrifice in Hauser’s pioneering field research comprises a huge debt to which all of us in the field owe him.
Yes, there were controversies that dogged the man. It hardly bears repeating the allegations made by young female campers who reported Hauser for voyeurism and indecency; embarrassing episodes Hauser claimed to his dying breath were simple misunderstandings. And yes, the unanswered questions surrounding Hauser’s final expedition, in which an amateur cryptozoologist tragically lost his life when he stepped into a hominid-snare, are difficult for even his staunchest supporters to defend. But these are, in the main, anomalies that can be excused as the enthusiasm of a field researcher with no formal training. (In the latter case, it should also be noted that the authorities cleared Hauser of any criminal wrongdoing, a fact many of the man’s critics so conveniently forget!) Hauser’s shortcomings and eccentricities pale in comparison to the sheer volume of data he left to us – physical evidence, photographs, and compiled eyewitness testimonies; a life’s work spanning decades.
Until Hauser’s premature death in 1982, he and I exchanged semi-regular correspondence. I met him personally only once, when he was scheduled to lecture at the annual hominology convention in Atlanta, Georgia. I found him to be considerate, courteous, lucid, and well balanced. In Howe’s repellent pulp fiction, Hauser is lampooned as an unhinged and callous misfit, slovenly and selfish, who thinks nothing of endangering others in the obsessive pursuit of his cause. He bears little resemblance to the kind and gentle man I felt privileged to call my friend.
I cannot, in all good conscience, endorse this work. Moreover, I call on all hominologists, whether in the Bigfoot, Sasquatch or Skunk Ape fields, to put aside our differences and unite in a boycott of this disgraceful book. Quite apart from Howe’s literary shortcomings, which will quickly become apparent to the unsuspecting reader, the author’s attack on Hauser’s integrity is the action of a cynical coward seeking profit by besmirching the reputation of a man no longer alive to defend himself. Furthermore, I wish it to be known I am prepared to render my fullest assistance to any parties pursuing legal action against Howe and his publisher for the injustice done to Gerard Hauser.
Lambert Pogue, General Secretary S.P.N.A.S.A.
This was just the beginning. Mr. Pogue proceeded to make good on his threat to boycott the book. Rallying a small army of hominologists, they besieged the Comet Press Facebook page with angry calls for my head. Such was the furor, I genuinely believed Damn Dirty Apes would never see print, and I am enormously grateful to Cheryl Mullenax at Comet Press for weathering the storm and sticking by me.
In my defense, the character of Jameson T. Salisbury was written as an affectionate (if mischievous) tribute to the late Gerard Hauser. What little I know about Hauser – and indeed, very little is known – I gleaned from an article in the Fortean Times relating to Hauser’s doomed final expedition in the Arkansan backwoods. Hauser struck me as exactly the kind of colorful character I enjoy writing about, a real-life Quint from Jaws. Damn Dirty Apes was written as a light-hearted romp, no more or less. I had no intention of maligning Hauser’s reputation and I deeply regret any offence I may have caused.
Fortunately, I was able to placate Mr. Pogue with an apology, and a modest donation to the S.P.N.A.S.A. He lifted his embargo, and even kindly provided the somewhat terse disclaimer that precedes the story. Mr. Pogue would like me to stress that this should be in no way read as an endorsement, and advises any serious student of hominology that their time would be better served reading S.P.N.A.S.A. approved non-fiction.
Lesson learned, and in future I’ll stick to asking other writers for blurb.
Die Dog Or Eat The Hatchet (pub. Comet Press) is a collection of crime/horror/humour novellas including Damn Dirty Apes, the title story Die Dog Or Eat The Hatchet, and Gator Bait. It can be pre-ordered NOW and will be available in paperback and eBook formats 03/11/15.
Die Dog Or Eat The Hatchet: Story Synopses
DAMN DIRTY APES
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.
DIE DOG OR EAT THE HATCHET
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. Reading like a retro slasher flick, this pulpy Southern Gothic kidnap-thriller takes no prisoners as it roars towards a shattering conclusion.
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.
Adam Howe is a British writer of fiction and screenplays. Writing as Garrett Addams, his story Jumper was chosen by Stephen King as the winner of his On Writing contest, and published in the paperback/Kindle editions of King’s book. His fiction has appeared in places like Nightmare Magazine, Thuglit, Horror Library 5 and One Buck Horror. His first book, Black Cat Mojo (pub. Comet Press) is available now. Follow him at Goodreads and Tweet him @Adam_G_Howe.
Well worth checking out