Thrillerfest

Thrillerfest is coming! I’ll be there Friday and Saturday this year. I’m on a panel for the first time, moderated by Ed Aymar, with Joe Clifford and others. We’ll be talking about putting together anthologies on Friday.

TFest XIII panel graphic SHORT STORIES, EXCERPTS OR NIGHT OF THE FLOOD

I hope to see you there.

“The Third Jump of Frankie Buffalo” at Tough Crime

I have a hardboiled crime story up at Tough Crime, called The Third Jump of Frankie Buffalo. It draws on my years at Port Newark and a Korean War vet I knew named Bill, and I hope you like it.

I really like what Rusty Barnes is doing over at Tough Crime. One story by Matthew Lyons, “The Brothers Brujo,” was chosen by Roxane Gay for inclusion in this year’s Best American Short Stories. And it’s a paying market. There will be a print edition later this year. The crime fiction scene has lost some great mags recently, but Tough Crime and Down & Out Magazine are helping fill those shoes. Let’s do our best to make sure they aren’t concrete.

spoiler:

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We Got the Beat…and a Go-Go’s themed anthology, edited by Holly West

It’s a bit early to crow about, because this drops in March 2019, but I’m thrilled to have a story in Holly West’s first anthology: Murder-a-Go-Go’s, all stories inspired by the songs of the Go-Go’s, with an introduction by band member Janet Wiedlin.
My story is “We Got the Beat.” Originally I chose “This Town,” but my idea fizzled and I asked if this was taken. And it wasn’t! One of their big hits! I read my story at KGB Bar a while back and it killed. I channeled my inner 15 year old and went wild. The line-up is fantastic, check it out. And be patient….
Holly is a great story writer herself, having been nominated for an Anthony award (and the short story nom has a LOT of competition!) and had her story “Don’t Fear the Ripper” collection in Otto Penzler’s collection of the greatest Jack the Ripper stories. Her historical mysteries MISTRESS OF FORTUNE and MISTRESS OF LIES are great reads, check them out.

Murder-A-Go-Go's Line Up

Anthony! Ant’nee! Ant! Tony! Tone! Tee!!!

That’s Italian mother for “Anthony.” You’re welcome.

And thank YOU and everyone who nominated Bad Boy Boogie for an Anthony Award for best paperback original! The good folks running Bouchercon this year in St. Petersburg Florida announced this year’s nominees, and you can read them all here at the 2018 Anthony Awards site.

I’m thrilled that my first Jay Desmarteaux crime novel was nominated, and it’s in great company:

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Honored to be nominated with Lori Rader-Day, Nadine Nettman, James W. Ziskin, and Eryk Pruitt! The winner will be announced on Saturday September 8th at the convention.

This is my second nomination, Protectors 2: Heroes was nominated for best anthology in 2016, but there were so many great authors in that one, the honor was shared. And so is this one. My publisher Down & Out Books and editor Chris Rhatigan helped me get the book into fighting shape, and early readers Holly West, Elizabeth Kracht, Lynn Beighley, and others all had a hand. Thank you all, and thank you readers for your great reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, for spreading the word, and everyone who put Boogie on their Anthony ballot!

I’m hard at work on Jay #2, Riff Raff, set in the wilds of Louisiana, and this will kick me in the pants to get it done a little more quickly.

Congratulations to all the nominees. Here are a few I’m especially happy to see:

Jen Conley and Hilary Davidson for their short stories. They are both two of my favorite writers to read, and spin a great story. Special congratulations to Susanna Calkins, whose first published story was nominated! Alex Segura and Joe Clifford for their Bill Crider award nominations for best novels in a series, they’ve created great characters we love to follow. Dan & Kate Malmon for their best anthology nom for Killing Malmon, which was a hilarious theme and inspired so many great stories. Eric Beetner and S.W. Lauden of Writer Types Podcast, my fellow damaged writers at Do Some Damage, the folks at Jungle Red Writers, and Kristopher Zgorski of BOLO Books for creating great online content. Jordan Harper, Kristen Lepionka, and Christopher Irvin for their best first novel nominations. This is always a tough category and they wrote their hearts out. She Rides Shotgun was one of my favorite recent crime novels, and deserves the Edgar it nabbed. Attica Locke and Don Winslow for best novel. Bluebird, Bluebird and The Force were both great reads.

There are folks I nominated who didn’t make the top five, it seems, and that’s rough for everyone. I had given up on this one, and woke up to a surprise. Want proof? I wrote about Awards Season Depressive Disorder at Do Some Damage. It’s still something to keep in mind, even if I am a firm believer in the “it’s an honor to be nominated” mantra. It is an honor.

Keep writing the books you want to see, and you can’t lose.

 

Writer’s Mog – Thomas Pluck

Nic Parker asked me to contribute to her ongoing series, Writer’s Mog, about writers and their cats. Learn all about Charlie and Louie and Cat Loaf!

devoted to thrills

26219665_10213766951300689_8883333762655910216_n Louie keeping informed about world politics

Tell us a tiny bit about yourself and a whole lot about the mog(gies) that share your current and/or past life.

My name is Thomas Pluck and I am a powerlifter and martial artist who Joyce Carol Oates calls “a lovely kitty man.” I write both funny and “tough” tales, from the rollicking adventure novel Blade of Dishonor, which was called “The Raiders of the Lost Ark of pulp paperbacks” to Bad Boy Boogie, a “tough slice of New Jersey noir,” about ex-con Jay Desmarteaux, who served time for killing a vicious school bully, and has only learned how to get away with it. Two cats have the run of my domain, a rescued Siamese named Charlie, and an enormous shorthair tabby named Louie. Charlie is older, and curls up near me while I read or write, sometimes on the back of the sofa…

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Greetings from Asbury Park, this Sunday!

Greetings from Asbury Park! Well, not at this exact moment, but on Sunday 4/29, I will be reading at Noir at the Bar in Asbury Park at Capitoline’s. They have a lovely bar with a band called the Black Flamingos playing in between stories. Hosted by Jen Conley and Jay Butkowski, it’s a bit of a sausage fest but I promise I’ll be a hot Italian sazeech:
Me – with copies of Life During Wartime to sign sell and raffle
Scott Adlerberg – author of Jack Waters, a thrilling New Orleans to Caribbean adventure
Angel Luis Colon – author of the Blackie Jaguar and Fantine Park crime novellas
Lee Matthew Goldberg – author of The Mentor
Alex Segura – author of the Pete Fernandez Miami PI series
Dave White – author of the Jackson Donne Jersey PI novels
and Wallace Stroby, author of the Crissa Stone series, my favorite thief since Parker, and his latest thriller, Some Die Nameless.
details: Sunday April 29th from 6pm to 9pm at Capitoline’s 639 Cookman Ave, Asbury Park NJ

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Great reads: Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng

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The buzz for this one built up quickly, and now it has been picked up for development as a series. I rarely jump on books or anything else while it’s hot, but I managed to read Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere while it is warm, and it’s a great read.

It begins in Shaker Heights, the tony neighborhood outside Cleveland that was the United States’ first planned community, named after the celibate sect who had a rule for everything, in the name of simplicity. This isn’t a story about a Housing Association nightmare, it is about two very different ways of living and how they collide. Ng writes wonderful and compelling characters, deftly using the third omniscient to effortlessly shift points of view without confusion. It’s a writing style that has fallen into disuse, some self-proclaimed writing gurus even call it “instant death,” but like any tool, in the proper hands it can be used masterfully.

This is Ng’s second novel. She dodges the sophomore slump and created a real rocket. The story begins in the ’90s, as the Richardsons, led by Mrs. Richardson, a lifelong resident of Shaker, whose family has lived there for three generations, watches her beautiful house burn to the frame. We get a hint of the story; a mother and her daughter zip away in a battered VW Rabbit packed to the roof with their belongings; the fire, set by the troublesome youngest Richardson daughter Izzy, is the new subject of neighborhood gossip, supplanting the controversy over baby “Mirabelle McCullough/May Lin Wong”, who we learn about in due course. The story moves quickly. This is the kind of novel where you might be concerned there is little plot, as it focuses on two women and the successful lives they’ve build, their secret philosophies, and the events that created them, but the story moves along at a brisk pace, and never drags for a moment. It is as skillful as a great thriller in that regard, elegant and spare in its prose, and moves the “camera” of its point of view like a master documentarian, observing its subjects, and informing us when we see things the others can’t possibly know.

The story skips back to the “beginning,” when Mrs Richardson rents a Shaker duplex to a woman her age, artist Mia Warren, and her teen daughter Pearl. Mrs Richardson (Elena– but almost always referred to by her “title”) is a journalist for the town paper, and never broke out to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, to her chagrin. Her husband is a lawyer, and their four children are all in high school, one year apart, like clockwork: the popular Lexie, about to graduate; Trip, the jock; Moody, the aptly named bookish introvert, coming to an MFA program near you; and Izzy, the troublemaker, who wears Doc Martens under her designer jeans, who asks the questions no one wants to answer.

Mrs Richardson likes to rent her duplex cheaply to “good” people who could never afford to live in her Utopian community, like Mr Yang, a hard-working immigrant, and the Warrens: a single mother (a political football in the ’90s, if you remember, Murphy Brown and all. My mother raised us from when I was seven, so I’m quite aware of the judgments Americans put on these families, and how they were pawns in politics, a moral problem to some, a hero to others). Mia is a fascinating character, a mystery. She and her daughter live like nomads; she turns their apartments into her studio for photographic art, and sells her work at a gallery in Manhattan. There is much more to this than it seems, and as young Pearl becomes a part of the family, she feels entitled to investigate Mia’s life using her journalist skills. Mia works as an artist, and in a local Chinese restaurant to make ends meet, where the flexible hours and leftovers help out.

Mrs Richardson’s desire for control leads her to offer Mia a job as their housekeeper. Out of kindness, of course. Pearl is over the house all the time, anyway! But partly, she is driven by her mystification of how Mia can live untethered to a house, free to move whenever she pleases. They get more entangled when Mrs Richardson’s oldest friend Linda McCullough, who can’t have children, adopts a Chinese baby that was abandoned in front of a fire department in town. The mother turns out to be Mia’s coworker, the young Chinese immigrant Bebe. She tried to get her baby back the next day, but was told she had surrendered all rights, and gave up hope. Mia gives her hope, and tells her how to get help.

Character is revealed through plot, and the plot moves forward driven by character. We know it all ends in “little fires everywhere,” and the mysteries of Mrs Richardson’s need for rules and order and her short temper with her youngest, rebellious daughter Izzy, and why Mia and Pearl are seemingly on the run, are revealed as they take different sides in Bebe Wong’s mission to get her daughter back. It’s divisive, and the narrator lets us decide who to side with, and while this is a subplot given the backseat to the main characters, the teens as they fumble through life, some faced with difficult decisions of their own, and the parents as their past choices define who they have become, it drives the whole novel: how important are the rules?

It’s a subject I try to tackle in fiction, though I am not as skilled as Celeste Ng. In my hands, it’s a battle between Love and the Law. You’ll be seeing more of that underlying my stories. I burned through this in a day or two, because the story was so compelling. I’m eager to see it expanded into an eight episode series on Hulu, with Reese Witherspoon as Mrs Richardson and Kerry Washington, who I assume will play Mia Warren. There are many great characters for actors to chew on. I saw Mrs Richardson as a young Alison Janney, and Mia as Sonja Sohn, Moody as Lucas Hedges (Danny from Lady Bird) and Izzy as Hannah Alligood (Frankie in Better Things, a great show).