Punching Day: PUNCHES 🌭

I want to make this clear right away: this book is called PUNCHES. It’s by a Texas cop, it’s called PUNCHES, and this is the cover:

Self-published in 1988 with minimal proofreading, PUNCHES is a novel about a Texas cop, Sergeant “Jumpin” Jack Kellog, as he “takes on the Crime Confederation’s invasion of Texas.” The stupid among you might be thinking, “Texas cop? Invasion? Nothing about that sounds racist to me,” but you’re wrong. It’s a 1988 Texas cop trawling his imagination for crime he wants to punch. W. Hock Hochheim didn’t even know you were supposed to hide your racism. He probably has commendations for outstanding racism in the line of duty.

Speaking of great honors, my copy of PUNCHES is autographed. Which again, has this cover:

It’s stunning, and honestly, more than enough to make it a contender for Best Thing. But let’s read some of the words inside.

It opens with a group of three thugs stalking a nice suburban neighborhood. Here in the opening chapter W. Hock Hochheim’s words dance. Monstrous murder weapons have muzzles ready to bark death. K-Mart disco shirts are sleek and flapping. He gives shotguns mysterious histories.

The second man steals pants, is stereotypes, and has a dirty afro. Strangely enough, “afro” is the haircut all the book’s black characters have. Maybe 1988 Texas barber shops only had the one choice, but it’s possible W. Hock thinks “afro” is the generic term for black hair? I’m trying not to get too hung up on the racism, but it’s not a great sign when the black guy in the group has less backstory than the white guy’s shotgun. Anyway, he has a crowbar and his name is, I don’t fucking know… how about “Crowbar.”

“Crowbar” was so good with a crowbar that many undertakers, even talented and experienced ones, saw “Crowbar’s” victims and were like, “this will be my masterpiece.” Jack or no man messed with “Crowbar”! He and Shotgun had a friend named “32” because he used a .32 which he never lost, except for twice. Wait, that sounds insane. Let me find the exact quote.

The book says, “He’d always ‘tote me a piece’ – carried a .32, never had lost one yet, unless you counted the two police confiscations that resulted in two trips to the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville.”

So, okay, “32” carried a .32 except for the times he went to prison specifically for carrying a .32. I dare any author to imagine a more terrifying criminal. W. Hock Hochheim’s years of law enforcement experience has given him an insight into how the criminal mind works better than anyone. Just take a look at Shotgun, Crowbar, and 32’s plan:

This was a standard 3-man cop revenge mission. These bad guys came together to kill the man who arrested them, Jumpin’ Jack Kellog. They were going to get into his Victorian-style home, probably somehow. That part would be easy enough that waking up and killing the guy should still count as Part One. Part Two of the plan? IMPALA FLOOR WINE.

This is an author who hunted actual fugitives for decades, and his understanding of crime seems like it comes from a half-remembered Fruity Pebbles commercial. This plan isn’t stupid. This plan is a stupid person’s idea of stupid. And shockingly, their idea to bring their famous signature murder weapons and hope somebody left a window open does not go well. Jack greets them the only way he knows how: PUNCHES.

The second rule of a fist fight is to never stop to catalog your opponent’s armed robbery convictions. Jack broke this rule, but luckily Shotgun broke the first rule of a fist fight: never smile. One thing I noticed from W. Hock’s writing is that he has no idea how people think, but weirdly, he also has no idea how they fight. And weirder than that, I can prove it. Because this novelist is also a karate author. Let’s look inside W. Hock Hochheim’s 2005 guide to close quarters combat.

When you have mastered the art of combat like Hochheim, you need a challenge. You have to start defeating men using only a four directional Donkey Kong bonk. Seriously, though; his fighting system is a marvel of unlikeliness. He writes exclusively for people who want to live an embarrassing life and die in their first fist fight. If you’ll indulge me, let’s look at another of his techniques.

Hochheim’s advice here is to pound on your enemy wherever, for a while, until they’re hurt. It’s not “wrong,” but is definitely the winning entry in a dumbest shit you can say without being wrong contest. And then he shows you how to sit on someone’s face? I understand a middle aged Texas punch commando isn’t going to be a world class grappler, but this is fundamentally bad advice. A body’s natural flailing will escape from this position and a child with minimal horseplay experience should know this, much less a “martial artist.” Your enemy can now either bite your dick or leave. This is how you aim your ejaculate away from a CPR dummy, not kill a man. Come on, Hock.

Back to the novel:

Jack is a maniac written by a karate nerd who can’t fight, so he bites his enemy’s nose to begin a deliberate gun-disarming maneuver. This is a fundamental part of W. Hock Hochheimer’s fighting style. Here are some of the effective ways readers can take someone’s gun:

Scenario 1 is the simplest. You fucking bash the shit out of them and take their gun. It’s sort of complicated, so he explains in greater detail on the next page:

You might be thinking, “Great idea. But what if my enemy isn’t some nerd? What if my gunman is cool?” Great question. Hochheim demonstrates the defense against this is Scenario 12:

What you want to do is grab the gun and the rest of this sentence is just the word titties twice because now you have their gun, titties twice. Obviously, you’re ready for the two most common gun situations, none and grabbable, but what do you do if your gun enemy is far away? The one thing they’d never expect…

Fucking flying! Gun grab! Back to! The novel!

Jack is pretty sure he killed his home intruder, and he takes a minute to appreciate how heroic that is, in a fiscal sense. Sure, he’s dead, but think of the Harris County taxpayer savin– ARRGH! CROWBAR!!

Hochheim knows what the reader wants: justifications for off-the-books state executions and the mechanics of bludgeon-blocking techniques. He spends a lot of time explaining the masterful grips and tactics of pulling things out of another man’s hand– it seems a little cerebral for a crowbar fight. Even the author agreed 17 years later in the axe fighting section of his karate book:

I think all axe battle techniques get developed like this. Someone swings a weapon at you, and you either invent the perfect block by accident or you die before you get a chance to remember the wrong way to do it. Back to the novel!

Two men grapple! One for revenge! One for his very life! But first an author lustily explains each step of the choke escape he had to learn to get his yellow belt. This is bullshit, Hock. Pinky pulling!? Let’s get to some punches.

Yes! This is how you get out of a headlock! Dick punches to keep those legs busy!

Crowbar, the fool, tries a punch of his own, but Jack’s idea is better– punches. Specifically punches to the head, punches to the head. It’s not clear how many he threw, even to the author, but two of them were good ones. They knock Crowbar into Jack’s bar. “Stay for a drink,” he doesn’t say. “I have a bar and no friends,” he doesn’t realize.

After winning the fight, Jack executes Crowbar with a gunshot to the head. As he does many times in the book, the author explains how this technical– no listen! He had every right to legally kill these men by county law! In a lot of ways, this is good for everyone! Who is this equivocating for? Does he think I’m going to argue with him? I’m reading fucking PUNCHES. Kill whoever you want. In fact, shut the fuck up about everything else.

Though well within his rights, this killing of two and a half home intruders isn’t relevant to the rest of the story. It’s just to let us know Sergeant “Jumpin” Jack Kellog punches and kills a lot of guys on and off the clock. But he’s back on now, and on the tail of a man known only as The Knifecaller Rapist. He interviews a witness named Ida.

As an author, it’s your job to create imagery…. to help the reader create the scene and the characters in their mind. Watch, I’ll do it right now: W. Hock Hochheim sat at his typewriter wondering how to describe an African American woman. He sipped a warm beer, grimacing at the taste. “Later,” he told his dusty desk nunchucks. They, like his son, had long gotten used to the neglect of the dedicated writer. Though a White through and through, Hochheim’s police work put him in contact with many black families. He racked his punch-bashed brain for things about them he remembered. A sudden smirk formed on his thin, stupid lips. He had it. “Fatherless choldren,” he typed, racistly.

Hochheim writes like Ernest Cline in that he’s counting on his reader’s weak imagination to fill in a lot of blanks. For instance, Ernest Cline might say something like “Oh geez, it looked exactly like that scene in The Last Starfighter,” and hope you’ve seen that movie, and Hochheim will say something like, “She was black,” and hope you’re a cop.

Ida swore, to the Lord, she would never tell people about the Knifecaller Rapist whose attack she survived, but Jack’s face was too kind. Do you know what this means? It means each member of the different races has identified the other as one of the good ones. It’s beautiful when two people from such different backgrounds can come together to betray God by reporting a sex crime. Sorry, I’m making this scene sound crazy. Let me put it in another way. Jack met a sad black lady who looked like she would work harder if she could, and she betrayed her God to tell him about a sex crime he already knew about. This made ten legal decisions surge through his head and all of them were punch.

Jack starts his investigation, and he plays by 1980s cop fiction rules, which means he’ll play by your rules, all your goddamn hamstringing rules, but he’s not going to play by the rules.

There are a lot of moments like this where Jack ignores some kind of procedure that would only mean anything to a cop. And I guess you write what you know, but Hochheim dedicates at least 20% of this novel to law enforcement regulations. Is Jack Kellog a badass or a scumbag for violating statute 3A-2 of the Houston P.D.’s Code of Ethics? Author W. Hock Hochheim is so glad you asked, and will go over all the implications as Jack escapes this strangle.

You’re not going to believe me, but I swear to God, to the Lord, that pages 61 and 62 of PUNCHES are just an immunity agreement given to one of the characters. And I don’t mean a long-winded lawyer is explaining the details of it. I mean right before a marijuana plantation raid, the book goes, “here is the full legal text of the immunity agreement they gave this guy; let’s stop and read it.” I guess I’m a little disappointed he went so hard in this direction of Cop. I was expecting a bitter detective taking the frustration of his ex-wife’s restraining order out on crime, not all this paperwork bullshit.

Oh hell yes. This is what I wanted, Hochheim! In the chapter “SHITFIRE YANK!,” our hero meets up with a van prostitute! And he turns down a couple holes on the house not because of some fascist workplace safety guideline, but because the worn out old hag just didn’t get him hard like she used to. This is the kind of Cop fiction I like.

Soon Jack runs into an old boxing rival named John Handell where we learn some troubling news about our hero.

Sergeant “Jumpin” Jack Kellog is obviously an author insert, so part of his backstory is that he’s terrible at fighting. W. Hock Hochheim has seen himself fight, and he does not have a strong enough imagination to picture a man such as he winning a boxing match. Not once in eleven fictional, amateur bouts. Sure, he can picture himself squeaking out a victory in a pinky-maiming, nose-biting scramble, but in a test of skill and strength? Psh. Get real, reader. None of this ninja crap works.

Ow! Fuck!!

Ha ha ha this is maximum Cop. Our hero got so mad at this guy for making fun of him that he vowed to find something, anything to arrest him for. Then he got so fucking mad he forgot about that. It’s incredible! It would not surprise me if Hochheim starts one of these chapters by saying, “Shut up, wife! I command it! Sorry, I meant to scream that, not type it.”

This is getting too dark. I’ll clip a cute one.

Jack takes off all his clothes and gets a good look at his naked body. “You disgusting piece of shit,” the author calls him, the character clearly modeled after himself. “Look at how you’ve let yourself go,” he continues. “Go from what? You were never anybody,” he adds, and holy shit this one isn’t cute at all. Sorry!

You already knew this, but one of the themes of PUNCHES is how things used to be better in the old days before all these, whatdoyoucallthem, civil rights. These soft sons of bitches in their tiny panties… how is anyone supposed to tiptoe through this liberal hellscape of 1980s Texas, America? It used to be men were one of two things: Punched, or White. Why, it’s got me so mad I could… I could… 


Speaking of 1980s Texas, Jack nabs himself one of those damn Communist hippies and has to dance around all the fancy regulations to get him to talk. Can you believe he’s only allowed to refuse the prisoner legal counsel and threaten him with sexual assault!? After holding him as a person of interest in a Cuban friendship? You can’t clip a cop’s wings like this and still expect him to soar. It’s like you fucking want crime.

W. Hock Hochheim writes Latino characters the same way he makes fun of a Chinese waiter– with the full cooperation of the Harris County Sheriff’s Department. Sorry if it seems like I’m leaving out a lot of plot and only showing you the violent rants of a racist idiot, but that’s what PUNCHES is. Jack fusses around like this, complaining his way through irrelevant frustrations. He’s forced to let the Knifecaller Rapist go because all he had was eyewitness testimony and evidence, but no knife. And by Punch Law, you can not make an arrest without a criminal’s signature weapon. Hold on… “not make an arrest?” That gives Sergeant “Jumpin” Jack Kellog an idea.

Jack finds “Tramp” Rasp, the Knifecaller Rapist, and does what any good cop would do– he stomps on the son-of-a-bitch’s feet and legs. He’ll kick a confession out of this scumbag if he has to! I’ll skip ahead to that part…

No, he’s still working those legs. Okay, let me jump ahead to the resolution…

Well, sure, nobody’s going to confess to murder from some light ankle beating. Jack adds some elbows, dick kicks, and a knee drop. Now he’ll talk.

Jack has a few more things he has to say before… holy shit, this is just a rage fantasy. Let’s skip ahead.

Okay, Jesus Christ, Jack. So he’s splintered most of Tramp’s leg bones and pelvis, hit him with a finishing move, choked him, given him a fierce talking to, slapped him, punched him, and threatened to cripple, blind, and torture him. Then most of those a second or third time. Tell him what he wants to hear, Rasp!!!

Oh, he’s still going. We’re at the “unrecognizable meat” stage of police procedure. This is, and I mean this in the clinical way, medically crazy. If you’re enjoying PUNCHES at this point you’re either an actual murderer or Hochheim’s ex-wife’s divorce lawyer.

Is this art? Has the attack become metaphor? He’s calling Tramp “the Tramp” now, which is either a typo or Jack stopped his attack on Tramp to kill a witness. This is something a werewolf would find in their typewriter after a full moon. Get it together, Hock.

Wait, what? “Then Jack snapped?” Fucking THEN? We are nine hours into a shrieking trash slaying!

Oh holy shit. Oh, holy fucking shit. That’s how he ends the book!? This… worked!? W. Hock Hochheim really said, “The guy in the book who is me won the garbage fight against the bad guy by so much they never did crime again, the end.” I have nothing to add to this; it’s beyond my every expectation. Punches.

This article was brought to you by a hot Hot Dog Tip from Javo.Β 

3 replies on “Punching Day: PUNCHES 🌭”

Could you imagine how frustrating it would be for him if you walked up and gave him a strong hug and refused to release him? I mean, obviously you would have to be bulletproof to approach this bugfuck racist shitheel, but once all of his guns were stripped of him you would only need the strength of a teenager to keep him trapped for as long as you wanted. Whispering into his ear, β€œIt is okay sweetheart, your daddy ain’t coming out of hell to hurt you and so you can let it all go. You can cry as much as you want, you let it all out honey,” and other affirming messages of love and self-acceptance the whole time as his shame at being held and ego-defining existential terror obliterate every part of his mind and he experiences a level of discomfort without pain that would go unmatched in his life despite a galaxy of worthy contending moments in his stupid and disastrous life.

Fun trivia note: Harris County houses the largest still-active, official branch of the KKK. I don’t know why this completely random fact pops into my head here, but it does. Brains are weird.

Second trivia note: Houston (otherwise known as 117% of Harris County) is a model for diversity and actually has a pretty progressive police force, so far as those go. This guy worked as a sheriff in unincorporated Harris County, and when he got denied rehire, he then tried to get a position at the absolute most upper-middle-class suburban chunk of Austin he could find (Westlake). In Austin. Even 90s Austin would have been a stretch for racism this pure and unadulterated. The man is a bag of mysteries.

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