SopranosCon!

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I went to the first SopranosCon! Fittingly held in The Meadowlands, where so many mob victims fertilize the polluted muck, it exceeded all expectations. I met Dominic Chianese (Uncle Junior), Vincent Pastore (Big Pussy), Burt Young (Paulie from Rocky, and also Bobby Baccala’s father), Kathrinne Narducci (Charmaine Bucco, and Mrs Bufalino in The Irishman), and so many smaller players. Over 50 actors were there, including Drea De Matteo (Adriana) who I only saw on stage, and Tony Sirico, who was too ill to make it on Sunday. Paulie Walnuts, get well soon! Here are some photos from the event. As you can see, they made it look like an Italian festival, with the banners. And of course, they had fresh zeppole for sale.

SopranosCon banner
just like it’s the Feast of San Gennaro….

I also met critics Matthew Zoller Seitz and Alan Sepinwall, who co-wrote The Sopranos Sessions, the invaluable episode by episode dissection of the show. We talked for a while about the show, crime stories, and how great it was to see everyone together again.

Me and Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz
Three Writing Goons

Everyone there was happy! Who would have thought that a show about a killer seeing a psychiatrist would have such a positive vibe? Dominic Chianese sang Italian songs on stage, Tony Darrow did stand-up comedy, Bada Bing dancer Diana Lynn was in a family-friendly costume… The organizers did a great job. It looked professional (and was). Great local food in the food court, with a replica of the Holsten’s booth and a Tony impersonator if you wanted an onion ring. The entry looked like a Turnpike tollbooth:

SopranosCon TollBooth

They made a maze to look like the Pine Barrens, full of quotes and photos of Christopher and Paulie as they searched for the Russian, in the most famous episode. There was even a van, with an empty Nathan’s hotdogs bag, and some packets of relish and ketchup, scattered in the fake snow! It was brilliant.

SopranosCon Maze
“he’s a fuckin’ interior decorator” … “really? his place looked like shit!”
SopranosCon Van
“mix the ketchup with the relish, it’s better!”
me and Burt Young
“I put one kid through college, I put the other through a wall”
me and Vincent Pastore
Big Pussy and Bigger Pussy
me and Dominic Chianese
Uncle Junior
The SopranosCon gang on stage
Sofia Milos speaks, Johnny Sack and others….

They are organizing a “MobMovieCon” in Atlantic City next year, if you are interested. I might go, depending on the guests. It’s refreshing, now that ComiCons have gotten overly huge, that smaller, focused cons like this can flourish. I was just talking with a friend who lamented that Chiller Theater, a New Jersey institution, seems empty now that the cosplayers and stars go to New York ComiCon instead.

This was a great time. I hope they throw another one soon!

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.

Murder & Mayhem in Milwaukee!

I’m honored to be a guest at Murder & Mayhem in Milwaukee this year. Thanks to the Jordans and everyone involved. I was planning on attending anyway–I’ve heard so much about this great convention/party–but this makes it extra sweet. I’ll be on a panel moderated by Shaun Harris, author of The Hemingway Thief, which is a great fun read whether you love or hate Ernest, so check it out.

The Malmons will be there as will by publisher, Eric Campbell of Down & Out Books, with copies of Killing Malmon, where 30 writers (including myself) killed Dan in amusing ways, to raise money for the MS society. If you can’t make it for a signed copy, get yours here.

Of course I’ll have Bad Boy Boogie and I’ll be writing Born on the Bayou, so if you want to influence a scene that I’ll write hungover on Saturday or Sunday morning, or late in my motel Friday night, now is the time. I can’t incorporate the Bronze Fonz, as it is all set in Louisiana, but I may have Jay meet the statue of Ignatius Reilly from A Confederacy of Dunces… I’m 17,500 words in and having a blast. Which I hope means you will too, when you get to read it next year.

There will be a lot of beer. I’m going to the Lakefront Brewery to see the Schlitz bottling line filmed in the opening credits of Laverne & Shirley and I will only answer to the name The Big Ragu during this trip. I do not care if Milwaukee is “trying to shed the L&S image” as I read on one website… embrace it. You are so much more, I am sure, and I will see that, but come on. Hassenpfeffer Incorporated! Bah. It’s like Jersey trying to shed The Sopranos. It’s not like Laverne and Shirl were the cast of Jersey Shore.

And I’m jealous that your city has such a great song named after it. Written in 1903 by Dan Quinn before Jerry Lee Lewis made it (more) famous… I like this version:

What Made Milwaukee Famous Made a Loser Out of Me

And in case you missed it, I went as Bluto for Halloween. S.W. Lauden went as a California Highway Patrolman, mirror shades and all. If he brings his costume, we may walk around the con looking like half of The Village People.

23000450_2069575206389727_2905199522638724510_o

 

Shot as a mark of affection from his brother

This is a somewhat famous tombstone, because if you read it quickly, it reads “accidentlly shot as a mark of affection from his brother.” I took this photo in the nineties on Madeline Island in Wisconsin, hunting this grave marker down after hearing about it.

I was also lucky enough to see the island’s secret replica village in the woods, tiny concrete buildings made to look like the town at the tip of the island. I took photographs (real ones!) and they are in a box somewhere. I kept my secret for twenty years. I don’t know how to get there. There’s a fine story called The End of the Season by Trent Kollodge in the Autumn Cthulhu anthology that is set in this little fake village. If I dig up my photos, I’ll share them. They do nothing to reveal the location.

tombstone_madelineisland2

Bouchercon 2017: Elsinore Brewery Edition

I look forward to invading Canadia for the fourth time in my life this week. Sadly I will not be reenacting the greatest film of all time, Strange Brew. But I will try!

October 11-15th, Toronto: Bouchercon. I am booked and eager to visit Toronto again. I’m moderating a panel on Friday at 8:30am, Beautiful Brutality? The panel consists of Chris Holm, Joe Clifford, E. C. Diskin, Amy Stuart, and Sara Jayne Townsend.

On Wednesday I’ll be reading at the Bouchercon Noir at the Bar hosted by Rob Brunet and Tanis Mallow, 9:00PM at Rivoli, 332 Queen Street West, Toronto: 21762633_879082205601399_491421483206650408_o

And that’s it. I’ll have copies of Bad Boy Boogie in the book room at Sleuth of Baker Street’s table, and I’ll be carrying copies of it and Blade of Dishonor around with me if you want a signed one. And I’ll be at the bar and the lobby and various panels, when Sarah and I aren’t exploring museums and breweries and the delicious poutine mines.

Hope to see you there, eh?

If you got any Elsinore beer, bring it along.

shelf_life_-_strange_brew

There Used to be a BallPark… in Weird NJ

Weird NJ is one of my favorite magazines. It only comes out twice a year, in full color, and is full of the weirdness that makes the Garden State unique. I’ve been reading for decades, and I’ve had a few articles published, but none recently. Check my publications list for what I had in their past issues.

Until I found an abandoned ballpark in the Meadowlands on one of my rambles. You can read all about it in issue #48, the one with a big Mighty Joe Young on the cover (one of my favorite old Ray Harryhausen flicks).

You can pick up Weird NJ at local bookstores like the Montclair Book Center, and Barnes & Noble stores across the state, or at their website www.weirdnj.com

weirdnj48

 

You call that a shank, eh? The Canadian Penitentiary Museum

My friend Andi Jones, artist extraordinaire, Mad Max post-apocalyptic road warrior, Gamma Terra enthusiast, Vault Dweller, and collector of illegible dice, visited the Canadian Penitentiary Museum. And I’m jealous. Because while they don’t spend much time on Maple Syrup Heists (which are a thing) they do have a great collection of prisoner-made makeshift weapons that put ‘Murican ingenuity to shame. You call that a shank, eh?

They made a frickin’ crossbow out of toothbrushes and it works:

Canadian Prison Crossbow

Now,

You can see more photos and read about Andi’s visit on his Tumblr, Black Ray Gun, which gives me a daily dose of Mutants from 2051 A.D. I’ll definitely try to drop by the museum when I am in Toronto for Bouchercon. It’s almost 3 hours from Toronto, but I can take an alternate route…

And if you want to read a great crime novel set in the bush up in Canader… I recommend Rob Brunet’s Stinking Rich. It’s hilarious and thrilling, like Hiaasen moved up north.