Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Indifference of Heaven

A while back I was asked what book drove me to crime fiction; the first crime books I read were Encyclopedia Brown and Agatha Christie. But what books inspired me to write?
Eight Million Ways to Die, by Lawrence Block; Down in the Zero, by Andrew Vachss; and Black Cherry Blues by James Lee Burke. They all came out a long while ago. I first began to write in college, in the '90s. I'd written a few stories in high school, but mostly a huge and stupid space fantasy novel that I wish I could remember the title of. Dreamslayer, I think. I had another Clive Barker-esque tale called Dirge, the Immortalist I was working on. But once my friend Jack Chan handed me a Dashiell Hammett book- The Continental Op- I was hooked for good.

My first crime novel was of course, envisioned as a series, because the trinity of authors above dealt in series. Burke, Robicheaux, Scudder. My guy, named "Phil," was a heroin addict in recovery who takes a job from a pharmacist to find his runaway daughter. The trail leads him to New Orleans, where he hooks up with a female cop, finds the girl, and her old man happens to be the bad guy, as we all expected. I never finished it, and I regret not following through, but I think Phil is best left simmering in my brain to develop further. He's from a time in my life that is thankfully long gone, and the ideas he inspired are ready for another novel someday, currently called Weekend Irish.

So why's Warren Zevon up there? That song has continued to be an inspiration for crime stories long after Phil went in the drawer. It's about a guy in a dead-end life robbing a 7-11, it going bad, and leaving him watch the surf recede on the beach as he waits for the inevitable. Zevon's father was a small time mobster, and he was never home. According to his biography, the old man was never around and little Warren idolized him. He lived the wild life he imagined for his father vicariously through his songs, and this is one of the most heartfelt. I listen to it sometimes when I need the right tone of melancholy, when a man wants to do right but knows he'll end up hurting someone in the end.

© 2011 Thomas Pluck

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Once Bitten

I learned a valuable lesson this holiday weekend. I had been urging an organization and a well-known writer to get behind a project I have planned, and originally felt confused when they said they couldn't get behind it. I mean, I have noble intentions; I have a record of good deeds. Why aren't I good enough?

And once again the answer is it's not about you. When you've been emotionally abused, bullied, or scarred, you tend to carry a mirror around so you can blame yourself for everything. It's a nasty habit that keeps cropping up, and you must fight it without absolving yourself of responsibility when you do mess up. (A good book that will help you tell the difference is The Confidence Course: Seven Steps to Self-Fulfillment by Walter Anderson.)

But enough about me. This weekend two people did things that made me have to disassociate myself from them. One personally attacked me over declining a promotion opportunity for the charity anthology. I said if she wanted to organize this particular event herself, she had my blessing, and I even informed three other local writers to join her. Instead, my choice was declared a "lack of commitment to the cause." A cause mind you, that I have performed the brunt of the work on, and the writer in question hasn't even promoted the book on her Facebook page, so her opinion means little to me. I spent my holiday weekend fending off her personal attacks, and found she emailed the rest of the writers, souring what has been a wonderful project for two great causes.

Secondly, a friend I recommended a book to, a book that had great personal meaning to me, trashed that book publicly and promoted his review in an effort to drive traffic to his blog through controversy.
Everyone is entitled to their informed opinion, but if this writer despised the book so thoroughly, I was truly puzzled by his reaction. The review mocked the book, and I took a day to cool off before responding. I prefer to save my anger for my writing. I wrote a long post deflecting his petty criticisms and called him out for "stirring up shit" over a 20 year old book that helped define the private eye genre at the time. Is it dated? Perhaps some details are, but the core remains true and strong. I am not going to rewrite my comment, or name the reviewer or the book. Needless to say my comment, and all comments from the defenders of the book were deleted, but his review remains. I find that cowardly and disingenuous.

I have deleted exactly one comment from this blog that was not spam, and it was a personal attack full of profanity and personal details. If you care to read the comments from IMDb trolls I've LEFT up, look for my old post complaining about movie remakes. But really, who cares?

I have to live with my association with two people who've disappointed me. Their temporary failings do not besmirch or erase their talents, but make me wary of their motives. And I understand why writers with established reputations, and organizations who depend on their reps to fight for their cause are loathe to put their name on projects they have little control over.

I've dropped hints that a bigger second volume of the charity anthology is in development, and it remains so. I have a list of writers who will be contacted on both sides of the Atlantic, once a professional contract is written. I'm not letting these lessons stop me from aiming high and making writing about something more than seeing my work in print. They are lessons learned, and I will be more careful who I associate my name with in the future.

After all, a name like Pluck isn't easily forgotten. I don't want to be known as the sheep-shagger, as the old joke goes, but as the bridge-builder...

-"The Plucker"

© 2011 Thomas Pluck

Monday, November 28, 2011

Just Ice

Gerald So runs The 5-2: Crime Poetry Weekly. You might think poetry and crime fiction don't mix, but he'll prove you wrong. I first read his work at Beat to a Pulp, and the tone he evokes in these simple poems is quite striking.

I've been developing a story called "The Ultimate Dis," and the basics of the storyline came off as poetic imagery to me, so I wrote a poem of it as an exercise. Gerald liked it and sent extensive edits- the original poem is about twice as long- and we cut it down to the bone. I like what we came up with.

You'll get to hear me read it, if you chose. To me, I sound like Fozzy the Bear from the Muppet Show, but he gets readings from most of his contributors, and I decided to give it a shot. So if you want to hear Fozzy lay his feelings bare, this is your chance.

JUST ICE at the 5-2: Crime Poetry Weekly

© 2011 Thomas Pluck

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Off the Record...

Luca Veste took an idea and went running; give writers a list of classic tunes and have them write short stories inspired by them. 38 writers made the cut, a double vinyl blast from the past. The royalties will benefit two charities on either side of the Atlantic:

In the UK, National Literacy Trust. (

In the US, Children's Literacy Initiative. (

I chose "Free Bird" to develop an idea I've had in my mind for a while, about a Vietnam Vet and his son both dreaming of that "freedom bird" to escape the war they're in. One overseas and one at home. And we've got a hell of a PLAYLIST on this amazing collection:

1.Neil White - Stairway To Heaven
2.Col Bury – Respect
3.Steve Mosby – God Moving Over The Face Of Waters
4.Les Edgerton - Small Change
5.Heath Lowrance - I Wanna Be Your Dog
6.AJ Hayes - Light My Fire
7.Sean Patrick Reardon - Redemption Song
8.Ian Ayris - Down In The Tube Station At Midnight
9.Nick Triplow - A New England
10.Charlie Wade - Sheila Take A Bow
11.Iain Rowan - Purple Haze
12.Thomas Pluck - Free Bird
13.Matthew C. Funk - Venus In Furs
14.R Thomas Brown - Dock Of The Bay
15.Chris Rhatigan – Shadowboxer
16.Patti Abbott - Roll Me Away
17.Chad Rhorbacher - I Wanna Be Sedated
18.Court Merrigan - Back In Black
19.Paul D. Brazill - Life On Mars?
20.Nick Boldock – Superstition
21.Vic Watson - Bye Bye Baby
22.Benoit Lelievre - Blood On The Dancefloor
23.Ron Earl Phillips - American Pie
24.Chris La Tray – Detroit Rock City
25.Nigel Bird - Super Trouper
26.Pete Sortwell – So Low, So High
27.Julie Morrigan - Behind Blue Eyes
28.David Barber – Paranoid
29.McDroll - Nights In White Satin
30.Cath Bore - Be My Baby
31.Eric Beetner - California Dreamin'
32.Steve Weddle - A Day In The Life
33.Darren Sant - Karma Police
34.Simon Logan - Smells Like Teen Spirit
35.Luca Veste - Comfortably Numb
36.Nick Quantrill - Death Or Glory
37.Helen FitzGerald - Two Little Boys
38.Ray Banks - God Only Knows

With forewords from UK writer Matt Hilton, and US writer Anthony Neil Smith.

You get 38 great stories by top crime writers and you help kids learn to read. That's what we call a win-win. It will be available in print soon, and the Kindle version is available now:

© 2011 Thomas Pluck

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Lost Children anthology, now in trade paper

The giving season is upon us, and you can give the gift that gives to two great causes: PROTECT and Children 1st. The trade paperback of the Lost Children anthology is now available:

The anthology is now available in trade paperback at Amazon and Createspace for $9.99

It is still available for $2.99 in e-book form, for:
iPad in the Apple iBookstore
Amazon Kindle (read it on your computer with Amazon Kindle Cloud Reader, or on your phone with the Amazon Kindle App)
Nook at Barnes & Noble
Kobo, Sony e-reader and download as PDF, epub, mobi or Viewable Online at Smashwords

30 powerful stories from around the world to benefit two children's charities: PROTECT: The National Association to Protect Children ( and Children 1st Scotland ( 

Stories by David Ackley, Kevin Aldrich, David Barber, Lynn Beighley, Seamus Bellamy, Paul D. Brazill, Sif Dal, James Lloyd Davis, Roberto C. Garcia, Susan Gibb, Nancy A. Hansen, K.V. Hardy, Gill Hoffs, Fiona "McDroll" Johnson, J.F. Juzwik, MaryAnne Kolton, Benoit Lelievre, Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw, Vinod Narayan, Paula Pahnke, Ron Earl Phillips, Thomas Pluck, Sam Rasnake, JP Reese, Chad Rohrbacher, Susan Tepper, Luca Veste, Michael Webb, Nicolette Wong and Erin Zulkoski.

It began as a flash fiction challenge when Fiona Johnson and Thomas Pluck donated $5 to PROTECT and £5 to Children 1st for every story at Ron Earl Phillips' Flash Fiction Friday and Fictionaut. Now we have collected the 30 best stories to benefit these two charities.

Join us and make a difference while you read 30 great stories genres by writers from the U.S.A., Poland, Hong Kong, Portugal, India, Scotland, England, Canada, and one told by a Lost Boy of the Sudan to his teacher. 

If you don't have an e-reader: you can download the Kindle for PC or Kindle for Mac app, the Nook for PC App, Nook for Mac App or view it online at Smashwords, or download it as an Adobe PDF file. You can also read epubs on the Adobe Digital Editions reader for PC and Mac.
And of course, you can order a print edition!

 © 2011 Thomas Pluck

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Smooth Criminals

The Smooth Criminals challenge: You read 8 books next year in the categories specified, and review them. Here are my choices:

Hardboiled Classic
I, the Jury  by Mickey Spillane
I bought the paperback for a buck. Spillane gets a lot of love and a lot of hate... for a measly 150 pages I think I ought to make my own decision.
Noir Classic
The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
I've never read this. I saw the movie with Elliot Gould. Shame, shame. I've read The Big Sleep, though. I wanted to stick David Goodis in here, and I might read and review him instead.

Prison Book
Slammer by Allan Guthrie
I've heard so many good things about this, from so many trusted readers that it was the first to come to mind. And how can I resist that cover? One of my favorites in a long, long time. Allan is a fine writer and I look forward to this one.

Book by a Crook
Just Like That by Les Edgerton
Les has done time and he writes great fiction, so I'm jumping on his latest release. I recommend you read all you can by him. He's the real deal and has a broad and encompassing talent with stories.

Psychopathic Protagonist
By Reason of Insanity by Shane Stevens
Chad Eagleton is on a mission to find Shane Stevens or die trying. I performed some minor research for him at the local library, and became intrigued by the reclusive author. This is his most famous book, and involves a psychopathic killer. It is believed to have inspired Thomas Harris and thus the entire serial-killer book industry. I'm not terribly interested in psychopaths. After the initial discovery of what makes them tick and having read every FBI profiler's memoir, the fascination faded. They are banal. I was going to choose a Patricia Highsmith, but wanted to give Shane a shot.

The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James
Another slim paperback that's languished on my shelves without being read, time to tackle this tiny classic.

Classic that Revolves Around a Crime

Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Yup, English major hasn't read this either. Might as well go for a biggie.

Why the Hell Am I Reading This?

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
Totally cheating here. I'm 250 pages into this post-post-modern doorstop and really don't like it. But I will finish it for this challenge. I like DFW's essays but his fiction drives a spike through my head.

© 2011 Thomas Pluck

Monday, November 21, 2011

throwing the disqus

I have switched to Disqus for comments. I hope it works better. It will give you a broader range of login options.

© 2011 Thomas Pluck

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Grift Magazine

John Kenyon has a spiffy new crime site on the web called Grift Magazine. He has begun a weekly flash fiction feature. Last week it opened with Matthew Funk's powerful "The Town They Earned," and this week I'm honored to follow in Matt's impressive footsteps. Check out the site; I hope you enjoy the tale, but bookmark the page or subscribe to the RSS feed, because great things will be happening here. And writers, John is looking for you to flash him some good fiction.

To my U.K. friends- this is my first story set on your side of the ocean; I hope you like it.

© 2011 Thomas Pluck

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Psycho Therapy

I'd like to thank Heath Lowrance, author of The Bastard Hand and Dig Ten Graves, for giving me an opportunity to speak at his excellent crime fiction blog, Psycho Noir. He's been inviting many authors to drop in and have free rein. I give a little insight as to why I write, and I pitch the Lost Children: A Charity Anthology, which I edited with Fiona Johnson and Ron Earl Phillips.

NO RULES by Thomas Pluck

© 2011 Thomas Pluck

Friday, November 11, 2011

Denny the Dent gets some love!

Thanks to Chris Rhatigan AND Elizabeth A. White for spectacular reviews of Pulp Modern #1. They both single out my story "Legacy of Brutality" starring Denny the Dent:

Chris at Death by Killing had this to say:

Thomas Pluck's "Legacy of Brutality" is as devastating as the title would make it out to be. Denny is a character you can't help but admire -- through experience he's learned that you have to defend those you love. Others may dismiss him as just a mound of muscle, but it doesn't long for the reader to figure out he's much more than that.
Elizabeth A. White is one of the best-known crime fiction book reviewers and she also loved Pulp Modern. She had this to say about Denny's tale:

A few standouts…
“Legacy of Brutality” by Thomas Pluck features man-mountain Denny, previously seen in the short “Rain Dog”(Crimespree Magazine, Issue #43). Having come up hard –If there was a God, I’d beat his ass for making this hateful world. – Denny learned early it’s better to listen than talk, and that you have to set things right yourself if you want justice in this life. Brutally good stuff.

Pulp Modern has many great stories and it's an honor to be chosen from them for singling out. Thanks, Chris and Elizabeth!

Reminder: if you buy a copy of Pulp Modern, contact me with the Kontactr form to the right and I'll send you the first Denny story, "Rain Dog," for free in a fancy PDF format.

© 2011 Thomas Pluck

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Critique of Pure Reasoner

"Black-Eyed Susan" by Thomas Pluck is short and mean and well-written. I don't think I've read anything by this author before, but I'll be on the lookout for his name now.
-James Reasoner
James Reasoner had kind words for the entire Beat to a Pulp: Hardboiled anthology, but those words just lit a spark under this new writer's hind end... I told Mr. Reasoner I'd make sure he and everyone else would have no trouble finding my work in the future. Being singled out with Glenn Gray and Wayne Dundee is rather stunning, more so than I was already for being selected for this collection with so many great writers in the first place.

You can find all my fiction online by bookmarking THIS LINK.

and my upcoming publications are here:

"Gumbo Weather," starring Jay Corso, in Needle: A Magazine of Noir Winter 2011
"Lefty," in Crimefactory Magazine #9, December 2011
"Not With a Bang, But a Squeaker," in Schlock Magazine Apocalypse Issue
"White People Problems," in All Due Respect early 2012
"Play Dead," in Yellow Mama, April 2012
"We're All Guys Here," in Dollar Dreadfuls: Dirty Noir Quarterly
"Just Ice," at Gerald So's The 5-2: Crime Poetry Weekly 11/28/2011
"Freedom Bird," in Luca Veste's Off the Record Anthology, December 2011
"Tiger Mother," in Noir Nation #2
"Donkey Dick," in Big Pulp March 2013

© 2011 Thomas Pluck

Thursday, November 3, 2011

When seeking revenge, you should dig two graves.

© 2011 Thomas Pluck

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

a baker's dozen of deviled yeggs...

Beat to a Pulp: Hardboiled is a 99c e-book collection edited by David Cranmer of the excellent Beat to a Pulp fiction site. My story "Black-Eyed Susan" appears, along with some of my favorite fellow authors. Garnet Elliott, who just got accepted at Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine; John Hornor Jacobs, who wrote the Cthulhu noir novel Southern Gods; Brad Green, editor at [PANK] Magazine; Glenn Gray, the shock doc who'll make you squirm as you turn each page; Ron Earl Phillips who appears and co-edited the Lost Children: Charity Anthology, Kent Gowran of Shotgun Honey, Patricia Abbott, who's been knocking me out with stories in Needle and Pulp Ink, Ben Lelievre of Dead End Follies, also in the Lost Children book, Kieran Shea, king of dialogue driven tales, David Cranmer, who doubles as Western wordslinger Ed Grainger, and the one and only Wayne Dundee, author of the Joe Hannibal P.I. books and the western Dismal River.

Once again I'm proud to be among them. Before I wrote my own stories, I was reading theirs. And for a buck, this is the best Kindle bargain I've seen in a long time. If you don't have an e-reader, Amazon lets you read Kindle books online through their free Cloud Reader.

BEAT to a PULP: Hardboiled is a compilation of uncompromising, gritty tales following in the footsteps of the tough and violent fiction popularized by the legendary Black Mask magazine in its early days. This collection includes thirteen lean and mean stories from the fingertips of Garnett Elliott, Glenn Gray, John Hornor Jacobs, Patricia Abbott, Thomas Pluck, Brad Green, Ron Earl Phillips, Kent Gowran, Amy Grech, Benoit Lelievre, Kieran Shea, David Cranmer, and Wayne D. Dundee and a boiled down look at hardboiled fiction in an introduction by Ron Scheer. Edited by David Cranmer and Scott D. Parker.

© 2011 Thomas Pluck

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