Cruel Yule! a ThugLit Holiday Anthology

My story “Letters to Santa,” which made one unfortunate fellow spew his drink out his nose at Noir at the Bar NJ, is available only in the new ThugLit holiday anthology, CRUEL YULE. It is available in ebook and paperback. And don’t worry, just because it has laughs doesn’t mean it won’t rip your heart out.

It also contains these stories by other illustrious writers:
MISTLETOE by Hilary Davidson
LETTERS TO SANTA by Thomas Pluck
FELIZ NAVIDEAD by Brace Godfrey (as discovered by Johnny Shaw)
THE BRASS COIN by Justin Porter
FORK by Jen Conley
UNHOLY NIGHT by Terrence McCauley
‘TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE… by Todd Robinson


Announcing Cruel Yule, a ThugLit Holiday anthology

I am poud to announce that my story “Letters to Santa,” a deceptively innocuous titled horror tale that greatly entertained the crowd at Tumulty’s for the most recent Noir at the Bar NJ, will appear in ThugLit‘s first Holiday themed anthology, where it is among great company:

The perps: Rob Hart, Hilary Davidson, Angel Colon, Terrence McCauley, Johnny Shaw, Jen Conley, Angel Colon, Thomas Pluck, Ed Kurtz, Jordan Harper and Todd Robinson.

Cruel Yule cover

A release date has not been set. But you’ll want this one. A teaser opening line from “Letters to Santa.”

Letters to Santa - Noir Bar Quote

The Christmas Empire Strikes Back

Yesterday I shared an anonymous letter that one of the residents of my building posted, about how the management was “torturing” us by putting up the Christmas decorations too early. Most of the ire returned to the anonymous protester was that s/he claimed to speak for all building residents, which is always a bad idea. If you say “we, the people” you had better be more than a handful of elites (waitaminute…)

Anyway, here are the very entertaining responses to the original letter:




The War on Christmas Hits Home

I live in a nice apartment complex in a once-bohemian suburb that is now a NY commuter enclave. Some of the old spirit still remains, though on cozy Church Street you will encounter old men driving their Lamborghinis at 5mph so you can see the wealth they’ve accumulated, and be assaulted by twin strollers as moms kamikaze their way to cut in line at your favorite diner. But it’s still nice to live there, and our building has a friendly community of artists, teachers, writers, child caregivers, psychologists, newspaper editors, office workers, a woman who runs a handmade clothing shop, construction workers, and so on. The building holds two parties a year, one in summer and another during the holidays. We have a pool, and community barbecue pits, and the management puts up a bouncy house for the kids. My friend Anie collected a bunch of planters and lets residents sign up to plant their own herb and flower gardens. It’s pretty cool. Not perfect, but I really like living here. And every year, Mary the building manager puts up holiday decorations in the lobby.

This year, that was too much for one anonymous resident, who took umbrage at how early the decorations went up. Never mind that Thanksgiving is a week later this year. This outrage called for that most gutless of protests, the anonymous public note:


I love the high drama the writer conjures. Spare us THE TORTURE. Now, I’m a bit of a Scrooge myself. I preferred when Christmas wasn’t mentioned until the turkey was fully digested. I worked retail for ten years in a neighborhood gift shop, and I can wrap presents faster than shit through a Christmas goose about to meet the chopping block. I can sing most carols including the Christmas version of Snoopy vs. the Red Baron by the Royal Guardsmen, because it has seeped into my very flesh. I’ve mopped up kid puke while Sinatra sang “O Tannenbaum.” Yet my spirit for the holiday season never falters, as the year dies and we gather to warm away the creeping sense of mortality, rekindling friendships and bonds that counter the chilling sadness brought on by the icy winds and dead branches.

I wish I’d included a photo of the decorations. They are confined to one corner of the lobby, but you see them when the elevator doors open. There is no music playing. The doormen are not humiliated into wearing Santa hats or saying “happy holidays” to everyone. I commiserate with the letter-writer, but find that we waste our energy on such petty things. We can’t look away from something as silly as this, but we can tolerate atrocity in our midst, when doing something about it requires more than an anonymous letter. I love that fellow residents came to Mary’s defense. I need to see what got blacked out. I’m sure it’s juicy.

Your favorite Christmas album?

I joked that I got so high that I imagined Bob Dylan had made a Christmas album last year. And he did, of course, but it seemed almost surreal to me. Not to comment on the quality of the album–I like Dylan’s music, but find his manufactured persona maddening–but doesn’t a “Bob Dylan Christmas album” sound like a bad parody on Saturday Night Live, perhaps aired during a writer’s strike?

My favorite album is A Christmas Gift for You, aka “the Phil Spector Christmas album,” with the Ronettes and the lush-voiced Darlene Love. My mother hunted this down on vinyl in NYC in the ’80s, and we played it so much that to me, it’s not Christmas without it. I have it on vinyl and CD, and my dear wife tolerates my overplaying it. (I’m sure she’s going to strangle me some Christmas Eve, shouting “If I hear ring a ding ding a ding dong ding one more ring ding damn time!!”)

There are plenty of other good Christmas albums out there. I picked up the Charlie Brown Christmas album by the Vince Guaraldi trip on green vinyl this year.

What’s your favorite?

Merry Christmas!

My mom spent a few years tracking down A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector, which is a record album, not a euphemism for being shot by a crazy record producer with a three foot afro.
Once she found it at a record store on St. Mark’s Place, we carved new grooves in that sucker spinning it on the turntable. The songs were further immortalized in Goodfellas, and here are a few of my favorites:

They can still belt it out!

Darlene Love can SING. I’m glad I got to see her in the Hairspray musical on Broadway as Motormouth Maybelle. She’s amazing, and Christmas ain’t Christmas until I hear her sing “Baby Please Come Home!” You can buy it here: © 2011 Thomas Pluck