Friday, September 30, 2011

Review: Headstone

Headstone by Ken Bruen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was my introduction to noir poet Ken Bruen, and I will be diving into his prolific writings immediately. The latest in the Jack Taylor series, Bruen peels back the veneer of Galway and shows the machinations of the idyllic seaside town through real and broken people who love it. Jack Taylor is a hard drinking man who believes "law is for the courthouse and justice is served in the alleyways," a dinosaur relic in our ethically wobbly times. With a verbal economy verging on poetry and a masterful eye for human character, Bruen is a force of nature and his latest novel with the Mysterious Press is a treasure. If you haven't read him before, like myself, you'll be kicking yourself for waiting so long.

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Review: Paris Trout

Paris Trout
Paris Trout by Pete Dexter

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An amazing picture of a small Southern town post-Korean war, where a psychopathic man has risen to be pillar of the community. WE see him through his wife, the black girl he murders in a fathomless rage, his lawyer, and the Eagle scout war hero who aims to be the new face of the town. Written in a laconic and poetic voice reminiscent of James Crumley, this novel will take you into the darkness of the human heart and leave its mysteries intact. Winner of the national book award, and deservedly so.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Neon Pink 80s Time Machine

Like the Tangerine Dream soundtrack to my favorite crime film, Michael Mann's gleaming gritty THIEF, the latest neo-noir crime tale DRIVE has an amazingly lush score that immerses you in its dead-end fantasy world.

You can download it at Amazon, but I hope they release a vinyl version, maybe a picture disc or one with a hologram-etched scorpion on one side and his primer gray Malibu street beast on the other.

© 2011 Thomas Pluck

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Introducing... Pulp Modern

Today marks the release of the first issue of Pulp Modern, the new quarterly edited by Alec Cizak- formerly of All Due Respect. It is  available on CREATESPACE and Amazon. Ten bones for a monster collection of pulp crime, adventure, science fiction, westerns from the likes of my literary hero Lawrence Block and other writers whose work I rush to read whenever it sees print. And me, yeah. Whew. Got a chill there.

My story "Legacy of Brutality," the first Denny "the Dent" Forrest story, appears here. If you enjoyed  "Rain Dog" in Crimespree Magazine #43, get yourself some Pulp Modern. You'll see Denny at the gym, learn how he got so huge, and see his unique form of right and wrong put into play once again.

Please follow the link above to purchase. I'll buy you a beer if you're disappointed. And I'll buy you two if you're not.

The line-up:

Interior art:

Cover art:

© 2011 Thomas Pluck

Dead Man's Shoes

This is one of my favorite revenge films. It is not a pleasant film to watch at all. Not for its violence, which is generally off screen, but for the raw pain of Paddy Considine as a soldier who fled his mentally challenged brother and comes home to wreak havoc on the local trash who've been tormenting him. No film captures the roots of guilt and shame in vengeance as good as this one.

Read my full review at Jimmy Callaway's LET'S FIGHT EVERYBODY! film blog.

© 2011 Thomas Pluck

Monday, September 26, 2011

Review: Drive

Drive by James Sallis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A brilliant clutter of scenes of a man's life that form the empty whole of a noir icon, the criminal savant getaway driver. A stunt man, a child survivor, a Parker-esque ghost of vengeance who wants only to be left alone...
Sallis cuts this novel to the bone, it is a mere 117 pages but it satisfies and paints a huge canvas by leaving so much white space between the art that our mind fills in the blanks. You can read this in one sitting; I chose to savor it. As an e-book it is a little harder to follow because the page breaks aren't well formatted, so I'd suggest print.
It's a truly masterful characterization and a terrific story. It was inevitable that it would become a movie. The movie itself captures much of what is told here but tells its own tale. I'd highly recommend enjoying both. The film is a Michael Mann-inspired blast that shocks us with its silence and long still interludes, much as Sallis's novel takes "less is more" to a perfectly executed extreme. The soundtrack is a lost '80s album. The garish pink title script tells it all.
The performances are all pitch perfect. If you say you like noir you owe yourself to read the book and see the film.

Modern movies often leave me cold; so does nihilistic noir. But both book and film thrilled me like I'd discovered the genre for the first time.

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

PROTECT acknowledges our work

Thanks to the hard work of Fiona Johnson, Ron Earl Phillips, and everyone who contributed stories to the Lost  Children Flash Fiction Challenge- our donations have been recognized.

(Direct link to their website)

Thomas Pluck and Fiona Johnson - Flash Fiction Friday
Thursday, 22 September 2011 09:00
Thomas Pluck, a writer and long-time PROTECT supporter, and his friend Fiona Johnson have teamed up to do a fundraiser for PROTECT, Scotland's Children 1st and Living Water for Girls. We give them both our heartfelt thanks and appreciation for their efforts.

We invite you to visit Flash Fiction Friday to read some of the stories submitted. For Pluck's interview with Fiona Johnson, click here: "Checking in with The Lost Children Challenge," Fictionaut Blog, a literary community for adventurous readers and writers.

If you would like to visit Pluck's website, click here.

And, stay tuned for news about an e-book anthology, the second part of their fundraising efforts, with the proceeds going to PROTECT and Children 1st.


© 2011 Thomas Pluck

Review: Crimespree Magazine #43 Jul/Aug

Crimespree Magazine #43 Jul/Aug
Crimespree Magazine #43 Jul/Aug by Scott Phillips

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent issue of THE crime fan magazine. The interview with Sara Gran by Scott Phillips is entertaining and enjoyable; not a puff piece for her new novel, but an interesting discussion of influences and how to dodge Chandler's long shadow when writing a detective story. Declan Burke and Dennis Lehane discuss Irish crime writing on both sides of the pond, and you get three stories- a thriller, a dark bit of noir, and my story "Rain Dog," which I'll call urban noir, which flash fiction master Marcus Speh said "brought a tear to his eye."
Crimespree takes its job seriously but keeps things fun, and as always reports on the latest books, films and crime television with capsule reviews. And in this issue you get some true crime with Criminal Idiots, a funny collection of crook failures.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Three Sentences for Chuck W

Chuck Wendig the Pen Monkey has issued a three sentence story challenge on his blog. He offers up excellent writing advice free of charge. It is also collected and expanded for a Kindle-pittance, so if you want the funniest yet helpful writing on writing out there, pick up his Pen Monkey e-books:
Confessions of a Freelance Penmonkey, 250 Things a You Should Know About Writing, and Revenge of the Penmonkey.
He also has a collection called Irregular Creatures (not about incontinent chimeras) and a zombie huntin' vampire bad-ass novel coming out soon called DOUBLE DEAD.

Chuck chose mine among four other greats to shower with PenMonkey "glory," and gifted me a postcard and a copy of 250 Things... which is awesome, because I go back and read his "25 Things" blog posts all the time to help kick my ass into writing gear.

My entry:

I Love You Period...

He laughed after he'd put a perfect crimson period in the forehead of my wife with his comically small pistol, beat me with it before fleeing with her purse.
I hunted the man who stole my heart, my life, for so long I thought the second bullet hole, in his neck, would be the final punctuation mark in one long run on sentence of justice crossing rivers, borders and highways.
The sentence has only begun, with twenty years of rape and beatings inside this animal prison making me wish I'd put one final bloody red dot in my own temple, and found closure with an ellipsis.


© 2011 Thomas Pluck

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Review: Choke Hold

Choke Hold
Choke Hold by Christa Faust

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You look at the cover and you see a sexy woman, a pretty face. You make judgments as to the depths of character. And you're wrong, because this girl has heart that pounds harder than a prizefighter's. I jumped into Angel Dare's story in the second entry, and you can easily follow her violent past if you haven't yet read Money Shot, the first one. Angel has done terrible things in the name of justice, and none of it has been clean. It's left her a wounded animal tracked by vicious predators. She's hiding out under a grease stain in the desert waiting tables when she meets an old friend, and gets thrown into a new kind of hell as he brings his son Cody and plenty of trouble with him. A mixed martial arts fighter tangled up in steroid trafficking, young Cody leads her to Hank, a veteran fighter who's broken inside and out, trying to make right for past wrongs.
It flies like classic pulp, it reads like truth and it hits you with a smart left hook that leaves you as stunned as a fighter wobbling through his first standing eight-count. There are no slick twists, only artfully written characters, broken down gladiators from the sex and violence trades who've battled for our entertainment. They are writ large but speak to a deeper truth. Angel's battle is far from over, and she faces the brutal ugly heart behind the sex and fights we watch for our amusement. Except her heart's stronger, just strong enough to keep on pumping as she's hunted down and forced to pay for the revenge she enacted.
Like Andrew Vachss, Faust lures you in with a great story and before she tells you secrets you don't want to hear. The end left me drained like I'd fought five hard rounds with Hank the Hammer. It's a hell of a book and you'll never look at mixed martial arts the same way again.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Harlan responds... again!

Don't write him? Methinks Mr. Ellison doth protest too much...

I mentioned my 25-year old letter on his website Ellison Webderland in the guestbook, and Harlan Ellison graciously responds yet again. He likes the name of my website, even. He wouldn't be sarcastic, would he? He even mentions a blog post where I compared his novella Mefisto in Onyx to the 90's Denzel Washington supernatural thriller Fallen, which has a very similar premise:

HARLAN ELLISON- Sunday, August 28 2011 20:44:43THOMAS PLUCK

So Tom Pluck is this guy who wrote me a lettter that I answered politely (yet snarkily) back in '82 or something like that; and today I see Jan's post about Mr. Pluck's site (the title of which "And Pluck You, too!" I think is admirable, simply admirable) and it's a nice piece, but at the end it also says:
If you liked the preceding, you will also like...
And there's something called
So. If anyone gets to Pluck, would you ask him to drop over here and kindly tell me:
What the pluck is "Fallen Vs. Ellison's MEFISTO IN ONYX" since I know the latter, but have no idea how it cohabits with the former.
Yr. Pal, Harlan

© 2011 Thomas Pluck

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Big Con

Two good friends lured and cajoled me into going to Bouchercon this year. Sabrina Ogden of My Friends Call Me Kate, and Josh Stallings, author of the Mo McGuire series. I met a lot of great people there, but I want to thank Josh for sharing his room and Sabrina for kicking me in the butt. It was a great time. Writers and readers of crime and mystery fiction, this is your Disney World.

The awesome Sabrina Ogden and my brother from another mother, Josh Stallings.
I solidified friendships I made online, and made some new ones. I apologize, I'm not much of a photo snapper. I prefer chit chat, and don't need to immortalize it with a picture. I met a lot of people, and everyone from regular folks to icons in the fiction world such as Harlan Coben and Daniel Woodrell were friendly and made time to talk with a total stranger. I shook Mr. Coben's hand after losing a charity auction to him. If I had to lose, I'm glad it was to a fellow Jersey boy, and the writer of Tell No One, still one of the best thrillers I've ever read.

I met a whole lot of people in various states of sleep deprivation and Guinness-infused excitement, so forgive me if I forget your names. It is not intentional. I flew in on three hours sleep and it took a few pints of liquid courage to approach my heroes, and the downside of that fortitude boost is the dilution of memory. Neliza Drew and Leah rounded out Sabrina's posse and made fine company. We made a trip to the St. Louis Arch with Josh, and it felt like I was on a walk with an old friend as Josh and I shot the shit, and smelled a lot of it from horse and carriages, and port-a-potties burned to ashes.

The con was a blur. I saw panels with Hilary Davidson, whose infectious enthusiasm was a shot of much-needed espresso. She won best first novel in the Crimespree awards, a much deserved win for The Damage Done. I briefly met Megan Abbott, author of The End of Everything, and was tickled when she tweeted that she was sorry we didn't get to talk more. If you haven't read her work, pick up the L.A. Noire e-book; she has the first story and it will knock you for a loop. Noir at its finest, among a collection of heavyweights, including Duane Swierczynski, who I told to go to hell. His novel Fun & Games, a wild pulp ride through Hollywood conspiracies, won novel of the year. Read it before they make it a movie with Tom Cruise as Charlie Hardy! It's a blast.
Jimmy Callaway and Glenn Gray. The deal goes down.
There was a rotating gang of kick-ass writers who strode from Irish pub to BBQ joint to Louisiana style raw bar. Joe Myers, Ron Earl Phillips, Keith Rawson, Kent Gowran, Glenn G. Gray, Frank Bill, Eric Beetner, Chris  F. Holm, Johnny Shaw, Matt C. Funk, Daniel B. O'Shea, Chad Rohrbacher, Patti Abbott, Peter Andrew Leonard, Jimmy Callaway, Peter Farris, Cameron Ashley... the faces flash through my head like I ran the gauntlet at initiation, but instead of hooks and kidney punches I was pounded with enjoyable banter and good cheer.

I saved John Connolly from a crazed fan-girl with a phone camera. I accosted Jason Pinter. I escorted Christa Faust to the ballroom, where Max Allan Collins played rock 'n roll. And I learned the extent of Joelle Charbonneau's grace when I bumbled through introductions, and she kindly spoke with the strange man she only knew from Twitter. I met Daniel Woodrell and Scott Phillips, and debated the high and low points of the film ouerve of Dolph Lundgren long into the evening with Johnny Shaw and Christa Faust. Christa and I ended up talking every time we met. I'm reading her novel Choke Hold right now, and if you want a pulp noir trip through the dirty truth of Mixed Martial Arts, from underground fights to the pros, given by a sharp tour guide... look no further. It's the real deal and I'm plowing through it faster than one of Angel Dare's former colleagues would during the final scenes of her movies.
Kick-Ass Christa Faust and my stoic demeanor.
Panels and panels upon panels. Entertaining and educational. Found some new-to-me authors to read like Tom Schreck, a boxer who writes the Duffy Donbrowski series. Those sound right up my alley. I grabbed a copy of Crimespree #43, with the beautiful and talented Sara Gran on the cover, and my story "Rain Dog." I felt like a knight among royalty. Glenn Gray talked about a Noir at the Bar New York, something long overdue that I will gladly assist in any way, if help is needed.
Yes that is a big red salami and it felt good in my mouth.
I had the best ribs I've ever tasted at Pappy's Smokehouse. Tender, fall off the bone but still meaty. The best sweet potato fries, too. A little brown sugar and they were heaven. A group of us led by Matt Funk descended on the place like cannibals and commandeered two picnic tables, groaning in gastronomic delight as we gnawed short pig.

But all such Saturnalia must come to an end. I shuffled to the Metro with my bag heavy with books. Treasuring most the copy of Out There Bad that Josh inscribed to me, a book daring enough to grab you by the scruff of the neck and show you the ugliness we ignore every day. A book I'd be proud to write as my last, and it's his second. Thanks again for everything, Josh. Most of all your friendship.

But honestly, thanks to everybody. It's refreshing to go to a gathering of writers where the egos are checked at the door. Where you don't just rub elbows with the legends but clink beer mugs and share stories. I know I missed meeting a lot of people- Brad Parks, fellow Nutley denizen who asked me to smuggle a Jersey pizza. Well Brad, next time you return to Nutley a Michael's margerita pie is on me. I missed noir poet Gerald So, who just started the crime poetry site the 5-2. He's doing new things with the genre, check him out. Todd Ritter, so many others. And because of my refusal to wear glasses and the small surnames on the name tags, I'm sure a lot of people saw a big hairy ape squinting at them and thought who the hell is this guy and do I still have my wallet?

Thanks especially to the Crimespree crew for running an amazing convention, and for choosing to publish my story "Rain Dog."

© 2011 Thomas Pluck

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Uncleared

My new story, "The Uncleared," is up at A Twist of Noir.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Review: Noir at the Bar

Noir at the Bar
Noir at the Bar by Richard Thomas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Great crime stories by authors I knew and many I didn't. You get classics like "Thin Mints" by Daniel B. O'Shea and "Deviances" by Frank Bill, and crazy stuff like "Vampires are Pussies" by Chris La Tray. Gave me some new writers to follow like Jonathan Woods. And it all supports a local St. Louis independent bookstore, Subterranean Books. You'll gave to go to their store or website to get it, but you won't regret it. Not a bad story in the book, and some great ones.

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Crimespree #43 on Kindle and Nook

The issue of Crimespree with my story "Rain Dog" - as well as articles by Scott Phillips, Declan Burke, Dennis Lehane, Todd Ritter, interviews with Sara Gran and much more, is now available on Kindle and Nook for $3.99

This is the debut of Denny Forrest, a 6'5" three hundred fifty pound rhino of vengeance. He will appear again in Pulp Modern #1 and Plots With Guns, and a novel in the near future.

Nook Version

© 2011 Thomas Pluck

WTC 1995

Unsure who the kid with the afro is....

© 2011 Thomas Pluck

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Lost Children Challenge Stories

44 entries. Wow. A huge response.

The Stories for the Flash Fiction Friday Lost Children Challenge

Includes stories by Fiona Johnson (who came up with the topic), Paul D. Brazill, Chad Rohrbacher, Ron Earl Phillips, Lynn Beighley, Luca Veste, David Barber, J.P. Reese, Erin Zulkoski, Benoit Lelievre, James Lloyd David, Jane Hammons, Susan Tepper, Nicolette Wong, Gill Hoff, MaryAnne Kolton, Seamus Bellamy, Susan Gibb, Sam Rasnake, Larry Strattner, Linda Simoni-Wastila, Erin Mitchell, Paula Pahnke, JF Juzwik, Robert Vaughan, Roberto C. Garcia, Darryl Price, Stephen Hastings-King, Ingrid Hardy, Ian Watson and many more, including myself.

So that's $220 I owe. I sent $150 to PROTECT and the rest will go to Living Water for Girls. Fiona is donating her half to Children 1st.

You can donate on your own, if you missed out writing a story. Or we are considering publishing an e-book with all proceeds going to the three mentioned charities, if we can get enough of the writers on board.

© 2011 Thomas Pluck

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

strictly bidness

by my lovely and talented wife Sarah Bennett Pluck.

© 2011 Thomas Pluck

Monday, September 5, 2011

What do you tell a woman with two black eyes?

Find out in my story "Black-Eyed Susan" at Powder Burn Flash, Aldo Calcagno's hard-hitting crime fiction site.

Proud to be among contributors such as Chad Rohrbacher, Matthew J. McBride, Matt C. Funk, Cameron Ashley, Paul D. Brazill and Jimmy Callaway. Thanks, Aldo!

© 2011 Thomas Pluck

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Flash Fiction Friday: the Lost Children challenge

I'm advertising this one here. I am a monthly contributor to Ron Earl's Flash Fiction Friday, and this month I roped my friend Fiona Johnson, aka @McDroll, to be a guest contributor. And did she come up with a doozy. So good in fact that I offered to donate $5 for each entry to PROTECT, the National Association to Protect Children. And she ponied up 5 pounds per entry to Children 1st, Scotland's charity for abused children.
Causes do not get more important than that. Like Andrew Vachss, I believe we create our own monsters. A disturbing percentage of violent crime has its roots in abuse as children. Fatherless rage drives much of the underground's brutality.

So, please contribute a story, and donate to the causes if you can. Links to the causes and to the entries that are pouring in are here, at Flash Fiction Friday #47: The City of Lost Children

Due date, midnight Thursday Sept 8th, 700 word limit. Short and sweet. So many good stories so far that I'm sure the short fiction venues like Shotgun Honey, Twist of Noir, and Pulp Pusher will be salivating over them.

On Thursday the stories will be collected into a post at the Friday Fiction website and broadcast over the ether. And it looks like I'll be saving up to make my donations over months, from the reaction so far. Make me pay! Write your best!

© 2011 Thomas Pluck

Review: Crimes in Southern Indiana: Stories

Crimes in Southern Indiana: Stories
Crimes in Southern Indiana: Stories by Frank Bill

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Blood feud poetry. Desperate situations where beat-down people stand on the line between what they know is wrong and sheer survival in a hardscrabble emotionally jagged landscape. Those uncomfortable photos in the middle of the newspaper showing a man with sunken sleep-bruised eyes and a couple column inches detailing the unfathomable things he's done. Staring into the abysmal latrine of humanity, it is easy to sink to nihilism, to embrace the banality of evil, but in Crimes in Southern Indiana, Frank Bill refuses to take the easy road. People beyond forgiveness seek mere understanding. Desires criss-cross and hurtle together like jalopies down a one lane dirt road. Anyone can write brutality. Giving it a dark but honest human heart takes guts and a keen sense of people, and this novel speaks volumes of messy truth.
Favorites. Vengeance-fueled rampages like "Old Testament Wisdom." The broken gears of human machines, like in "The Need." Not a bad story in the bunch. I'd read an early version of "Officer Down (Tweakers)" and it is leaner and meaner here. Even the meth-heads get their due, and aren't mere boogeymen. One of the best debuts I've read. The best may be "Cold Hard Love," only because it teases us with the subject Bill's next novel, Donnybrook. Which like this book, will be one not to miss.

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disclaimers of legal bull shitte

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

All writing © 2011 Thomas Pluck and may only be reprinted with express written permission of the author. You may link to pages at will. If you wish to repost anything on your website you must contact Thomas Pluck using the contact form. Thank you for your cooperation. -Robocop