Reviews During Wartime

Happy new year!

I’m getting over the flu, which I contracted while researching the next Jay Desmarteaux novel, wandering around Iberia and Vermilion Parishes in Louisiana. I visited the grave of bluesman Slim Harpo and the Louisiana Capitol Building, where Huey Long was assassinated. You can read about it at Do Some Damage, where I call it Research Without a Cause.

Which answers the question to the first review of Life During Wartime, my new story collection, up at Out of the Gutter: “Amazingly, the dialogue, settings, and situations all ring true. Either Pluck has done some serious research or he’s lived a life on the move!”
I love to travel, and I love writing stories that use what I see and learn from new places and people. If you haven’t pre-ordered Life During Wartime, Down & Out Books has a 60% discount on the ebooks. I will be signing the book at Mysterious Bookshop and Watchung Booksellers in February, and I will put the updates on my Events page. If you can’t get one in person, Down & Out Books has all the links to your favorite suppliers.

Life During Wartime Paperback

Some of my research had a cause, like dropping into Vermilionville, a living Acadian village rather like Colonial Williamsburg, stopping by to see the Evangeline Tree in St. Martinsville, a memorial to Longfellow’s poem of the same name, based on people who lived in the area.  One of them is name checked in James Lee Burke’s latest novel Robicheaux, which I reviewed for Criminal Element. I did stop to eat at Victor’s Cafeteria where Dave Robicheaux and Cletus Purcell grab breakfast in New Iberia. You read about my adventures in Cajun Country at SleuthSayers, and you can also see my pictures on Instagram, on Facebook, or Twitter.

Another story that drew from my travels is “Truth Comes Out of Her Well to Shame Mankind,” in Alive in Shape and Color. I’ve received a lot of emails about this one, which Liz French of Library Journal called “stunning,” and the reviewer at the New York Times found disturbing enough to call me out by name. Robert Lopresti loved it but wasn’t sure if it was “crime”, but I think murders at an archaeological dig in Germany are criminal enough.  So, if you haven’t jumped on Alive in Shape and Color, you don’t want to miss it. Like its Edward Hopper-themed forebear, it’s making a splash.

Life During Wartime events! Don’t say you weren’t warned…

Thursday, February 8th at 7:00 PM: The official launch of my story collection Life During Wartime at Watchung Booksellers in Montclair! Snacks and a brief reading and a Q&A.

Wednesday, February 21st at 6:30 PM: Life During Wartime  and Slaughterhouse Blues signing event with Nick Kolakowski at The Mysterious Bookshop. Join me and Nick for a night of noir. One week after Valentine’s Day, your heart will have recovered.

Thursday, March 8th at 6:00 PM: A Montclair Authors Meet & Greet at Sotheby’s, 32 Valley Rd, Montclair, NJ. Come join us for wine and cheese and rub suede elbow patches with local Montclair authors! I’ll be in the corner eating all the Gruyere.

My favorite books read in 2017

Most of these were published within a year or so. I’ve never been good at jumping on new books, I prefer to wait until the dust settles. But I did enjoy “Cat Person” by Kristen Roupenian.

Right now I’m reading Robicheaux by James Lee Burke, if I finish it before the ball drops, I’ll add it to the list if it makes the cut. So far, it will.

Hard Rain Falling, by Don Carpenter

Fat City, by Leonard Gardner

I’ll Bring You the Birds From Out of the Sky, by Brian Hodge, illustrated by Kim Parkhurst

The Hemingway Thief, by Shaun Harris

Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube, by Blair Braverman

Fire on the Mountain, by Terry Bisson

The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake

Since I Laid My Burden Down, by Brontez Purnell

Tales from the Loop, by Simon Stålenhag

Made for Love, by Alissa Nutting

She Rides Shotgun, by Jordan Harper

Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah

The Changeling, by Victor LaValle

Two and Two: McSorley’s, My Dad, and Me, by Rafe Bartholomew

The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

Krazy: The Black and White World of George Herriman, by Michael Tisserand

Hunger: A Memoir, by Roxane Gay

The Long and Faraway Gone, by Lou Berney

A Negro and an Ofay, by Danny Gardner

The Whiskey Rebels, by David Liss

The Imago Sequence and Other Stories, by Laird Barron

Girls on Fire, by Robin Wasserman

Kings of Midnight, by Wallace Stroby

The Devil of Nanking, by Mo Hayder (aka Nanking)

The Trees, by Ali Shaw

Wonder Woman v.1: The Lies, by Greg Rucka

The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead

Falling Angel, by William Hjortsberg

The Pugilist at Rest, by Thom Jones

The Midnight Line, by Lee Child

Ultraluminous, by Katherine Faw

Library Journal loves Alive in Shape and Color

Last year’s Edward Hopper-themed anthology edited by Lawrence Block blew a lot of people away, and I loved it. So I was thrilled when Lawrence Block asked me to pen a story for the second volume, which was open to all works of art. I chose “Truth Comes Out of Her Well to Shame Mankind”, by Jean-Léon Gérôme. It was a political painting that was, as they say, evergreen.

Publishers Weekly loves the new book, and now Library Journal’s Liz French does as well. I’m quite chuffed that she called my story “stunning” and selected it, along with Joe Lansdale’s, as one of her two favorites:

Following the success of 2016’s art-related collection In Sunlight or in Shadow: Stories Inspired by the Paintings of Edward Hopper, also edited by Block, this follow-up falls a little short but still contains some nuggets. Unlike the Hopper-centric stories of the earlier volume, this title features all manner of art, from the cave paintings of Lascaux (Jeffery Deaver’s “A Significant Find”) to Balthus (Joyce Carol Oates’s creepy “Les Beaux Jours”), Bosch (Michael Connelly’s taut “The Third Panel”), Van Gogh (David Morrell’s “Orange Is for Anguish, Blue for Insanity”), Rodin (Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s uneven “Thinkers”), and many others. Some authors tell the painting’s creation myth, with Morrell’s Stephen King-inflected offering a standout, and Nicholas Christopher contributing “Girl with a Fan” (Gauguin), a spy story with Nazis. Sarah Weinman’s period-perfect “The Big Town,” and Lee Child’s well-crafted “Pierre, Lucien, and Me” feature art-loving protagonists compelled by paintings to do wrong. In “The Great Wave,” S.J. Rozan’s captive narrator speaks to a print of Katsushika Hokusai’s masterpiece (it talks back). Yet two of the best stories, Joe R. Lansdale’s deceptively folksy “Charlie the Barber,” and Thomas Pluck’s stunning “Truth Comes Out of Her Well To Shame Mankind,” barely mention their chosen artworks. VERDICT Reminiscent of Rod Serling’s Night Gallery, this anthology has something, often nasty or scary, for every art lover.—Liz French, Library Journal

Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

This was a nice shot in the arm after the New York Times reviewer who missed the point of the story, but gave me my first mention in the newspaper of record.

You can get Alive in Shape in Color in bookstores and libraries everywhere. It’s a beautiful book with full color reproductions of the art, and makes a lovely gift.


happy holidays

For Your Consideration…

It’s the yearly Award Eligibility Post!

Don’t you hate it when those ballots show up and you can’t remember everything you read this year? Maybe you’re like me and keep a list. But if you don’t, here are the stories and books of mine published this year, eligible for awards and anthologies and whatnot:

Crime and Mystery:

Bad Boy Boogie, a paperback original.

“Russian Roulette,” in Killing Malmon, an anthology to benefit the MS Society.
“Deadbeat,” in Down & Out Magazine issue one.

Horror and Fantasy:

“Truth Comes Out of Her Well to Shame Mankind,” in Alive in Space and Color: 16 Paintings by Great Artists and the Stories They Inspired, edited by Lawrence Block, from Pegasus Books.
“Little Howl on the Prairie” in BloodBond, from Alban Lake Publishing.
I used to write many more short stories, and I hope to get back to it, but I find it difficult to put down a novel project and pick up again. If you enjoyed these stories, thank you.

The State of the Short Story in Crime Fiction

If you’re a fan of science fiction, fantasy, or horror as well as crime you might notice that there are fewer markets for short fiction for the crime genre than the others. Many come and go, even if they consistently publish stories chosen for yearly awards, they can’t seem to survive.
At SleuthSayers, I interviewed 7 editors of current and defunct crime fiction markets, print and online, about the difficulties, the state of the fandom, and what YOU can do to make a more vibrant scene.
And a reminder, Life During Wartime: 21 Stories by Thomas Pluck is now available for pre-order.  I know I just told you yesterday, but now I have this snazzy image that evokes the song from which the collection gets its title story. Remember to use code 25dob2017 to get 25% off!


Life During Wartime available for pre-order at 25% discount

My story collection LIFE DURING WARTIME is now available for pre-order! It will be published on January 29th 2018 by Down & Out Books. It includes “The Big Snip,” which was chosen for the Best Mystery & Crime Stories 2016, new unpublished stories, the best of Denny the Dent, and “The Last Detail,” a Jay Desmarteaux yarn that picks up directly where Bad Boy Boogie leaves off. Some of these have only been experienced at Noir at the Bar.

It is available at the usual suspects in e-book and print format, but if you order directly from Down & Out Books, they have a 25% off Holiday coupon that’s good for every book in the store. So you could buy Bad Boy Boogie and Life During Wartime for 25%, or Unloaded, or any of the great books in their catalog. (For more Jersey crime fiction I’d recommend Cannibals by Jen Conley)

The 25% off coupon code is 25dob2017

If you’d like signed copies of Bad Boy Boogie, I ship free in the USA. Just reach me with the contact form.