Available now: Hoods, Hot-Rods, and Hellcats

My father used to race his ’53 flathead Ford back in the day, and I built an impressive mythology in my childhood mind after learning that. Part of that went into my entry for Chad Eagleton’s swell collection of ’50s-era crime fiction, Hoods, Hot-Rods, and Hellcats.

My story is called “Red Hot,” novella length hardscrabble blue-collar fiction in the vein of Hubert Selby, Jr. and set in the class struggle of northern New Jersey, between the “Nickie Newarks” and the upscale Bergen county folks across the river, races between super Studebakers and rich boy ‘Vettes, a love story between a mechanic who’s gotten the short end all his life and a woman done bad by her kin rescuing each other until a figure from his past threatens to blow it all apart. It’s one of the stories I’m most proud of, and having it in this excellent collection makes me even prouder.

The only place to get “Red Hot” is in Hoods, Hot-Rods, and Hellcats. Available on Kindle for a mere dollar–a steal if there ever was one–and under seven bones for the beautiful trade paperback. It includes a searing introduction by rock legend Mick Farren, may he rest in peace, and powerful fiction by Chad Eagleton, Matthew Funk, Christopher Grant, David James Keaton, Eric Beetner, Nik Korpon, and Heath Lowrance.

by Scott Kilander
cover by Scott Kilander

Fast and the Furious 6… really!

My review of the heist-caper-car chase flick Fast and the Furious 6 is up at Criminal Element.

I really liked it, surprisingly. They are in their groove. And they chase a Dodge Daytona with a main battle tank. What’s not to love?

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Hoods, Hot Rods, and Hell Cats is live!

Chad Eagleton’s anthology of ’50s rockabilly and greaser noir is now live on IndieGogo.

I’m proud to be part of HOODS, HOT RODS AND HELL CATS, with my long short story “Red Hot,” about a  hot rod mechanic who has more woman than he can handle. Lovingly researched, you could call it “birth of a hellcat,” and it’s one of my most personal stories yet.

With an introduction by rock ‘n roll legend Mick Farren and stories by Eric BeetnerChad EagletonMatthew FunkChristopher GrantHeath LowranceDavid James KeatonNik Korpon, and myself, you get a spectrum of the post-war experience without the veneer of nostalgia and mythology, a deeply human look at an era of social upheaval.

HHH mock up preview

Chad has put together some great rewards to go along with these stories, including an original rockabilly tune, cheesecake pin-up art, art posters, and switchblade combs to slick your hair with butch wax. The e-book was designed by Jaye Manus, who truly turns the format into an art form that not only mimics print but exceeds its limitations. A print edition is also available to grace your shelves.

photo by StyleNoise
photo by StyleNoise

“Red Hot” is a gripping tale of desperate love between two broken people, a man with a knack for tweaking the best out of an engine and the worst out of himself, and a woman on the brink of discovery of her formidable powers. Corvettes and supercharged Silver Hawks and the chopped and channeled Detroit iron that roared brave souls to freedom, and a side of World War 2 we rarely hear of.

If you want a taste, fund Hoods, Hot Rods, and Hell Cats. If you can’t- please go to the IndieGogo page and share the campaign with your friends, and help spread the word.

Thank you.

Freedom Bird

OFF THE RECORD is a charity anthology that benefits children’s literacy. Luca Veste asked 38 writers to pen 1500 words inspired by a classic rock song. I drew “Free Bird.” The book is only 99 cents for Kindle, for the next few days.

Eva Dolan, reviewer at Loitering with Intent and Crime Fiction Lover, said Freedom Bird “is a beautifully constructed story about the strength it takes not to act; may bring a tear to your eye.”

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A buddy of mine in high school drove one of these babies. The Firebird on the hood is truly iconic, and I kept thinking how the soldiers in Vietnam called the plane home the “freedom bird,” and thought of a teenager trapped in a house with his vet father, neither understanding each other, fighting over what it means to “be a man,” and how sometimes it means to act and other times it means not to.

This is a story I could write a book from. The characters are strong in my mind, and I’ve wanted to write about being a kid during the end of the Vietnam war. I was 4 years old when Saigon “fell.” I remember the footage on television. (I woke up early at a young age, would walk down and turn the TV on. I saw Sadat’s assassination this way, and also watched PATTON when I was way too young). So you’ll be seeing more of Harve Chundak, someday.

Coming Soon… Hoods, Hotrods & Hellcats!

by Scott Kilander
by Scott Kilander

 

My story, “Red Hot,” will appear in this hip shindig… and I mean “Red Hot” as in Billy Lee Riley. ’50s hotrodders, biker war vets, and one fierce red hot hellcat.

“…the world of Hoods, Hot Rods, and Hellcats is a dirty cocktail of fact, fable, fears, and fantasies. The 1950s are recreated one more time but here it’s with a savage, razor-honed edge you’ll never find in Grease, Happy Days, or American Graffitti.” –From the Introduction by Mick Farren

Featuring brand new fiction from Eric Beetner, Chad Eagleton, Matthew Funk, Christopher Grant, David James Keaton, Nik Korpon, Heath Lowrance, and Thomas Pluck.

Belly Up to the Bar with M.H. Mead

M.H. Mead is the pen name of the writing duo of Margaret Yang and Harry R. Campion, authors of FATE’S MIRROR, THE CALINE CONSPIRACY, and most recently, the Motor City techno-thriller TAKING THE HIGHWAY. Detroit has become a commuter nightmare of dystopian proportions that gives us “fourths,” professional carpoolers needed to fill a car so you can ride in the HOV lane, and computer-controlled traffic patterns. As a fan of speculative fiction, science fiction that considers the issues facing humanity today and in the future, I enjoyed “Riding Fourth,” the short story set in the future of TAKING THE HIGHWAY, so I invited Yang and Campion to belly up to the bar.

Taking the Highway

Tom Pluck BeerTP: Hello Margaret and Harry, or M.H. … what can I get you?

 
 
 

mh mead Harry: I’ll take Captain’s and Cola with lime.
Margaret: I’ll have what he’s having.

 
 

Tom Pluck BeerTP:I gave readers a hint about the future Detroit in TAKING THE HIGHWAY, but tell us what the story is about.

 
 

mh mead Harry & Margaret: The Detroit of the future is a newly-evolved model of prosperity, but that prosperity is fragile. A ring of poverty circles the city like a noose, which makes commuting from the suburbs into the city a dangerous prospect, unless you’re on the highways. Since every highway is restricted to cars with four passengers, those carpools who come up short hire professional hitchhikers—fourths—to round out their carpools. The city needs fourths. Fourths need the work. It’s an easy way to earn some extra cash.

Or to end up dead.

Someone is killing fourths and the only one who can stop the killer is jaded homicide detective Andre LaCroix, who moonlights as a fourth himself.

Tom Pluck BeerTP:I’m a total motorhead, though my mechanic skills peter out after electronic fuel injection came around. I drove a ’65 Mustang ragtop in college–bought with my own cash after paying tuition, mind you–and I love a well designed car, whether it’s ’70s Detroit muscle or my Mini Cooper turbo. What are your favorites?

 

mh mead Harry & Margaret: We test-drove lots of contemporary American power to see which one we thought would become a classic. Which car of today would be considered a desirable antique in a future of smoothly plastic electric cars? A friend took us for a ride in a Viper, but we had to pass because it was only available in manual transmission. It was too much to ask that our hero be able to drive stick in that world—alas. Although we loved the Mustang and the Corvette, we came back to Dodge for the Challenger. Andre and his brother share a bright red, 2008 Challenger, inherited from their father. The brothers constantly fight over who gets to drive it, even though it’s too valuable to be driven at all.

2009-hurst-hemi-dodge-challenger-front-angle-588x441

Tom Pluck BeerTP: In “Riding Fourth” you make it clear that Fourths are second-class citizens. We like to think America is a classless society, but that’s only because it’s taboo to talk about it. And your car says the same things about you in America as your schooling and accent do in England. What inspired you to make a car-less underclass for this novel?

 

mh mead Harry & Margaret: We’re big fans of science fiction novels that focus on the cultural impacts of new discoveries and evolving technology. Detroit has been saved by shrinking its footprint, but that makes the commute there and back again from the suburbs a tricky thing. People will hire fourths only if they have to. Since you don’t want just any stranger in your car, fourths have to look good, act polite, and charm instantly. Our fourths are day laborers with the wit of Oscar Wilde, gigolos with the sophisticated charm of James Bond, and they are constantly clawing for respect. Sometimes they get it, sometimes they don’t.

 

Tom Pluck BeerTP: “Nobody with a good car needs to be justified.” That’s from Flannery O’Connor’s WISE BLOOD. But I also like “Nobody walks in L.A.,” by Missing Persons. We have it on the jukebox. You got no wheels, you got nothing. Tell us a bit about Detroit. I haven’t been there for decades, and residents have a love-hate relationship with the city. What made you set it there?

 

mh mead Harry & Margaret: The Motor City hates the hate when it comes to public transportation. The unspoken undercurrent is “anyone not buying a new car as often as possible is part of the problem.” At the same time, cities often have islands of safety surrounded by lakes of poverty. We just took both things to their logical extreme. Honestly, the most science-fictional aspect of the entire book is the new prosperity of Detroit. In our imagined future, Detroit is a great place to live, work, and even vacation. One of our favorite scenes in the book is when Andre, working as a fourth, is picked up by a family of tourists. Their outsider’s view of Detroit really shows how the city has changed.

Detroit Grand Prix

Tom Pluck BeerTP: I was sorely disappointed that it wasn’t like ROBOCOP described it, when I visited. New Jersey has the same self-deprecating sense of humor. What are some of your favorite movies? They don’t have to be about cars or Detroit.

 

mh mead Harry & Margaret: We could probably carry on entire conversations using nothing but movie quotes. THE PRINCESS BRIDE has the best lines. “Have fun storming the castle!” and “You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means,” and “I do not think you’ll accept my help, since I am only waiting around to kill you.” We also love little Ronald Ann in A WISH FOR WINGS THAT WORK. Her simple, “Uh-huh, save it,” speaks volumes.

What’s even more fun is quoting lines from really bad movies. Bruce Willis in STRIKING DISTANCE, half-shouting, half-whining, “I’m trying to solve a murder, here!” cracks us up every time.

Tom Pluck BeerTP: Here’s a buck, pick a few songs off the jukebox that readers should listen to while reading TAKING THE HIGHWAY.

 
 

mh mead Harry & Margaret: We could take the easy way and name car songs like “Highway to Hell” and “I’m in Love With My Car” and “Pink Cadillac.”  But you know what would be even more fitting? Classic Motown. Our near-future Detroit has a lot in common with the Detroit of the 50’s and 60’s. It was a time of prosperity, of population growth, of optimism. Yet, there was an undercurrent of poverty and inequality that exploded a few years later. Things were good on the surface, not so good underneath. And yet that music—The Supremes, The Four Tops, Marvin Gaye—is music everyone knows by heart.

 

Tom Pluck BeerTP: I tried collaborating on a story with a friend of mine, but I found it very difficult. Then again, I’m a brutal editor. For the record, “Riding Fourth” didn’t make me reach for my red pen. I really enjoyed it, and I look forward to reading your novel. What is it like collaborating on novels, like you do? How do you not kill each other?

 

mh mead Harry & Margaret: It starts with respect. We were classmates together and beta readers for one another long before we were collaborators. We have confidence in each other’s opinions, so if one of us says, “This is a problem,” we know it is. We often differ about the best fix, but the trust and respect means we will eventually find a way.

Do we ever want to kill each other? Heck, no! We’ve had a few serious disagreements, but 99 days out of 100, this is the most fun we’ve ever had writing.

Tom Pluck BeerTP: And speaking of death, what are your respective last meals?

 
 
 

mh mead Harry : The bleu-crusted, aged tenderloin filet from The Rattlesnake Club on Detroit’s Riverwalk. I’d pair it with a 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon from Three Saints Santa Ynez.

Margaret: I don’t really care what’s for dinner, as long as there is key lime pie for dessert. Just like that character from “Dexter,” If I had the perfect slice of key lime pie in my stomach, I could die happy.

key-lime-pie-m

Tom Pluck BeerTP: I’d skip the grape juice, but key lime pie and a good steak sound like a great way to go. Thanks for dropping by and piquing my interest even further in your novel.

 

Taking the Highway is available for Kindle and in trade paperback. M.H. Mead’s website can be found at Yang and Campion.

 

BW Beer Mug

Car Culture

Cars are part of the American DNA. Other countries have car culture, but the closest to America’s suicidal romance with hot rods is Australia, home of Mad Max. The open space helps. In Britain, they can tell your caste by your accent. In America, it’s often by your car. And if you ride the bus, you’re at the bottom of the pole. In suburban New Jersey ‘riding the bus’ is racial code for poor and black.

I saw this old Charger for sale on the way to work today. The body is in good shape, it has the floor shift, but unless the badges were lost, it’s a six-banger or a 318 V8. It got me thinking about how cars are the face we wear. Some dream of cars they could never afford to own, others just want to get from point A to point B. For the latter, these rules don’t apply. But in America, land where advertising controls the language, everything means something. In the novel in progress, Tony “Baloney” Giambotta is the friend of our protagonist. He went to school for computer science, but became a mechanic when his father died, to honor his blue collar roots, in self-destructive fashion. Let me get inside his head and give you…

The car castes of New Jersey.

You drive a beater, we know all about you. You either can’t afford better or you just don’t care. Either way, we judge you.

If it’s a minivan or a wagon, you’re a hard-working parent with too many kids, and we get out of your way. You’re either distracted by them if you’re mom, or pissed off that you’re stuck with a minivan, if you’re Dad.

A hopped up old Civic, lowered to asphalt-scraping depths, a coffee can for a muffler and the tires spaced out wide for tight turns? Odds are you’re Hispanic, and you want to race to the next light.

Old BMW, in nice shape with a sweet set of rims? You’re a young black man with a good job. You’ve got the good tunes cranked up, you’re cruising the limit because the cops pull you over for breathing the wrong way.

A used SUV with a red Rutgers ‘R’ sticker on the back? You’re a college girl driving mom’s old car so you don’t die after you crush some poor working family in their beater, while texting.

A new SUV with a Montclair State sticker, and you’re the mom worrying about your daughter in your old SUV. You are yelling at her on your phone, telling her not to text and drive.

If you drive a new BMW, Audi or Acura, you’re a single male, probably white, with more money than brains, driving too fast for your skillset. You are most likely listening to Disturbed or some angry band that makes you think Fight Club wasn’t a satire about how stupid you are.

Prius. Okay, we get it. You saved the planet. We’re not worthy.

Mustang, 350Z or Camaro, your Dad is working class and spoils the shit out of you. You think you deserve it. You wish you could put the pedal down for more than 2 seconds in this tiny, congested state, and you like watching people flinch at your exhaust note. A Challenger, and same thing but you’re over 50 now and had to buy it yourself.

Escalade, Infiniti or a Lexus, and you’re trying to be an extra on Jersey Shore, if you get your tan just right. Sure, Dad co-signed the lease, but you’re money. You get in the clubs, don’t you? Why don’t these drivers get out of your way, don’t they know who you are?

Buick or a Cadillac and we pass you, because you’re too old and driving too slow.

A late-model Nissan, Toyota or Honda sedan, or a Ford Escape and you’re just trying to get to work alive.

A Subaru, you have children. You can’t afford a Volvo. You think 3 days of bad snow a year is worth investing in all-wheel drive, because you worry about everything. Also, you are considering a colon cleanse.

A pickup truck, and you run a landscaping business and like Toby Keith.

A Chevy or a Charger, and you’re a cop.

A Corvette or a Porsche, and we all know the penis pump didn’t work.

New Mercedes or Jaguar, and you’re a boomer or just shy of it, and think you did enough for the Earth, and now it’s time to do something for you. You’re talking on the bluetooth that your son set up for you, and why don’t these other cars realize you’re in a hurry, and get out of your way. The nerve of some people.

Ferrari, you work down the port for your uncle. You look at porn all day and are paid $400,000 a year for it.

Bentley. You’re not a rapper, and you can’t name any rappers, either.

Chrysler 300. You can’t afford a Bentley or a Cadillac.

Rolls Royce. You are former Newark Mayor Sharpe James. You are in jail.

And if you drive a Mini Cooper S, you’re a snarky crime writer who just commuted through all that. You think you look like the Italian Job, but look more like ‘clown car.’

© 2012 Thomas Pluck
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