Monday, April 30, 2012

Review: Every Shallow Cut

Every Shallow Cut
Every Shallow Cut by Tom Piccirilli

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have a confession to make. I don't like stories about writers. Or losers. Or writers who are losers. Well, that's not technically true, as most noir tales are about losers of some sort, and a few writer stories like Misery are interesting, mostly because of the crazed fan with a chainsaw. I am picky with the kind of loser story I like. If you are on a path of self-destruction, that's fine. If you are crushed by forces bigger than you, that's fine. If you're a schlub, I am not interested, 99% of the time.

Two books* in recent memory have been exception to this, and one of them is Every Shallow Cut, Tom Piccirilli's raw and unflinching tale of a man in a death spiral. A bullshit artist in a world of bullshitters clinging to a crumbling bullshit world, our nameless narrator was happy once, but built his house on the soft clay of imaginary dreams. The inevitable sinkhole has consumed his wife, his work and his life. He trades his last possessions for a gun in a pawn shop, and goes tracking the condescending villains of his personal tragedy, only to find they are as pathetic and devastated as he is. Every Shallow Cut is a subtle masterpiece that lays open the story of the man who's lost everything and goes looking for answers.

Highly recommended.

* (The other book is The Ask, by Sam Lipsyte).

View all my reviews

Friday, April 27, 2012

We Were Intrepid, Once

I climbed onto the roof of my building today to watch the fly-by of the Space Shuttle Enterprise atop a 747, for its final air voyage before it becomes a museum piece on the deck of the USS Intrepid. I remember the sense of wonder, a tickle in the gut, when I watched the first space shuttle launch, the Columbia. I recall the emptiness when the Challenger exploded over the ocean. And worse, when we later learned it was avoidable, and that they burned up in the shuttle's slow death spiral into the sea.

So there is another sense of loss, seeing the iconic shuttle fly for the last time. I know the space program will go on, with the Orion vehicles. At least I hope it will. The shuttles were what a car maker calls a "halo vehicle," a money loser that drives other sales. The Dodge Viper never makes money, but those who can't afford it might buy a sporty, affordable car from Dodge. The shuttle may have struggled to remain relevant, but it looked like what our dreams expected when we thought of futuristic space travel, and that made us interested in what NASA was doing, even if the science was a little dubious. Like when John Glenn flew up there to test zero gravity's effects on an aged body. Hey, I was fine with the astronaut getting a freebie flight up there.

Will we watch the Orion launches with the same sense of wonder? I hope so. It's a rocket based system. Not as sexy. I hope it will be much safer for the astronauts, though. 2 missions out of 135 failed, with loss of life. The engineers said the design would have a 1 in 100 chance of failure, and sadly, it looks like their math was correct.

We tend to think of the space program as a luxury, but I think President Kennedy was correct about its importance. We must dream big. We should not abandon our fight for the stars. It is not a zero sum game. Every space launch does not leave a child unprotected. And while we wage war with impunity, we cannot point a finger of blame at the rocket taking humanity to Mars.

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

Review: Paths of Life: Seven Scenarios

Paths of Life: Seven Scenarios
Paths of Life: Seven Scenarios by Alice Miller

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are few books that have succeeded in changing my way of thinking. One of them was The Confidence Course by Walter Anderson. This groundbreaking book exposes the breadth of child abuse in the world committed under the guise of discipline. "Man hands down inhumanity to man," wrote Philip Larkin. And psychoanalyst Alice Miller- who left the Psychiatrists association for their refusal to let go of Freud's abuser-forgiving "Oedipus Complex"- shows in stark detail how "every smack is a humiliation," and we force ourselves to think we deserved it, because the truth- that our beloved parents hit us out of frustration or anger- is too much to bear.
I was blessed with a good childhood. I was never spanked or slapped that I remember. However, I learned that one expresses his anger by shouting, frightening his loved ones, slamming doors and punching walls, from my alcoholic father. It's a behavior I struggle with. I avoid confrontations, because I am afraid of what my fists will do. When I was five, a playmate hit me in the head with a chunk of asphalt because he wanted the car I was playing with. My mother had to pull me off of him. Ever since then I have fought battles with temper. I've trained in MMA to have an outlet for it.
This short book will help you decode your own behavior, with a little introspection. And when you unravel it, you can begin to change it from the roots.
Its revelations are also stunning: not every abused child goes on to become a criminal, but every violent criminal studied has revealed a litany of abuses that "they deserved." And they take it out on the rest of us until the day they die. Miller does not absolve the violent of their behavior, but shows us how to reduce it in future generations. We have yet to listen.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Two Books for the Price of One

I have a few trade paperbacks of Lost Children: A Charity Anthology to Benefit PROTECT and Children 1st I'd like to sell. They are for sale at Watchung Booksellers, and cost $9.99

It contains 30 flash fiction tales by myself, Paul D. Brazill, Chad Rohrbacher, David Barber, Fiona "McDroll" Johnson, Ron Earl Phillips, Lynn Beighley, Susan Tepper, Nicolette Wong, Benoit Lelievre, Seamus Bellamy, J.F. Juzwik, Nancy Hansen, JP Reese, Luca Veste, Sam Rasnake, Sif Dal, Veronica Lewis-Marie Shaw, David Ackley, James Lloyd Davis, Roberto C. Garcia, MaryAnne Kolton, Vinod Narayan,  Paula Pahnke, Susan Gibb, Ingrid K.V. Hardy, Gil Hoffs and Erin Zulkoski.

If you buy one from the above link, or go into the store (map below) and buy a copy, send me the email receipt via the Kontactr form to the right, and I will give you one of the following free gifts, first come first served. $5 of the sale goes to PROTECT and Children 1st, and $5 goes to support a great local independent bookstore, Watchung Booksellers. They've agreed to sell the book for us, so for a limited time I'm giving out freebies if you buy from them:

Dark Horse Presents #10, with "Dead Reliable" by Andrew Vachss, and illustrated by Geoff Darrow

D*CKED: Dark Fiction Inspired by Dick Cheney (Ken Bruen, Scott Phillips, Hilary Davidson, Harry Hunsicker, Tony Black, more)

Noir at the Bar: Short Fiction by Frank Bill, Matthew McBride, Pinckney Benedict, Dennis Tafoya and many more

Angel's Tip, by Alafair Burke

My beat to hell copy of STEAL THIS BOOK! by Abbie Hoffman

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption,  by Laura Hillenbrand (hardcover)

The Blasted Heath Boxset: 5 ebooks on a classy USB key with a steely collector box. All The Young Warriors by Anthony Neil Smith, Dead Money by Ray Banks, The Man in the Seventh Row by Brian Pendreich, Phase Four by Gary Carson, and The Long Night of Barney Thomson, by Douglas Lindsay.

Needle: A Magazine of Noir, Winter 2010 (Ray Banks, Sophie Littlefield, Anthony Neil Smith, Matthew McBride)

Needle: A Magazine of Noir, Spring 2011 (Ray Banks, Tom Piccirilli, Patti Abbott)

Needle: A Magazine of Noir, Fall 2011 (Ray Banks, Gil Brewer,  Alan Leverone)

Needle: A Magazine of Noir, Spring 2010 (Hilary Davidson, Dave Zeltserman, Paul D. Brazill)

Needle: A Magazine of Noir, Summer 2010 (Ray Banks, Chris F. Holm, Frank Bill, Stephen Blackmoore)

Out of the Gutter #4 (Ray Banks, Anthony Neil Smith, Sandra Seamans, Chris Pimental)

Pulp Modern #2 (Patti Abbott, Michael Moreci, Matt Funk, more)

Three magazine bundle:
Crimespree Magazine #45, (Hilary Davidson cover)
Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, Nov 2011
Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Nov 2011

The above books vary in condition but all are readable, though the Abbie Hoffman book will fall apart on you, rather like the yippie movement in the '70s. I offer it for nostalgic value only.

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

Song Stuck in my head: Lonely Boy

I've been a Black Keys fan for some time, but their newest albums took some time to grow on me. Now, I can't get enough of them. I love the rambunctious energy of this song, and how the hard bass line and retro organ lend it to a '70s muscle car chase, like in Dirty Mary Crazy Larry.

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

Friday, April 20, 2012

When You Were a Young Adult...

The more hear the marketing term "young adult" the more it bothers me, but that's not what I wanted to write about. I wanted to ask what books you enjoyed as a teenager, or a tween. My wife was reading Stephen King at age 12, and to this day if we see a clown in a sewer, she trembles with fear. I didn't read Mr King until I was in high school, if I recall. My favorite "young adult" books were surprisingly tame, but I still have great memories of reading them. My mother thought I was weird for reading nonfiction books voraciously as a little nerd kid, but I slowly warmed to fiction after reading books that put forth supernatural horror legends as truth (kind of like "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark meets In Search Of"), and from there Stephen King's real horror tales were but a stepping stone away.

The Tripods series, by John Christopher

I read these out of order. The first one I read was The City of Gold and Lead, which occurs after an alien invasion and takeover of Earth. The aliens are tall fleshy bipeds not unlike the critters in Independence Day or "Hammerhead" from the Star Wars cantina:

Or at least they did in my imagination. These books were great fun, and reading of their flight and rebellion against the aliens fueled playtime adventures in the woods and decrepit railyards we romped in. They'd hold up today, and my kid is going to read them. Unless we're ruled by aliens, then. I still remember how the enslaved kid beat his alien captor's nose in with a back brush. John Christopher also wrote The Lotus Caves, about kids who explore a moon and find a lost astronaut living it up on hallucinogenic mushrooms. As you can guess from the title, it is a lot like the Lotus-Eaters section of The Odyssey.

The Pinballs, by Betsy Byars

The closest to a stereotypical "Y/A" book that I enjoyed was The Pinballs, from the spinner shelf of my 6th grade teacher, Mr. Murray. It was written by Betsy Byars, about three children in foster care, who feel like they are bounced around like pinballs, without any control. Many children have this feeling, and my parents had divorced, so it resonated with me. I don't remember too much except the children were realistic, and learned to take control of their lives by the end, without it being too happy of an ending.

Blubber, by Judy Blume

I can't remember how many Judy Blume books I read back then. Blubber sticks in my mind most, but I also read Iggie's House and Tiger Eyes, I think. I read almost everything on Mr. Murray's shelf, but I had no problem reading books that were supposedly "for girls." Blubber is a great book about bullying and schoolbus dynamics. It shows how easily kids go from friends to enemies and how adults' treatment of a peer will change their position in the kid pecking order. Maybe I'll read it again after I tackle Moby Dick.

Strange Companion

This one also lured me into fiction because it was about animals. I was reading all the nonfiction books about wildlife that the library had to offer, and this is about a boy who is lost in the woods when the ranger who is taking him to his father's remote cabin is kicked to death by a moose. I was into woods survival then, and with the Cold War raging under Reagan, we thought we'd be eating slugs and living like Lord of the Flies any day now. The boy sort of befriends an injured crane, and they survive together somehow. Then when he is an adult, the bird shits on his car and their friendship is ruined. Maybe I'm making up that last part.

So, what were your favorite books in the sixth grade?

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

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Review: The Beasts of Valhalla

An enjoyable novel that goes from murder mystery to James Bond film. The lead character is interesting, an ex-circus dwarf turned criminologist, karate expert, and private investigator. He has little trouble with anything a dwarf deals with on a daily basis. I can suspend my disbelief for mad scientist shenanigans, but can a dwarf drive an unmodified car? Petty, I know, but this is the main character we're talking about. I forgot he was a dwarf, and it felt like the author did, too. It's a good rollicking story, but left me feeling rushed and like much had been forgotten. The first act is excellent, but once the huge conspiracy unfolds, it becomes a very different story, more plot driven than character driven, and while we meet some very interesting characters, they are mere kindling for to keep the steam boiler running. One major helper simply disappears.

I'll admit, I read this as I am tying my own novel together and digging out problems at the root, so I was quite critical with this one. For a quick fun read, it works. I was expecting a lot more, and left disappointed. I am told this book was a turning point for the series, and I will go back to see if it had a more emotional foundation in the earlier books.

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

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Guest Spot: Mr. Glamour, by Richard Godwin

This is the first of my Hump Day Guest Spot series. Hopefully it will be weekly, every Wednesday I will offer up the reins of the Pluck You, Too chariot to someone whose work I admire, whether they be a blogger, writer, artist, musician, designer, circus acrobat, actor, etc... This week we begin with Richard Godwin, who runs the best interview series of crime authors on the web: Chin Wag at the Slaughterhouse. He is also quite the accomplished writer, penning crime, horror and dark fiction. His latest is Mr. Glamour, a twist on the twisted serial killer novel. 
And now, I give you... Mr. Richard Godwin:

Designer goods, beautiful women, wealthy men, a lifestyle preyed on by a serial killer.
A killer who is watching everyone, including the police.
Latest headlines?
No, an outline of my second novel, Mr. Glamour.
My debut novel Apostle Rising was published in paperback by Black Jackal Books last year. It was about a serial killer crucifying politicians, and sold extremely well, received excellent reviews, and sold foreign rights to the largest publisher in Hungary.
Now Black Jackal Books have published Mr. Glamour, and I’d like to tell you a bit about it. The settings are exotic, and the pages drip with wealth. The story’s told in my usual style, and my readers will know what that means. I have been told I write with a blend of lyricism and graphic description. I like to explore what motivates people and I certainly do so with the leading characters in Mr. Glamour.
The two central cops, DCI Jackson Flare and Inspector Steele, are unusual and strong in their own ways, as reviewers are already picking up. At the beginning of the novel Steele hates working with Flare for personal reasons. She doesn’t by the end, and the investigation takes them both on a journey which changes them and their opinions of one another.
Let me give you the setting if you are tempted to read Mr. Glamour.

Something dark is preying on the glitz of the glamour set. There is a lot about designer goods and lifestyles in Mr. Glamour. The killer knows all about design, he knows what brands mean to his victims. He is branding their skins. And he has the police stumped.
As Flare and Steele investigate the killings they enter an exclusive world with its own rules and quickly realise the man they are looking for is playing a game with them, a game they cannot interpret. The killer is targeting an exclusive group of people he seems to know a lot about.
The police investigation isn’t helped by the fact that Flare and Steele have troubled lives. Harlan White, a pimp who got on the wrong side of Flare, is planning to have him killed. And Steele has secrets. She leads a double life. She is an interesting woman who pushes her sexual boundaries in private. She travels a journey into her own past and rescues herself. And in a strange way she is helped by the killer she is looking for. And Flare has some revelations in store.
As they try to catch a predator who has climbed inside their heads, they find themselves up
against a wall of secrecy. The investigation drives Flare and Steele to acts of darkness. And the killer is watching everyone.
Then there is the sub plot.
Contrasting this lifestyle is the suburban existence of Gertrude Miller, who acts out strange rituals, trapped in a sterile marriage to husband Ben. She cleans compulsively and seems to be hiding something from him, obsessed that she is being followed. As she slips into a

psychosis, characters from the glamorous set stray into Gertrude’s world, so the two plots dovetail neatly with one another.
And when Flare and Steele make an arrest they discover there is far more to this glamorous world than they realised. There is a series of shocks at the end of the novel as a set of fireworks go off. Watch out for the highly dramatic ending.
It is already picking up some great reviews.
Advance praise for Mr. Glamour:
“Richard Godwin knows how his characters dress, what they drink and what they drive. He knows how they live--- and how they die. Here's hoping no one recognized themselves in Godwin's cold canvas. Combines the fun of a good story with the joy of witty, vivid writing.”
Heywood Gould, author of The Serial Killer's Daughter.

“Smart, scary, suspenseful enough for me to keep the light on until 3AM on a Sunday night, Richard Godwin once more proves to fans of crime fiction the world over with Mr. Glamour, that he is not only one of the best contemporary writers of the procedural cop thriller around today, he is a master storyteller.”  
Vincent Zandri, author of Scream Catcher.

“Richard Godwin’s top-of-the-line psychological police procedural driven by its heady pace, steely dialogue, and unsparing vision transfixes the reader from page one.”

Ed Lynskey, author of Skin In The Game.
 “Mr. Glamour is a striking effort from one of the most daring crime writers in the business. It is the noirest of noir...and hellishly addictive.”
Mike Stafford, BookGeeks Magazine.

“This first rate detective thriller will have you gripped from the start. Richard Godwin is an author not to be missed.”
Sheila Quigley Author of Thorn In My Side.
“Mr Glamour is, in every sense of the word, the real McCoy: genuine hard boiled detective fiction.  Lean, gritty, and tough, it’s a journey into the heart of darkness ... you won’t soon forget. Connoisseurs of Nouveau Noir will have to add Richard Godwin to the list of writers to watch!”
C E Lawrence, author of Silent Kills.
“Involving and compellingly sinister, Richard Godwin’s Mr. Glamour portrays cops and criminals, the mad and the driven in a novel of psychological noir. Read it while snuggling with your stuffed teddy bear for comfort.”
                            -- Gary Phillips, author of Treacherous: Grifters, Ruffians and Killers
“Read this outstanding dark novel and learn more about what happens when you enter the hall of mirrors and find a reflection that just might do more than frighten you. Outstanding, spell binding and keeps the reader guessing until the very end. This is one outstanding novel written by one amazing author.”
Fran Lewis, Reviewer.
I think Mr. Glamour will appeal to mystery and crime aficionados, to readers interested in psychological profiling and designer lifestyles, to thriller and noir fans, and to anyone who enjoys a fast paced narrative with strong characters.
Mr. Glamour can be bought now at
at all good retailers online and in stores in April. If you Google it you should see a range of options come up.
And you can find out more about me at my website
and my stories here

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

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

"Come Home," by Chappo

And the song stuck in my head this week is... "Come Home," by Chappo:  

Full disclosure: Sarah went to high school with Alex Chappo in Baton Rouge, and we met him and Caitlynn at a wedding on Saturday, but I really dig this song. And I think you will too. They have a new album coming out May 14th. The songs on this LP remind me of Psychic TV, Spiritualized, and MGMT, all bands I really enjoy, but they have their own wistful and mysterious cheer.

Here is the EP with this song:

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

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Yellow Mama and All Due Respect

When it rains, it pours.

I'm extremely proud, "chuffed," even, to have stories in both All Due Respect - the long form crime fiction webzine started by Alec Cizak and now run by Chris Rhatigan. Chris also reviews fiction at Death by Killing, co-edits the Pulp Ink anthologies with Nigel Bird, and is a fine writer himself. Alec has moved on to Pulp Modern, and has a few novels under his belt as well.

This story is my tribute to Elmore Leonard, and was originally written for a beach noir contest at Do Some Damage. I expanded and edited it, and I love the characters so much that they will appear in a novel sometime soon. A bit of pulp caper set in Antigua, where two honeymooners need help from Hazeldeen, a barmaid at their resort, and drag her into their "White People problems."

White People Problems, in All Due Respect

Yellow Mama, named after Alabama's electric chair, is a crime zine edited by author Cindy Rosmus, who had a cracking tale in last month's Hardboiled magazine. Yellow Mama caters to dark noir and horror, and my brutal revenge story shows the lengths one man will go to, to avenge his family. Sometimes revenge is a real bear.

Play Dead, in Yellow Mama

I hope you like them. If you do, please leave a comment here or at the source, and share the links with your friends. I'd really appreciate it!

Monday I'll announce the winner of the Uncle John's Bathroom Reader: Flush Fiction giveaway, so stay tuned. 

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

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Lost Children Anthology - Free

For five days, I am giving away the Lost Children Anthology for free.

Now, this may seem idiotic, to give away a charity book for free. But by studying the benefits reaped by Amazon booksellers who have given away a book for free, I believe this will help jumpstart the now tepid sales. So, even if you already own the book in print or for other formats, I urge you to click the link below and get yourself a free Kindle edition to help push us up in the sales ranks.
The U.K. edition is doing quite well, at #23 in its category, but the U.S. one needs some help.

Please share this over the next 5 days, and if you can spare me thirty seconds, get yourself a free book, click the "Like" button on Amazon beside the price, and scroll down to the "Tags" section and click "I agree with these tags." It will help us sell books once the fire sale is over.

Once again, I appreciate your help, and thank you for your support. We've generated hundreds of dollars for Children 1st and PROTECT, and we can raise a lot more with a little work.

A second volume is in the works for this autumn, with some names you'll recognize. I'm keeping them a secret for now.

U.S. edition:

Link to the U.K. edition of LOST CHILDREN

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

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Review: Vanilla Ride

Vanilla Ride
Vanilla Ride by Joe R. Lansdale

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really liked this one. It had more action and laughs than some of the previous Hap & Leonard novels, without going over the top. I burst out laughing several times, and we meet a cast of grotesques who could have novels of their own. To summarize; the duo helps an old friend save his granddaughter from a drug den, and their good intentions spiral into a tornado of death and destruction. Death is too close a comrade in this one, but Mr. Lansdale shows us just how discomforting it is to make him your buddy. A fine adventure from one of our best writers.

View all my reviews

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Feeling Flushed- Uncle John's Book Giveaway!

The good folks at Uncle John's Bathroom Reader, one of the most consistently amusing and beloved book series, have given me a copy of their latest book to use in a giveaway:

Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Presents Flush Fiction: 87 Short Short Stories You Can Read in a Single Sitting

 ( Amazon * Barnes & NobleWatchung Booksellers )

My story "A Glutton for Punishment" appears in it, with stories by Darren Sant and 85 other people who want you to read their work with your underpants around your ankles. Now, you know I like a good poop joke. And so do you. Go ahead, wrinkle your nose, pretend to be above it. I know from the number of page views, retweets, Facebook likes and shares that CACA is KING. Everyone poops and everyone thinks it's funny.

I'd rather have a story in Uncle John's Reader than the New Yorker. You know why? Because I know a story in this publication is going to be read. I've got a captive audience, comfortably enthroned in the only room in the house a reader can get any quiet or privacy. A writer strives to share an intimate moment with a reader, and only Uncle John's ensures it.
Do you want a copy of this landmark publication in the realm of flash fiction? Of course you do. To get it, you need to:

a) live in the United States
b) have a butt you have pooped out of
c) Leave a comment with your favorite word, phrase or story involving bathroom humor.

Oh, and to kick it off, the first poop joke I remember was a fake book title. My mother loves wordplay and did not discourage potty humor, to say the least (as a kid, I watched Buddy Hackett, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, and Dice Clay on HBO with my grandmother). My entry to the poopstravaganza is:

Brown Spots on the Wall, by Hu Flung Pu

Winners will be chosen randomly one week from today when I first visit the toilet. Let the game of thrones begin!

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

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Carry on my Native Son

Eva Dolan has been hosting an excellent series of blog posts by crime writers reviewing classics that have an element of crime to them. Crime & Punishment, MacBeth, and Heath Lowrance wrote a terrific one on Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood. I was toying around with a post on A Confederacy of Dunces before settling on Richard Wright's inflammatory and brutally unflinching classic. The link is below:

Criminal Classics: Native Son

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

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The 5-2 Crime Poetry blog tour - Keith Rawson's $25

Welcome to the 5-2 Blog Tour kick-off! Thanks to Gerald So for having me. He runs a great site, and helped immensely when I submitted my poem, "Just Ice." Hell, he edited so much that I should give him a co-author credit.

Admittedly, I was skeptical when I heard the term "noir poetry." I'm not sure why. I'm sort of an old crab when it comes to mash-ups and transmedia, and that had the same ring. Then I read a few poems at Beat to a Pulp by Gerald So and others, and I realized I was being a stubborn ass. Poetry can be all about emotion, and that's one reason crime fiction resonates with me: the strong emotions inherent in criminal acts. Whether it is violent or not, in every crime someone feels violated.

There have been many excellent poems since Gerald opened up the 5-2: Crime Poetry Weekly, but the one that resonates with me most so far is Keith Rawson's $25. If you haven't read it, go read it now.

It's a very simple narrative which eschews over-description. He uses penny and nickel words to great effect. In a poem about giving blood, he doesn't even use the word phlebotomist, which is admirable. I'd have given in to temptation, tried to rhyme with it, and messed the whole thing up.

Instead, we're treated to a face "blotchy with whiteheads," and a voice like "a cat's tail slammed in a rusty screen door." If you haven't pictured this nurse with the needle in her hand, you're not paying attention. In the end, it's not the imagery that gives it power. That's just the foundation. It's the honest apathy of it. I gotta pay the rent, lady. And it's too much trouble to rob you, so stick the needle in.

I wasn't surprised when I read Keith's bio and he said that it was based in reality. It has that ring to it. The inexperienced would dramatize it, appeal to our dignity. "Look man, I'm selling my blood. I'm reduced to that." But someone who's been there knows there's an apathetic sadness to it. A resignation. I could sell my sweat or my blood. I've learned that in the end this is easier than sticking you up. I've been down that road, he says, using no words at all.

And that's poetry, baby.

Here's the schedule for the rest of the blog tour.

© 2012 Thomas Pluck

Monday, April 2, 2012

We Wrote a Zoo

Patti Abbott put forth a challenge last month- 1200 words, set at the zoo. More than a dozen writers, including Patti and myself, responded. Albert Tucher, Sandra Seamans, Todd Mason... check them out. Patti's was hilarious, and I hope, historically accurate...

Zoo Stories

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

Suspect Has a History

Crime writer Jack Bates has a poem at The 5-2 entitled "Suspect Has a History," inspired by long nights listening to his police scanner. Gerald So, Alison Dasho and I recorded a reading of the poem. I play the cop. I didn't have a donut to eat while recording it, but I did my best. It's a fine poem that captures the sense of futility first responders feel when dealing with folks who just seem to have it in for themselves.

Suspect Has a History

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

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Ten Thousand Pound Banana

This story was written for Patti Nase Abbott's A Day at the Zoo challenge:

The Ten Thousand Pound Banana (featuring Candle)

Me and Nige were in the shop talking about potassium when Cy told us we had to break a bloke's legs.
That's code for rough him up. If you break a man's legs he can't work. He can't work he can't pay. Which works cross purposes to the whole point of smacking him around.
I'm good at that and not much else. Cy don't let me drive no more on account of losing the battery on a bank job.
Codgers. Don't trust them.
It's a long story.

Nigel sat on the counter eating a banana. He's a wee bastard, but he's not a dwarf. He carries a cosh for fellas who joke about his height.
So don't do it, if you know what's good for your kneecaps.
"You ought to eat more fruit, Candle," he says. "Nothing better for you. You need your vitamins, you know."
I prefer to get mine from a porterhouse and a pint. Two of the former and a dozen of the latter, but I don't say so. Nigel usually holds a conversation better by himself, but he's looking at me to say my piece, start an argument over it, break the afternoon monotony.
Thank heaven Cy roars in and saves me the trouble.
Cyrus is a whiskey barrel with legs, and a mouth like a train whistle. He rushes in the door, slapping his newspaper on the dusty shelves.
He sells novelties. Of an adult nature. But no one comes here, they get it all on the Internet now. It's all cover for his less than legal activities, and I like it better without the perverts wandering the aisles. We had to sell them the odd item to look legitimate, and I didn't like taking the bills from their grubby hands. I kept a pair of tweezers for it.
"Candle, get your pet monkey off the countertop, he's scaring off customers."
If someone else said that, Nigel would cosh him for certain, but not the boss.
"Cyrus, I was telling Candle here he ought to eat more fruit."
"What, you think it will stunt his growth? Look at him. He barely fits in the door as it is."
Cy swats the banana out his hand with the newspapers.
Nigel looks down at the severed bit of banana. "That's a waste of good food."
"You're a waste of food, you idjit. Take the bananas out of your ears and listen. You're going to break this fella's legs. He's two weeks behind, and Calloway tells me he just spotted him at the dog track."

The fellow's name is Ellis and he's a haberdasher. When he wanted to expand, he approached Cy for a loan. Which is all fine and good. When he's late on a payment we all get new hats.
On the drive, Nigel crunches away at an apple he found under his seat. "They keep the doctor away, you know."
The dog track's across from the zoo. I wonder if sniffing the lions makes them run faster. I haven't been to a zoo since my father took me. Good man, he was. He liked the apes. Said they reminded him of people.
Nigel takes a harsh turn into the car park and his apples careen off my ankles like billiards. He picks a fedora from the pile in the boot, a green one with a purple feather, and we shoulder our way in.
It's between races. Some are buying for the next, rest are cashing in.
"I'll take the seats, you look by the ticket counter," Nigel says.
I'm a head above the crowd. But I don't see nothing but a positively rotund child cracking candies between his teeth. His piggy eyes follow Nigel's hat.
I know what he's thinking. Nige looks like a leprechaun. A leprechaun eating a banana at the dog races. That's pretty funny, but I've got other things to worry about.
I remember Ellis when he measured me for my suit. You don't find my size on the rack. He reminded me of a squirrel, how he darted around the shop. With stubby little fingers. Wondered how he held onto the pins.
It was those fingers I saw first, shuffling notes at the payment window. Then I noticed the whole squirrel. Bouncing on the toes of his shoes, the fancy kind with tassels on.

I've have trouble hiding behind a giraffe, but Ellis was all caught up in his winnings. He bounced right past. I followed him toward the exit and figured I'd pick him up by his little neck until he passed out, and deliver the goods to Cyrus. Get on his good side. Maybe get to drive again.
Then Nigel goes and ruins it. When he spots Ellis, he drops his banana peel. Then he slips on it. Right on his arse. Knocks his hat off, which rolls on its brim in a circle.
The fat kid runs up and grabs his cuff. "Give me your pot of gold!"
The crowd laughs and points, and my father's right. They do look like monkeys.
Then Ellis spots me, leaps three feet straight up, and bolts for the car park.

The crowd slows me but I manage to spot him fumbling with his keys. I shout a few choice words and charge. He drops his keys and runs cross the road, dodging traffic. Right for the Zoo. He hops the turnstile, and I nearly get flattened by a bus.
Nigel catches up to me, his little legs pumping. We meet at the turnstile. The ticket lady is out of her booth, having none of it.
Nigel pays for us both with a tenner. "Don't tell Cy about the banana."

The place is near empty but Ellis has a head start. I find myself looking up the trees, like he's a real squirrel. Then Nigel sees a family pointing, and we run over.
It's by the monkey house.
The apes have a pit, real nice down there. Lots of grass and a playground to climb and swing around on. The gorillas are all riled up. Pounding on their chests, like two blokes over a bird.
And Ellis, squatting in the middle of them. His suit's all torn up, and he's clutching his winnings like his favorite acorn.
Me and Nige look down, then at each other. What was our boy thinking?
"Job well done then?" Nigel says.
"What if they tear him limb from limb, what do we tell Cyrus then?"
"Well, you go in. They're practically relations."
Right then, I get an idea. Not often that happens. I pat Nigel's pocket. "Hand it over."
"It's my last one, Candle."
"Don't be a prat."
I climb over the meager fence and hang down, waving the banana at our little squirrel among the apes. "Nice fat envelope you have, Ellis. Care to trade?"

And that's why I drive the car, now. Still smells like a fruit stand, though.


© 2012 Thomas Pluck

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