Montclair Literary Festival Saturday March 23rd 2019

It’s almost time for the Montclair Literary Festival! The big day is Saturday March 23rd, and the guest of honor is Joyce Carol Oates. She will be interviewed by Jonathan Santlofer, author of A Widower’s Notebook, about her long illustrious career and her newest novel, the dystopian YA thriller, Hazards of Time Travel. The book is a gut punch, with nostalgia weaponized for reeducation, and a great read. Brad Parks will also be there, author of the Carter Ross crime novels, in discussion with Wallace Stroby. And I’ll be moderating a panel of New Jersey writers! At 4:00 PM in the Crescent Room of the Congregational Church (next door to the Montclair Public Library), join me and authors Dave White, Jen Conley, Wallace Stroby, and Marina Antropow Cramer–also a bookseller for over 20 years–as we discuss what makes the state beneficial and challenging to writers, and to write about.

If you’re on the fence about the after party, I will vouch. Great food and drink, and you get to rub elbows with every writer at the festival, so you can gush about how much you love their books while they try to wash down falafel balls and sliders with as much free wine or soda as they can guzzle. (This is the writer’s natural habitat). Hope to see you there!

2019-03-11 13_47_50-Saturday March 23 – Main Program _ Succeed2gether's Montclair Literary Festival


For your Anthony consideration…

I am trying to attend Bouchercon in Dallas this year. Some guy named Block suggested that I take a train there and write on the way, which sounds like a great idea. I mean, it works for him. So we shall see! I do want to go, as the hotel is right near Dealey Plaza and we just marked the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination. If you haven’t read November Road by Lou Berney, it’s one of the best novels I’ve read that involve the event. I’m not a morbid tourist, but I’ve never been to Dallas, and I can’t go there and avoid it!

If you are attending Bouchercon, or did last year, your Anthony nomination ballot is in your inbox. Lou’s novel is eligible for best novel, and I bet you can read it before the deadline. My own short story, “The Third Jump of Frankie Buffalo” is eligible for best short story, and if you haven’t read it, click the link to go to Tough Crime and read it for free. My story collection Life During Wartime is eligible for best paperback original, and I only mention this because the con organizers didn’t opt to have a Best Anthology / Short Story Collection category this year, which is disappointing. Those and the novella category are the easiest ways for newer writers to reach a wider audience at the convention, and I hope they return next year.

A Taste of Cucuzza!

I know I’ve been crowing about my story in At Home in the Dark, Lawrence Block’s new anthology from Subterranean books, where I share pages with Elaine KaganWallace StrobyEd ParkLaura BenedictJoe LansdaleNoreen AyresJoe HillHilary DavidsonJim FusilliJoyce Carol Oates, and Jill D. Block. If you click their names, you can read an excerpt of their stories at LB’s website. And if you click on My Cucuzza, you can get a taste of mine! Yes, my mystery story of a dapper mob fixer investigating a family pizzeria rivalry turned deadly is called “The Cucuzza Curse,” named after that delicious and priapic squash Italian-Americans grow on every inch of fence in our gardens all summer. Drawing on stories from my days at the docks and from my witchy great-aunts, I hope you’ll enjoy it and pre-order the book. The hardcover is available on Amazon, as is the e-book, and LB will be publishing a paperback soon if that’s your preferred format.

2019-03-11 09_52_07-AT HOME IN THE DARK—Preview #11—Thomas Pluck _ Lawrence Block

A Tiny Letter straight from my heart

Happy new year!

Been a while, hasn’t it? Where have I been? Stirring a big pot of goombah gumbo, that’s where.

I will still post here when there is an Event or a new story or book, but if you want updates, book and movie reviews, travel and weirdness, you should sign up for Goombah Gumbo, my newsletter. I post once a week or less, so son’t worry about spam in your inbox. Latest topics include The Favourite, Don Winslow’s epic novel The Border, the art books of Edward Gorey, and more.

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Murder-a-Go-Gos gets a cover! We got the beatdown….


I’ve been a huge fan of the Go-Go’s since I first saw the video for “Our Lips Are Sealed” on MTV as a twelve year old boy, and I still sing along with their hits in the car, and if enough beer has been applied, at karaoke.
So I was thrilled to be the one who got to write “We Got the Beat.” You can meet the Beat Girls in March 2019. There will be a launch in L.A. and one in April at The Mysterious Bookshop. It’s coming from Down & Out Books and looks wonderful, with a lineup that includes Hilary Davidson, Lori Rader Day, Susanna Calkins, Lisa Brackmann, Nadine Nettmann, Eric Beetner, Patricia Abbott, editor Holly West herself, and an introduction from Go-Go Janet Wiedlin!
Here’s the beautiful cover that puts the Go-Go’s in a fittingly ’80s-style ’50s homage!


The blurbs are totally awesome:

“I always suspected that twinkle in the Go-gos’ eyes was a coded invitation to a darker world. In the hands of these 25 stellar crime fiction writers, “We Got the Beat” and “Our Lips Are Sealed” become evil little gems. A totally rad read.” —Alan Hunter, Original MTV VJ, SiriusXM Host

“Shock and Awe, that sums up my reaction to MURDER-A-GO-GO’S. Shock to live in times when “The Whole World Lost Its Head” and awe at the response of these gifted writers. Buckle up for a ride that will leave “Skidmarks on Your Heart.” —Sara Paretsky, best-selling author of the V.I. Warshawski crime series

“Who knew those happy songs by one of my all-time favorite bands, the Go-Go’s, could inspire such dark, noir, spine tingling stories?!! It’s a collection of tales of distinctly female rage—the murderous kind and other wise—to keep you up at night!”—Alison Arngrim, TV’s Nellie Oleson and NY Times bestselling author, CONFESSIONS OF A PRAIRIE BITCH

It’s available for pre-order, and I’m sure you’ll go head over heels for it. All proceeds go to benefit Planned Parenthood.

Pre-Order Link: Murder-A-Go-Go’s at Down and Out Books

Skin & Bones Launch at The Mysterious Bookshop

Today the new anthology SKIN AND BONES, edited by Dana C. Kabel, is available from Down & Out Books, and it includes my story of the gastronomic excesses of the upper crust, “The Cronus Club.”

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Skin & Bones features stories by Patricia Abbott, Charles Ardai, Lawrence Block, Joe Clifford, Angel Luis Colón, the late Bill Crider, Glenn Gray, Tim Hall, Rob Hart, Tess Makovesky, Terrence McCauley, Marietta Miles, Richie Narvaez, Stuart Neville, Ryan Sayles, S.A. Solomon, Jason Starr, Liam Sweeny, Dave Zeltserman, and Dana C. Kabel.

And some of us–last I heard, Lawrence Block, Mr. Kabel, Suzanne Solomon, and Charles Ardai–will be attending the launch event on December 3rd at The Mysterious Bookshop. I don’t know if finger sandwiches will be served, but there’s usually beer and wine, so join us for libations at the cathedral to crime fiction. Things usually kick off around 6:30, and it should be a good time.


At Home in the Dark and Skin & Bones

Why hello there, Dear Readers!
I hope November is treating you well. I binged on horror movies last month, and a favorite of mine is Night of the Creeps, where the exasperated detective fighting the deadly menace answers the phone with “Thrill me.” What’s thrilled you, lately?

I’m thrilled to have a story in Lawrence Block’s latest anthology, At Home in the Dark, a cross-genre dark fiction collection including stories by LB himself, Joe Hill, Joyce Carol Oates, Hilary Davidson, Richard Chizmar, Duane Swierczynski, Warren Moore, Wallace Stroby, Ed Park, Laura Benedict, Joe R. Lansdale and more. My story is the first in a new series, “The Cucuzza Curse,” following mob fixer Joe Cucuzza as he investigates a deadly pizzeria rivalry, where the mal occhio–the evil eye–has been employed. Inspired by my time working at the docks and a tribute to the late Anthony Bourdain, this story was a joy to write, however dark it may be, and I think you’ll dig it. At Home in the Dark will first be issued in a limited edition of 500 hardcovers from Subterranean Press, and will be available for pre-order soon. For now, you can check out the snazzy cover:


LB always puts together a fine anthology and I’m honored to be in my third. Getting asked for a story by one of your literary heroes turns up the pressure to write your absolute very best, and the critics agree. “The Big Snip” from Dark City Lights was chosen for The Year’s Best Crime & Mystery Stories 2016, and Library Journal singled out “Truth Comes Out of Her Well to Shame Mankind” in Alive in Shape and Color as “stunning,” in a collection full of gems by literary legends. So I hope you’ll enjoy “The Cucuzza Curse” as much as I enjoyed writing it, because you’ll be seeing more of Joey Cucuzza…

What’s a cucuzza? It’s a large green Italian squash shaped like a baseball bat, that we make into a savory vegetable stew, but thanks to its size and shape, it is also slang for the male member, by those who indulge in wishful thinking:


Hold onto your cucuzzas! (or the nearest similarly shaped object) there’s one more book to talk about. This one’s been in the works for five years or so, and I’m glad it is finally seeing the light. Skin & Bones, edited by Dana Kabel, will be released this month from Down & Out Books. It includes stories by Lawrence Block, Patti Abbott, Jason Starr, Angel Luis Colon, Stuart Neville, Marietta Miles, Joe Clifford, S.A. Solomon, Rob Hart, Tess Makovesky, Tim Hall, Charles Ardai, Glenn Gray, Liam Sweeny, and the late Bill Crider, among others. My story is “The Cronus Club,” about an exclusive society of extreme epicureans. You can pre-order it from your local bookstore or the usual online suspects like Barnes & Noble, in ebook or paperback. Another snazzy cover, don’t you think?

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That should get you hungry for Thanksgiving, which I’ll be spending in Louisiana, as I put the final edits on Riff Raff, the second Jay Desmarteaux novel. Our two-fisted smart-cracking bruiser wades hip deep into the swamp to bushwhack his way to the heart of darkness in the delta, following the blood trail of his own evil lineage, and kill the tree at the root….