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.

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.


Reading at KGB Bar 8/12

downloadI’ll be reading at the KGB Bar in Manhattan, one of the best literary hangouts in the city, with my fellow Mystery Writers of America authors Rich Zahradnik, Annamaria Alfieri, Lokke Heiss, Sterling Savage, and Sylvia Di Saverio. It’s a topically themed space with a fine selection of Russian beers that are hard to find elsewhere, on the Lower East Side near lots of great places to eat. It’s at: 85 E 4th St, New York, New York 10003

The readings begin at 6:30pm and end when James Bond kills us all with a swizzle stick.

I’m also up at Sleuth Sayers today: Sometimes a review is a plum, other times it’s the pits…


Buried Under Books reviews Bad Boy Boogie

Buried Under Books reviewed my Jay Desmarteaux crime thriller BAD BOY BOOGIE:

“Jay is a complex man and the author truly brings him to life, this ex-con with a hard outer shell that’s slightly penetrated by the life he finds on the outside after 25 years on the inside. There’s a considerable amount of graphic violence, including sexual, here but it’s understandable although this man’s sense of justice is often very different from yours and mine. This is a book that could have resided in the old black & white, hardboiled days just as well as today and I suspect I’ll remember Jay and his story for a long, long time.”

Read the full review at Buried Under Books.

beyond copacetic

If you haven’t read my review of James Lee Burke’s The Jealous Kind, it’s one of his best. You know who read it? Mr Burke himself. It’s an honor to hear from a literary hero of mine. He commented on my Books page.

2016-09-07 15_03_06-Thomas Pluck _ unflinching fiction with heart.jpg

Hap and Leonard, and Joe schooling me

I’ll be reviewing the new Sundance series based on Joe Lansdale’s books, Hap & Leonard, for Criminal Element. The first episode gets the tone and the characters just right. Hop on over to Criminal Element for my full review. I’ve been a fan of the disastrous duo since Savage Season, all the way to Vanilla Ride. I have some catching up to do, there’s a new one called Honky Tonk Samurai that just hit the stores.

Here’s Joe putting me in a fingerlock at Bouchercon in Albany, 2013.


SignWave: An Aftershock Novel by Andrew Vachss

When the Burke series ended, Andrew Vachss wasted no time in crafting another gripping series: Dell and Dolly, a former legionnaire and a retired nurse from Doctors Without Borders who escape into the Pacific Northwest, only to find a battleground just as treacherous as the African war zone in which they met: suburban America.


Kirkus calls the books “meditations on the Zen of violence,” but to me they capture the fierce flame of unforgettable characters. Dell and Dolly are warriors to the core, and Dell has no compunctions about putting heads on pikes to warn invaders aware from their village–though he does so figuratively, with Vachss’s trademark paranoid spycraft, a realistic imperative for anyone operating in our surveillance society.

Each book explores a different facet of the dark heart of town life: Aftershock focused on rape culture in high school, and one girl’s explosive response; Shockwave, on the permanent homeless population, those who care for, or prey on them, and the equally hidden racial hate groups that operate among us; and Signwave moves up the food chain to pit Dolly vs. a hedge fund manager who comes to town promoting “Art” and “Culture” while “protecting the environment,” who may be a lot more than he seems.

Vachss excels at exposing abusive power relationships that our society has come to accept as normal, and baring them for what they are. Signwave is no exception. The trip through Dell’s mind is worth the price of admission- you never get a better “tour guide through hell” than when you’re reading a Vachss novel- but the poignant barbs that expose the rotten core of corruption we have come to embrace are what drives this new series, as dark and gripping as anything he has ever written.

Releases in June. Preorder your copy here. Read an EXCERPT on Andrew Vachss’s website.

Or, to quote Andrew from Facebook, ask your local library to order you a copy.