Movies & TV / Columns

Adam Howe On His New Action-Movie Sendup Novel One Tough Bastard, Interacting With Stephen King

February 24, 2021 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
One Tough Bastard

The 411 Interview: Adam Howe


Adam Howe is a writer and novelist from the United Kingdom who has written the books Gator Bait, Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet, and Black Cat Mojo, and has participated in multiple anthologies (you can check out his Amazon page here). Howe also won a short story contest, as Garrett Addams, connected to Stephen King’s On Writing and got to interact with King. Howe’s latest book is the action movie comedy sort of send-up One Tough Bastard, available starting March 1st, 2021. In this interview, Howe talks with this writer about One Tough Bastard, creating its washed up action star main character Shane Moxie, the indie publishing world, meeting Stephen King, and more.



Bryan Kristopowitz: Why did you want One Tough Bastard to be your next book?

Adam Howe: My work in general tends toward crazy-ass fusions of hardboiled crime, 80s/90s action overkill, ultraviolent horror, and dark (dark!) humor. Many of my readers had noted the action movie references in my work, so with One Tough Bastard I figured I’d go the whole hog and write a ‘buddy’ action/comedy. I’ve always loved that stuff – from 48 Hrs. to Lethal Weapon to The Last Boy Scout – the smartass banter as much as the action set pieces. But you say my ‘next book,’ in fact Bastard was originally intended to be my first novel, conceived around 2015 after I’d published my first book, a collection of novellas called Black Cat Mojo (which includes such wholesome titles as Of Badgers & Porn Dwarfs, Jesus in a Dog’s Ass, and Frank, The Snake, and the Snake). I always had a general idea of what I wanted Bastard to be. I had my mismatched partners: a washed-up meathead action star, and his more intelligent chimpanzee sidekick. I even had my villain: A Schwarzenegger-style kingpin operating his criminal empire from his Planet Hollywood-like restaurant franchise. But I could never quite get the story to click, was never satisfied with the plot, and so I shelved the project until things fell into place. Always felt the idea was worth taking my time to get right. And the finished novel is about as ‘right’ as I’m ever gonna get it. Between then and now I’ve written a bunch of other stuff – including another collection of novellas called Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet, a novel called Tijuana Donkey Showdown (lots of 80s-style action in that one, too), co-wrote a novel called Scapegoat about a bunch of bros on their way to Wrestlemania III who get mixed up with a backwoods doomsday cult, and I edited an anthology of dark rasslin’ fiction called Wrestle Maniacs.

BK: What was your inspiration for the story?

AH: It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where the idea came from, or any idea, since inspiration usually occurs (for me, at least) as a collision of a bunch of ideas… but here’s a couple things that come to mind: I’d read somewhere, and this may not be true, that Clyde the orangutan, after starring in Every Which Way But Loose and Any Which Way You Can, had been neglected by his wrangler and was being mistreated. I thought, man, you’d like to think if Clint knew about this, he would do something – deck the son of a bitch like he would in the movies. (I believe Clint did find out about it, and had Clyde adopted by an animal sanctuary.) Around the same time that I read about Clyde and Clint, Sylvester Stallone’s son Sage tragically died of a drug overdose, and the internet message boards were filled with people cracking jokes about how Sly was going to hunt down the dealers as he would in his movies, and get some get-back. So that got me thinking about the expectations we put on action heroes… but exactly how that led me to write a ‘buddy’ story about an action hero and his ape sidekick, I have no idea, seems to be just the way my mind works.


BK: How did you create Shane Moxie? Did he come out of your pen fully formed or did he have to go through multiple permutations before the final Mox? How difficult was it to come up with Moxie’s voice? He’s so confident and self-assured but also hopelessly clueless at the same time. And how did you come up with his look?

AH: Shane fuckin’ Moxie, aka The Mox; yeah, he’s been largely consistent as a character even as the book went through multiple drafts. I always saw him as a mix of Kenny Powers, Steven Seagal, and Jack Burton from Big Trouble in Little China. The look is pure Boz, though… with a little Dog the Bounty Hunter and Sax Man from The Lost Boys thrown in for good measure. I think that’s a look we red-blooded men can all aspire to.
He was pretty much fully formed from the moment I first wrote him. In a very early draft of the book I wrote a ‘Playboy interview’ from 1996 that captured Moxie at the height of his glory. I seem to have an affinity for writing dumbass characters like The Mox. No idea why that is. Don’t they say write what you know?

BK: The Duke character is brilliant, but was he always a super intelligent chimp?
AH: Duke was largely inspired by a real-life ape called Nim Chimpsky from the documentary Project Nim, in which a chimpanzee was indeed raised to be human, and taught sign language, as part of a college sociology experiment. Of course, Duke is significantly smarter than even Nim, having been pumped full of ‘smart-drugs.’ I was a little concerned that readers might not buy this hyper-intelligent chimpanzee, but I figured it’d work along the same lines as Brian the talking dog in Family Guy. Someone once said of my work that I create scenarios that seem “not just plausible, but probable,” which I think applies in the case of Duke.

BK: The “Kevin Spacey” voice aspect of the Duke character is also brilliant, but was it always Spacey? Were there other potential voices that were funny?

AH: In early drafts, Duke spoke exclusively in sign, but I knew that’d be a drag for readers to read, and hard for Shane to interact with, and so I gave him his digital voice box, and his ‘voice.’ At various times he’s been voiced by Sir Ian McKellen, Sir Patrick Stewart, and Sir Anthony Hopkins – a lotta Knights of the Realm! – I thought the interplay between Duke and the Mox would be funnier if Duke was voiced by a fusty thespian-type. But during the writing – one of the drafts, can’t remember which – Kevin Spacey was MeToo’d… and I just couldn’t resist.

BK: Did you take inspiration for the name of the book from the title of the Brian Bosworth movie One Tough Bastard or is that just a coincidence?

AH: Oh, I jacked the title, completely. One Tough Bastard is just about the perfect title for an action movie – I believe the Bosworth movie is also known as One Man’s Justice, which sucks, sounds like a latter-day DTV-era Seagal flick – it’s a damn shame The Boz couldn’t capitalize on the promise shown in his Stone Cold.

BK: How long did it take to complete One Tough Bastard? How many drafts did you have to do before you were done with the story?

AH: Off and on, around five years, but I couldn’t begin to tell you how many drafts I’ve gone through. The finished book – working from a draft where I felt I’d finally cracked the story – probably took around two years.

BK: Is it right to call One Tough Bastard a parody of the bigger than life action genre or is it really something else?

AH: I don’t see Bastard so much as a parody or spoof – like Kung Fury or Black Dynamite or even Machete – it’s a standalone Meta action/comedy. It lampoons the genre, sure. But I like to think it works on its own terms. My pitch to people is that it’s “Lethal Weapon-meets-Ted.” Or Shane Black on bath salts. As screwy as my stories are, I take my work as seriously as Jonathan Franzen or any other fancy-pants literature writer you can name; I just happen to write about dumbass action stars and talking chimpanzees.

BK: 1980s nostalgia is big right now in the world of pop culture. Why do you think that is and will we get the same level of nostalgia when the 1990s are popular again?

AH: Aside from the goofy fashion and music and tech, I think part of the appeal of the 80s is the optimistic, can-do, coked-up spirit of the Reagan era. For me, that’s the abiding image of America… even if it was just all a bullshit veneer to keep them damn Russkies in their place! There’s something especially appealing about the tech of the period, too. We can recognize much of it as the prototype of what we have today. Yet there was real human interaction attached to the tech and culture of the 80s – from physical media video stores to video arcades. I don’t sense the same nostalgia for the 90s. In some respects it felt like a dry run for where we’re at today politically – minus social media to fuel the relentless negativity.

BK: What’s your favorite 1980s movie and favorite 1980s action star? How about the 1990s?

AH: In terms of action films, and action stars, I was always partial to Steven Seagal, at least his early work – from Above the Law to Out for Justice, or as Vern might call it, his Golden Era. Overall, I like producer Joel Silver’s movies. The Warriors, 48 Hrs.., Commando, Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, Predator, Roadhouse, Ricochet, The Matrix— to name but a few! Say what you will about the man, but he has a phenomenal eye for talent, and that’s an incredible resume. In fact, I recently tried to get off the ground a tribute to Silver’s movies, called “Silver or Lead,” but unfortunately my timing sucked, because this was around the time the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke, and I gather that Mr. Silver has something of a rep himself, so that didn’t happen. Maybe one day!

BK: How difficult is the indie publishing world for writers? What don’t people understand about the indie book publishing world?

AH: The biggest fallacy about small-press/indie/self-published writers is that we’re “Not Ready for Primetime Players,” or that self-publishing is synonymous with “vanity” publishing. Traditional publishers are rarely interested in publishing anything outside the mainstream, or even remotely controversial. So, as is often the case in the movie world, the true talent is among the indie artists. There are some phenomenal writers out there, whose work is largely unknown outside of a cult readership. It doesn’t help that fewer people seem to be reading for pleasure nowadays. In fact, I recently noted a Goodreads review of Bastard that said along the lines of: “I never thought I’d say this about a book before, but this was fun!” That struck me as sad. Reading should be fun, shouldn’t it?

BK: What was it like interacting/talking with Stephen King?

AH: In the UK – I’m a Brit, by the way, though I write Americana – one of our national newspapers ran an international (non-US) writing contest to coincide with the release of King’s writing guide/memoir On Writing. Unpublished writers were asked to sub a Stephen King-style story, with the winning entry (judged by King) to be published in the first edition paperback of On Writing. The winner would also get to meet the man… And somehow the story I wrote won the damn thing! Like so many writers, King’s work made a huge impression on me as a kid, and influenced my own style (though I rarely write King-style fiction nowadays). To say that receiving his nod of approval was a validation of my work would be an understatement. The most important thing he said to me was “Don’t give up.” Because it was 10 years after winning the On Writing contest before I published my first book! Meeting the man, I was young and dumb enough not to feel overwhelmed – as I would be today – and took it all in my stride. I remember at our lunch, we mostly discussed slow vs. fast zombies. King said about the Return of the Living Dead zombies: “Those fuckers were fast, man!” His rep as one of the nice guys of the literary world would seem to me to be well deserved.

BK: Any literary heroes? Any moviemaking heroes?

AH: Aside from King? Joe Lansdale, Elmore Leonard, Shane Black.
In terms of movies: Joel Silver, John Carpenter, Walter Hill.

BK: Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

AH: Next up is likely to be The Polack, a 1930s gangster pulp about an ex-Marine and veteran of the Battle of Belleau Wood (WWI), who infiltrates a Mob-run bloodsport racket to avenge the murder of a war buddy. It’s like the Walter Hill/Charles Bronson movie Hard Times on steroids (my favorite Bronson movie, by the way). The character is named Buchinsky in tribute to Bronson, and my writer partner and I (Joseph Hirsch, whose work I urge readers to check out) have written the book as a “Bronson movie.” It’s shaping up pretty well, I think readers will dig it, and Bronson fans especially.

BK: If One Tough Bastard was ever adapted for the screen would it make a better movie or TV show? And who would you want to see tackle Shane Moxie?

AH: A movie could work, but I think Bastard would be best suited to a limited TV series, give it more time to breathe, and allow for more risks. I always pictured the Mox as a young Kurt Russell with the fashion sense of Brian Bosworth, and it’s kind of hard for me to see beyond that mental image. Do you have any casting suggestions?

BK: What do you hope readers get out of One Tough Bastard?

AH: It’s a wild ride, so I think readers should have a good time. I consider myself a storyteller above all else, and just like to tell a good fun yarn. Without wanting to get too highfalutin, or political, I would hope that the book reminds readers that it’s okay to laugh at even “problematic” subject matters. Somewhere between the writing of my first book, and Bastard, a lot of people seem to have lost their sense of humor… and it’s a real fucking drag. We need to get that back or we’re doomed.

BK: Will there be a One Tough Bastard sequel? Or a Shane Moxie autobiography? I know that Diffenderfer book is out there, but who wouldn’t want to read a book that’s directly from The Mox?

AH: I was mulling over the idea of a Bastard sequel, some kind of riff on Olympus Has Fallen, in which the White House is besieged by terrorists while Moxie and Duke are receiving the Medal of Freedom from President Trump, but Biden’s election (not to mention the Capital riot) might have put paid to that idea. Although saying that, Bastard is set in 2017 so I guess there’s no reason a sequel couldn’t still occur during the Trump Administration (I’d planned to make Trump a Leo Getz-style figure)… I’ll wait and see how Bastard is received before committing to writing any sequels (and it took me long enough just to write the first book!). As for a Moxie autobiography… considering that the last thing he wrote was the screenplay for KKKop, which led to nationwide civil unrest, I’m not sure it’s such a swell idea to let the man anywhere near the printed page ever again.


BK: At the end of the book you include plot descriptions for Moxie’s movie career, which are all hilarious (I’d also love to see them if they were real movies). Just how good/bad are Moxie’s direct-to-video movies?

AH: Another idea for follow-up Moxie stories would be to “novelize” his back catalogue of action classics; I think we’d all like to read the novelization of his caveman cop movie, Copsicle… As for his Direct-to- Video work, in Moxie’s defense, he was at the rock bottom of his addiction to phencyclidine; I’m happy to report that he’s kicked the habit – Celebrity Rehab really works! – and is today mostly clean-ish. Those DTV movies are pretty terrible, though, even for connoisseurs of trash cinema, though I do have a soft spot for his sub-Punisher flick, The Defenestrator, which involves his vigilante hurling bad guys out of windows, or as the tagline says: Taking out the trash… one window at a time! You might be interested in reading about the last movie Moxie made before entering rehab, Mosquitosaur vs. Crabshark for the SyFy Channel, in which he co-starred with Natasha Henstridge.

(check out that article here).


A very special thanks to Adam Howe for agreeing to participate in this interview and to david j. moore for setting it up.

One Tough Bastard will be available starting March 1st, 2021. Check out the book’s Amazon Kindle page here. The book will also be available in Trade Paperback form and via Audible.

Check out my review of One Tough Bastard here!

Check out Adam Howe’s Red Room Press page here and Twitter page here!

Check out Shane Moxie’s official Twitter page here!

All images courtesy of Adam Howe.