Saturday, March 31, 2012

Spinetingler Awards

Spinetingler has announced its nominees for this year's awards, and I'm glad to see many of my favorite writers receive well-deserved nominations. Not to leave anyone out, but some books getting the attention they deserve include The Bitch by Les Edgerton, Josh Stallings' Beautiful, Naked & Dead, Frank Bill's Crimes in Southern Indiana, Johnny Shaw's Dove Season, Donald Ray Pollock's The Devil All the Time, and Megan Abbott's The End of Everything.

I nominated more, like Matthew McBride's incredible debut Frank Sinatra in a Blender, and I still don't know how that didn't make it. I haven't read all the nominees, but they had better be astounding to knock Matt out of the running.

I've crowed about how great my buddy Josh's two novels are many, many times... but here it comes again. I read them before I met him, and I sought him out because he writes like James Crumley with anger displacing the sense of loss that master infused in his work. A much deserved nomination.

I'm also very happy to see Sabrina Ogden, Sandra Seamans, Elizabeth White, Heath Lowrance, and Patti Abbott nominated for the David Thompson Community Leader award. They are pillars of the online crime fiction community, and give the genre a boost when it often can spin its wheels going over the same muddy ground. It's a very tough choice to choose just one of them.

I'm not nominated specifically- I was hoping to get a nomination for best short story on the web, but there is some very tough competition and I'm happy for all the writers who did make it. Matt Funk, David James Keaton, Court Merrigan, Nigel Bird, Peter Farris, Hilary Davidson... I hope one of you knocked me out of contention. That would be a death with honor.

Several publications I've been a part of are nominated, so please vote early and often:

Beat to a Pulp: Hardboiled AND Off the Record are both nominated for best short story anthology. My stories "Black-Eyed Susan" and "Free Bird" appear in them, respectively:
Beat to a Pulp: Hardboiled
Off the Record

Pulp Modern, Beat to a Pulp, Shotgun Honey, Needle, Noir Nation, and Crimefactory are all up for Best Zine (hey, no Plots With Guns?) and I my stories have or will appear in all six of those... and Plots with Guns, who I think is criminally underrated, no pun intended.
"Legacy of Brutality" in Pulp Modern
"A Glutton for Punishment" in Beat to a Pulp
"Faggot," "Shogun Honey," and "The Last Sacrament" in Shotgun Honey
"Tiger Mother" in Noir Nation #2
"Lefty" in Crimefactory #10
"Gumbo Weather" in the next issue of Needle

I'm proud as a Proudfoot to have stories in these excellent zines, and I'm glad the ballot's secret. I have no idea how to choose just one.

And don't forget that Spinetingler just released their first Kindle issue, and my story "Two to Tango" is included. If that story doesn't affect you, I'm handing in my gloves.

Please take the time to vote. We writers can be little attention leeches, but even the champs love to hear when they throw a good punch, and you readers have the good seats. We can't always tell from inside the ring.


© 2012 Thomas Pluck
I post on Twitter as TommySalami ~ My Facebook Page

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Review: Townie

Townie by Andre Dubus III

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An excellent memoir that hit painfully close to home for me. Andre Dubus explains the pain of divorce for a child and the fearfulness that settles in after the shake up, and how it makes a young boy an easy target for bullies. He goes on to show with artful cogency how this fear turns to armor and muscle, as he heads toward a Golden Gloves match in his early twenties, and pounds the snot out of every bully and wifebeater he sees. This would be a glorification if he didn't delve further, and dig out the nugget of truth behind every white knight. That it is not about saving the damsel, it is about defending his own honor and proving his own mettle.
His slow maturation as a man and a writer make for interesting reading; he lingers on the conflicts and bares the raw nerve endings that made these confrontations occur. It also serves as a sort of biography of his father, the writer of "Killings" and many other classics of short fiction. While it may be painful to see the feet of clay his father had, it shows the roots of his Hemingway-inspired vision of manhood and how falling short of such in front of his own father drove him to a self-absorbed life of narcissism. His father redeems himself in the end, and his life serves as a portrait of the generation that came after WW2 who weren't exactly baby boomers, the war babies, and how they dealt with their war hero fathers.
I'm not usually a fan of memoirs, but this one gripped me. I recognized the relentless coyote stare of the frightened young boy inside the chiseled and toughened man. It was a fascinating and familiar read, a document of young male rage, its roots and causes, and how one angry boy tamed them to become a man, and settle conflicts with his brain and not his fists.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Song in my head this week: Silent E by Tom Lehrer

Tom Lehrer is one of those clever and witty satirist songwriters that everyone says they like but rarely listen to. Maybe you've heard Poisoning Pigeons in the Park, or his hilarious poke at German rocket scientist Werner von Braun, but odds are you've heard the songs he did for Sesame Street (or was it The Electric Company?) the most. Silent E and L-Y.


L-Y is even better, it has a creepy vibe to it and uses adverbs properly for the sake of brevity. It's also very funny. Lehrer had a great and cynical wit, and a prodigious output that I keep wishing to delve into. But I never do. I sit back and think of porcupines and turning a hug huge instantly, and that's as far as I get. Any big fans of Lehrer out there? Which album is your favorite?

© 2012 Thomas Pluck
I post on Twitter as TommySalami ~ My Facebook Page

Friday, March 23, 2012

That's a Lulu - Grift #1

I neglected to share the purchase link for GRIFT #1, John Kenyon's new quarterly which includes my short story "Six Feet Under God."

Here's where you get Grift #1
It's now 15% off. Grab it and a couple copies of Needle Magazine, and the Off the Record Anthology by Luca Veste, which contains my story "Freedom Bird" that broke some hearts and made grown men cry.

It has stories and articles by Lawrence Block, Ken Bruen, Ray Banks, Scott Phillips, Matthew C. Funk, Chris F. Holm, Keith Rawson, Court Merrigan, Alec Cizak, Todd Robinson, Craig McDonald, Jack Bates, and a little plucky plucker named Thomas Pluck.

© 2012 Thomas Pluck
I post on Twitter as TommySalami ~ My Facebook Page

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Song in my Head this Week: Wreckless Eric

My wife and I disagree on what makes good music, sometimes. I turned her on to the Black Keys and the Flaming Lips, and she hooked me on the Fratellis and the Roots. She prefers classically trained singers who can really belt it out, who sound the same on stage as in the studio, like Muse for example.

I lean more towards singer-songwriters who can often write better than they can sing, but give everything they've got. Warren Zevon, Tom Waits, Janis, and... Wreckless Eric. His song "The Whole Wide World" has been covered numerous times by better singers than he, but I like the balls-out, barely coherent original. When Eric warbles and growls that he'll go the whole wide world to find the girl meant for him, you know damn well he will, and he won't stop walking after 500 miles. No, he'll crawl on his belly in the sand and the grit like a leopard-skin Terminator, until the girl crushes him in an industrial press.

Not a bad song at all to have stuck in your head. Eric also wrote "Be Stiff," which was covered later by Devo. This album's a lost gem of pure energy, and I urge you to seek it out.

© 2012 Thomas Pluck
I post on Twitter as TommySalami ~ My Facebook Page

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Grift Magazine - Six Feet Under God

"God is dead, and no one's doing anything about it. Except me."
-Kelsey Flinthoof, private dick, in "Six Feet Under God"

That's from my story in the inaugural issue of GRIFT MAGAZINE by John Kenyon, now available from Lulu Press.
Grift Magazine #1

Not only do you get my postmodern meta-hardboiled tale that begins on Easter Sunday and ends with philosophers, scientists prophets and theologians giving up answers beneath the barrage of Kelsey's two fists and the blast of his 45.

Buy Grift #1 and you'll also get fiction from Ken Bruen, Matthew Funk, Keith Rawson, Todd Robinson and Alec Cizak; articles by Lawrence Block, Ray Banks, Scott Phillips, Chris Rhatigan, Julie Morrigan and an interview with Chris Offutt by editor John Kenyon.

It's a hell of a start to a quarterly, and I'm proud to be in it.

© 2012 Thomas Pluck
I post on Twitter as TommySalami ~ My Facebook Page

Friday, March 16, 2012

Two to Tango in Spinetingler

I am honored to appear in Spinetingler Magazine's first Kindle issue, Winter 2012. My illustrious company includes Patti Nase Abbott, Mike Miner, Court Merrigan and Albert Tucher. Spinetingler has been around for ten years online and is a Mystery Writers of America approved venue. I highly doubt "Two to Tango" will be to the MWA's taste, but here's hoping that a few of them read it.

It's one of my most polarizing stories, and while the characters are all adults, the title comes from the true closing statement of a judge who gave a child rapist a soft sentence. I learned of this judge through Alice Vachss's eye-opening book Sex Crimes: Ten Years on the Front Lines Prosecuting Rapists and Confronting Their Collaborators, where she details how difficult it is to prosecute sex offenders in the D.A.'s office. It is out of print, but I urge you to hunt it down if you think SVU is how things play out in court.

It is a revenge story, but not a straightforward one. I'd like to hear what you think. You can't comment on a Kindle, but you can here, and in the Amazon reviews for the magazine. I'd appreciate your feedback.

© 2012 Thomas Pluck
I post on Twitter as TommySalami ~ My Facebook Page

Krug's Tavern - still the best

Open since 1938, once owned by Raging Bull boxer Jake "The Bronx Bull" LaMotta and still owned by his family, Krug's Tavern in Newark's Ironbound neighborhood is housed in an unassuming and dilapidated building that could be mistaken for a run of the gin mill bar full of cranky old men drinking piss-yellow beer out of tiny glasses. Inside, it has that kind of feel. A few high top tables, a long mahogany bar with patched red vinyl stools. A poster of LaMotta behind the bar, amidst the bottles of Tullamore Dew.

But if you venture in the flimsy storm door and linger, you'll find an energetic blue collar crowd stuffing the place at lunch hour, from electrical workers and hard hats in uniform, the boys from the docks in their tracksuits, and cop brass stretching their conservatively cut sport coats. The kind of place where crook and law alike will belly up to the bar. Behind which sits a glass case brimming with meatballs the size of grapefruit, which will soon become a legendary burger for those with king size appetites. Order one and they'll flatten out that softball of fat speckled chuck on the griddle and sizzle it low and slow so it remains juicy even if you order it well done.

When I was a kid, there was a diner car named Nunzio's, run by an eponymous, mustachioed fellow who could've jumped in a pair of overalls and white gloves to play Super Mario. He served a juicy burger on a Kaiser roll that remains the paragon of burgers to me. He wouldn't serve me one on Friday during Lent, either. I had to get peppers and eggs on a roll. Krug's burger hits that nostalgic memory in the bullseye. They serve theirs on a large sesame seed bun that is just barely up to the task. It stays together, but you eat your burger wondering if you'll have to finish with a knife and fork, especially if you're generous with the ketchup.

Places that manage a juicy griddle burger are uncommon these days. Ann's Snack Bar in Atlanta makes an even bigger patty than Krug's, their infamous Ghetto Burger- a full pound of well-seasoned beef topped with chili and cheese, the size of the paper plate it's served on- and Jimmy's in Harlem steams theirs under a steel ice cream cup. Both are worth visiting, but if you're in New Jersey, only Krug's will do. Oh, I love the burgers at the Cloverleaf Tavern. If you get them medium rare, those perfect chewy rolls handle any number of toppings, from their Cajun Crunch burger topped with house-made spicy potato chips, to the Fatburger with Monterey Jack cheese sticks and Taylor Ham pork roll. But Krug's is all about the beef.

I've had bacon cheese burgers at Krug's, and most recently, a Taylor Ham & cheese (pictured above). It is that rare burger that is not overwhelmed by a crisp and smoky slice of bacon, or two slices of fat and spicy pork roll. All you taste is good, juicy, ground beef. What a burger should be. They pack 3/4 of a pound into that bun for $6.50. Bacon or Taylor is a buck extra. Fries and battered onion rings- both excellent, crispy and always fried in fresh, tasteless oil- are extra. And enormous. Their mozzarella sticks are house made, never frozen, fried to bursting, crisp and gooey as they are meant to be. They have a good selection on tap, with Harpoon and Sam Adams available as well as the American trinity of Bud-Miller-Coors. They serve Cokes in the can, and your meal begins with a fresh sour pickle and two hot cherry vinegar peppers arranged in vulgar fashion.
I've written about Krug's before for Serious Eats, and it is always a memorable experience. They are consistent, and I've never had a bad burger. Doing it since 1938 must help. The place ain't pretty, but it's got character. There's a biscuit shaped elbow of pipe jutting through the tiles in the men's room. A '58 Thunderbird rusts on flat tires in the parking lot. Loud men lunch here, venting out the day's woes. But it's an original, and without pretense. My kind of place. Next, I'll give you the rundown on my favorite seafood joint- not Legal Seafood, despite their excellent food- but a little hole in the wall in Garfield where a bowl of fried clams and a beer won't set you back more than six bucks.

© 2012 Thomas Pluck
I post on Twitter as TommySalami ~ My Facebook Page

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Glen Cook's Garrett P.I.

He doesn't wear a trenchcoat or a fedora, but he's a P.I. just the same. Garrett, the star of 13 novels by fantasy author Glen Cook, is one of my favorite series characters. Garret is an ex-Marine and street tough who runs an investigative business in the city of TunFaire, a fantastic hardboiled town loosely based on St. Louis. It's got elves, dwarves, grolls - giant-troll hybrids - wizards and undead, and it's all tied up in a Chandleresque worldview that meets Nero Wolfe's structure. See, Garrett works for the Dead Man, a long-dead lich-like creature who can read and manipulate minds, when he's interested. Often the mysteries tie up with an "I bet you're wondering why I've gathered you here," moment, but other times it's a bloody battle with backstreet thugs, rampaging gods, and evil sorcerers.

Cook keeps you on your toes. I've enjoyed all the novels, though I felt Angry Lead Skies was a rather strange departure that dipped deep into fan service. I'd highly recommend beginning at the beginning, because he builds a rich world reminiscent of post-Vietnam America in many ways. I'd bet green money that Mr. Cook is a big fan of James Crumley, with how Garrett sits around drinking with his war buddies and wonders what the hell they did with their lives. The favorites of mine that stick out are Red Iron Nights, a supernatural serial killer tale; Faded Steel Heat, which ties up TunFaire's underworld in a brutal tale reminiscent of Paul Cain; and Petty Pewter Gods, which brings a lost pantheon of bizarre deities gunning for new believers.

If you've read Glen Cook's excellent, gritty fantasy series The Black Company, you know is talented at building a believable world. He has a lot more leeway here with his humor, but still writes solid crime fiction with a strong emotional foundation. The evil that men do leaves ugly scars, and he does not shy from it, or make light of it. The novels have enough lightheartedness to appeal to P.G. Wodehouse fans, but dip deep into the grit to keep the hardboiled half of me happy. They're somewhat unique, and will appeal to both fantasy and crime fiction fans.

© 2012 Thomas Pluck

I post on Twitter as TommySalami ~ My Facebook Page

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Review: Mile 81

Mile 81
Mile 81 by Stephen King

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A good old fashioned monster story by Mr. King. I'm not sure if this just feels less polished than his excellent Skeleton Crew and Night Shift-era stories, or if it's me who's changed. He spends a lot of time on character for people who are just going to be eaten by a transdimensional behemoth posing as a car in a rest stop. But I supposed that worked. It does get quite tense at the end, but I found the resolution almost silly and over too soon. It's a good quick read, but why isn't it as memorable as "The Raft," which is essentially the same story? I don't know. I'd have to go back and read his earlier work, but he uses more parentheses in "Mile 81" than I imagine he used in all his early story collections. I read a lot of young, hungry writers who write lean and mean, and while I like a story to be given its head and allowed to run, this one didn't have the meat on its bones to handle it.
Skip it and read his novel From a Buick 8, which is a much better take on the same idea.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

All the Bacon and Eggs You Have

My new favorite person.

© 2012 Thomas Pluck
I post on Twitter as TommySalami ~ My Facebook Page

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Hunger Games

I can see why this is so popular, and I enjoyed it very much. Excellent protagonist who is very sure of herself in some ways and not in others; Katniss Everdeen makes for good company, and I've always been a fan of YA dystopias (back in my day, the Tripods books by John Christopher were awesome).
It's a thriller through and through, and once the games begin it ramps up again and again. Collins learned from Spillane to sell the next book with the last page. I'm very eager to read book two, but I have many more in my TBR pile and I'll wait for the next movie's release before I spend an afternoon reading it.

Collins paints characters well, though don't expect more than archetype for those on the sidelines. This lives up to the hype and I look forward to seeing the post-apocalyptic world fleshed out in the rest of the trilogy. I enjoyed this more than many recent thrillers written for adults, and while some are iffy on questioning government authority when they agree with who is in power, it is always a good subject for readers of any age.

Highly recommended.

© 2012 Thomas Pluck
I post on Twitter as TommySalami ~ My Facebook Page

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Always be Batman

Not normally one to jump on the viral meme wagon, but I liked this one. Because Batman is about being yourself. Poor Bruce Wayne has to be the billionaire playboy by day, but at night he dons tights, drives a motor head's wet dream and beats the crap out of thugs.

It's the small rebellions.

Everyone likes Batman. He's just a guy. No gamma rays, no parents from planet Krypton. No heat vision. I could say he's a rich guy who slums it in the poor side of Gotham beating on crooks, but he uses his power for good. And he drives himself to be the best, even when he was born on third base and could be an idle rich twit if he wanted.

Reminds me of what my friend and MMA teacher says. You can buy a Ferrari, or you can BE the Ferrari.

Or if you're Batman, you can do both.

I wrote a story for Beat to a Pulp: Superhero  starring Denny the Dent, which involves Batman. I always loved the Hulk, but Batman was a close second. People see the Hulk in Denny, but he wants to be Batman. Smarter, moral. Not a slave to the green rage. I give Denny his legs in this 7200 word tale, and we go deeper into his world. He's killed a lot of people since he got out of prison. He never wants to go back, so he is keeping a lower profile. But trouble has a way of finding Denny. People see their own resentments in him. He inspires fear, and misplaced fear makes us behave at our worst.

The story, "Garbage Man," will be appearing soon, e-book only, but readable in Amazon's Kindle Cloud Reader. For now, get a taste of Denny in:

Pulp Modern #1, "Legacy of Brutality." The first Denny story; where his friendship with Chareese, a trainer at the gym, gets him into trouble.

Crimespree no.4,  "Rain Dog." A flash fiction story written for Daniel B. O'Shea's tornado relief challenge, Denny goes for a run in the rain, where he won't be bothered by people... and runs into thugs using the weather for cover of their own.

Plots with Guns, "Junkyard Dog." Denny finds a job hauling scrap with Earl, and a little dog brings them big trouble. This one is available for free online, and "Garbage Man" directly follows, so give it a read.

And try to be Batman. He keeps his dark side in check, but he doesn't let the accident of his entitled birth keep him from doing good for us all.

© 2012 Thomas Pluck
I post on Twitter as TommySalami ~ My Facebook Page

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

the song in my head this week is by... Gotye

This one is a little quirky and recalls an old Dolly Parton song of the same name, but is not a cover. The video is interesting and reminds me of the Peter Gabriel videos of the '80s, but I think this song works best without distraction, a quiet lament for mutual destruction. © 2012 Thomas Pluck
I post on Twitter as TommySalami ~ My Facebook Page

Friday, March 2, 2012

Review: Meely LaBauve

Meely LaBauve
Meely LaBauve by Wells

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very enjoyable read set in the Catahoula bayou, about a Cajun boy raised by his wild spirit of a father. Emile, or Meely, goes fishing or squirrel hunting as often as he goes to school, and gets beat on by the school bully, whose uncle happens to be a police sergeant. His adventures and how he fights back are reminiscent of Huck Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird. It's a charming coming of age story, but felt a little too happy to be real. I laughed aloud many times, and the characters are all great company. A good read that'll make you want to cook up a roux and make some gumbo.


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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Blood and Tacos!

Johnny Shaw, author of the hilarious and heartfelt fiasco DOVE SEASON, has put together a new quarterly homage to the men's magazines and pulp novels of the '70s. Think Remo Williams, the Destroyer. I review an awful ripoff called RAKER, and there is fiction by Matthew Funk, Cameron Ashley, Gary Phillips and Johnny himself.

Blood & Tacos #1 is a buck for Kindle, and I guarantee you will be entertained. Look at that incredible cover by Roxane Patruznick. This one will be a load of retro fun.

  © 2012 Thomas Pluck I post on Twitter as TommySalami ~ My Facebook Page

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