Steel Heart: 10 Tales of Crime and Suspense

Steel Heart Cover 2500x1563Presenting ten unflinching stories with heart.

What does Steel Heart mean? It means hard-boiled thrillers with heart. And here are ten of my best and most popular, most of which have only been available in print until now.

I tarried a bit in getting a story collection together. Many have asked for one. I wanted to do it right. Then my friend JW Manus, who designs beautiful e-books–if you think that’s an oxymoron, see what she’s done for Lawrence Block, the Protectors anthology, and Hoods, Hot Rods, and Hellcats, among many others–prodded me, asking why I didn’t have a collection of my best stories out there. My wife Sarah made the cover. Jaye and I edited the stories anew, and Jaye designed the book, which when you take a free peek on Amazon or Smashwords, exceeds her reputation.

Right now the book is available on Amazon for Kindle, and Smashwords in all formats, and you can also read it there online. With Kindle Cloud Reader, you don’t need a Kindle to read the book either. Barnes & Noble is taking their sweet time. It is also available for Kobo e-reader, but I am waiting for it to be available through Watchung Booksellers Kobo program before sharing that link. Then the sale will support my local indie bookstore. I will update this page, and the official Steel Heart page when it is available there.

And here are the stories:

Gumbo Weather – Jay Desmarteaux confronts his own past as he spars with a ruthless crime boss to rescue a child from a hellish home.

A Glutton for Punishment – Terry is an MMA fighter who’s never backed down from a fight, but this one might be his last.

Legacy of Brutality – Denny the Dent ain’t smart, but he listens good. When a woman at his gym tangles with her abusive boyfriend, it’s 300 musclebound pounds of street justice to the rescue.

The Forest for the Trees – A street racer finds the love of his life as he escapes from the cops. But how long will he live to love her?

Six Feet Under God – A wise-cracking existential P.I. takes on the ultimate murder case: Who killed the Almighty?

Tiger Mother – in 1950s Harlem, Caldonia Peele hunts down her missing son. It’s the toughs who better be afraid when tiger mother’s on the prowl.

Freedom Bird – Vietnam Vet Harve Chundak battles to teach his unruly son to walk the straight and narrow, but will he lose the war?

Black-Eyed Susan – A bad joke comes to all-too-real life for the denizens of a mill town gin mill.

The Last Sacrament – The dangerous life of an unlikely altar boy.

Kamikaze Death Burgers at the Ghost Town Cafe – Jay Desmarteaux is just trying to get by, running contraband in his voodoo Cadillac. When he tangles with a psycho trucker and the red hot lawyer for a violent biker gang, he fights a battle worthy of the Road Warrior in the Utah desert for his very soul.

Praise for these short stories:

“Thomas Pluck doesn’t flinch and he doesn’t pull punches. He writes with passion, grit, heart, and his prose cuts as clean as a scalpel.” –Wayne D. Dundee, author of RECKONING AT RAINROCK and the Joe Hannibal PI series

“If you don’t know who Thomas Pluck is, you will soon enough. He combines jabs of clever humor with full-impact gut shots.” –Johnny Shaw, author of DOVE SEASON and BIG MARIA

“To read a Thomas Pluck story is to be enmeshed in atmosphere that completely takes over the body and the heart. A place of honesty, brutal but true. Pluck is described best in one word: Storyteller.” –Les Edgerton, author of JUST LIKE THAT and THE PERFECT CRIME

“Black-Eyed Susan by Thomas Pluck is short and mean and well-written. I don’t think I’ve read anything by this author before, but I’ll be on the lookout for his name now.” –James Reasoner, author of THE CIVIL WAR SERIES

“These stories prove that Pluck ain’t here to f**k around.” –Chuck Wendig, author of BLACKBIRDS and THE BLUE BLAZES

10% of the proceeds of this book will be donated to PROTECT: The National Association to Protect Children.

While your waiting for my editor to finish with BLADE OF DISHONOR, and me to finish editing BURY THE HATCHET, have a taste of the MMA fighter who inspired “Rage Cage” Reeves of Blade, and two Jay Desmarteaux stories, plus Denny the Dent and several more. Sorry it took so long to get this together, but I think you’ll agree that it was worth doing right.

Steel Heart: 10 Tales of Crime and Suspense  is available at the following e-book retailers.

Kobo, through Watchung Booksellers

Amazon for Kindle

Barnes & Noble for Nook

Smashwords, in many formats, including to read online.

Soon for Apple iPad

Bouchercon 2012

A great time was had by all. Some visual highlights. I have a big post tomorrow about paying back the reader, so here is some eye candy before I ask you to eat your veggies and think about the reader-writer relationship.

That slinky siren on my arm is the magnificent and multitalented Christa Faust. Her novel Choke Hold- one of my top reads last year and still the best story I’ve read with an MMA fighter- was up for an Anthony Award. If you haven’t read her work yet, she is a noir original. Her scientific knowledge of the genre on film and paper gives her work depth and originality, and Choke Hold tells a great story while giving us a peek at the modern gladiators of the American Colosseum: fighters and porn stars.

This is the voracious and adorable creature known as Sabrina Ogden. Like a blonde baby wolverine, she will claw her way through your heart to get to a cupcake. She is eating a donut here, but we also saw her obliterate french toast, bacon, a bacon cheeseburger, quesadillas, mini cupcakes and 42 ounce steak. At least I think it was a steak, it might have been the remains of a rude con-goer. This dear friend is the beneficiary of the Feeding Kate anthology that you so graciously funded on IndieGogo last month.
So yes. she ate all that with jaw damage.
I shared the burger with her because I am dainty.
She blogs and reviews at My Friends Call Me Kate.

That is Johnny Ramone’s guitar and Some of Joey’s jacket. The opening ceremonies were at Cleveland’s Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. Sorry if this is the gem of Cleveland, but it’s kind of like a giant Hard Rock cafe. They had a Linkin Park guitar there. I’m not even sure that the Elvis, early R&B and Beatles stuff can erase that indignity. But it was nice to visit it, and they have a giant hot dog that belonged to Phish:

Best meals of the trip? Pierogies at a diner and bratwurst at the casino buffet. There were some fantastic restaurants nearby that served roasted pig heads and the hotel bar made a damn good burger, but this is a Polish town and the good eats of our vowel-challenged brothers Wzsgbgnyzcwz are the finest fare. This was a good bar town as well, with plenty of local beer on tap. The hotel had four Great Lakes beers and I enjoyed them all. The Tilted Kilt (Scottish Hooters) had the double IPA Nosferatu, which kicked ass (or bit neck, perhaps). And speaking of bars:

Noir at the Bar was held at Wonder Bar, a fine establishment with patrons of discriminating taste. Meaning they listened while Snubnose Press authors Eric Beetner, Jonathan Woods, Les Edgerton, John Kenyon, Jedediah Ayres and Josh Stallings read their work. Good beer, better stories. Great time.

Josh and Les are buds whose work I’ve talked about before. Out There Bad by Stallings is like James Crumley’s brutal action film put to paper by a street poet. Edgerton’s career speaks for itself, the heir to Ed Bunker, the real ex-con who writes sharp-edged truth. They are both featured in the Protectors Anthology (link to your right) as well.

Bouchercon was a great time- a celebration hosted by readers where the writers go to pay back. Even the mightiest like Lee Child and Mary Higgins Clark (who I met on the plane, and who was as gracious as you could imagine) mingle with the crowds and are as friendly and approachable as can be. If you enjoy crime fiction, this is your Comicon, except you don’t pay for autographs and you can rub elbows and have a drink with the people you came to see.

I met a lot of new people and had great times with them and the “old” friends I met last year. Glenn Gray and Todd Robinson, Johnny Shaw, Stephen Romano, Neliza Drew, Kent Gowran, Joe Myers… it’s a crime family reunion, and a trip I will gladly make every year.

Protectors: Stories to Benefit PROTECT is out!

The anthology I’ve been working on since January, to benefit PROTECT and the National Association to Protect Children, is now available.

PROTECTORS includes a foreword by rock critic Dave Marsh, and fiction by Patti Abbott, Ian Ayris, Ray Banks, Nigel Bird, Michael A. Black, Tony Black, R. Thomas Brown, Ken Bruen, Bill Cameron, Jen Conley, Charles de Lint, Wayne D. Dundee, Chad Eagleton, Les Edgerton, Andrew Fader, Matthew C. Funk, Roxane Gay, Edward A. Grainger, Glenn G. Gray, Jane Hammons, Amber Keller, Joe R. Lansdale, Frank Larnerd, Gary Lovisi, Mike Miner, Zak Mucha, Dan O’Shea, George Pelecanos, Thomas Pluck, Richard Prosch, Keith Rawson, James Reasoner, Todd Robinson, Johnny Shaw, Gerald So, Josh Stallings, Charlie Stella, Andrew Vachss, Steve Weddle, Dave White, and Chet Williamson.

The book is now available for Kindle, and the pages at Barnes & Noble and Kobo will be live soon.

For updated order information, including how to order it directly through Paypal (generating the largest donation; you can upload the Kindle or ePub file to your reader, or read it on your PC) go to the PROTECTORS Official Web Page.

The book will also be available for the Apple iPad and on Smashwords. Our designer is working on the print edition, which will be available at Amazon and in bookstores.

The wait is over… go be a Protector!

The Protectors Anthology is coming…

For a year, I’ve been working on a follow-up anthology to Lost Children, the charity anthology inspired by Fiona Johnson‘s flash fiction challenge, hosted at Ron Earl PhillipsFlash Fiction Friday. It is nearly complete, and will be available September 1st. Here is the full list of contributors. 100% of proceeds will go to PROTECT and the National Association to Protect Children – the army fighting what Andrew Vachss calls “the only holy war worthy of the name,” the protection of children.

Protectors: Stories to Benefit PROTECT

Stories by:

Patti Abbott
Ian Ayris
Ray Banks
Nigel Bird
Michael A. Black

Tony Black
R. Thomas Brown
Ken Bruen
Bill Cameron
Jen Conley

Charles de Lint
Wayne D. Dundee
Chad Eagleton
Les Edgerton
Andrew Fader

Matthew C. Funk
Roxane Gay
Glenn G. Gray
Jane Hammons
Amber Keller

Joe R. Lansdale
Frank Larnerd
Gary Lovisi
Mike Miner
Zak Mucha

Dan O’Shea
George Pelecanos
Thomas Pluck
Richard Prosch
Keith Rawson

James Reasoner
Todd Robinson
Johnny Shaw
Gerald So
Josh Stallings

Charlie Stella
Andrew Vachss
Steve Weddle
Dave White
Chet Williamson

40 stories. One cause: PROTECT

In a few weeks, the e-book will be available across all formats. The print edition will follow.

Cover art by Kim Parkhurst. Interior design by Jaye Manus. Cover design by Sarah Bennett Pluck. Print design by Suzanne Dell’Orto. Edited by Thomas Pluck.

I would like to thank everyone who submitted stories for the collection, and everyone who assisted me with this project, and everyone at PROTECT.

Angola: The Farm

The Louisiana State Prison, nicknamed “Angola” after the plantation land it sits on, is unique, infamous and impressive all at once. They also call it “The Farm,” because all prisoners work, and the farms on the grounds feed the inmates. Some have likened this to slavery, but a working man gets in less trouble, and Angola has over five thousand prisoners, a large percentage of which will never walk free again. Louisiana’s sentencing guidelines are some of the toughest, and the prison has a hospice for all the elderly cons it must take care of. And not all are convicted of violent crimes.

Angola has a great variety of programs to keep the prisoners involved. There is the Angola Rodeo, which is as dangerous as any other, and garners criticism comparing it to the Roman gladiatorial arena. There is also a golf course for prison staff, where prisoners with the best behavior records can work as caddies, and recreational grounds and ball parks they can use as well. There are two programs for fathers in prison where they can meet with their families once a year.

Angola Prison Rodeo

However, the last thing you’d say about Angola is that it coddles prisoners. The prison has a long history of violent abuse and it was only turned around in the last two decades. Sex slavery rings were common, the “Red Hat” cell block was a pit of inhuman misery, and the guards were among the lowest paid in the nation. It has turned around, and while at first glance this may look like a country club, when you watch these prisoners or read their articles in The Angolite, the prison magazine, you see they are different from most convicts in other prisons. They have some dignity. They are not marking time in a cell, they can see the fruits of their labor, whether they sport a silver rodeo belt buckle, harvest crops, or ease a fellow con’s pain in the hospice. And according to the Shreveport Times, Angola has a lower rate of recidivism than local facilities, but this may not be correlated to these programs.

An excellent documentary on Angola and prison life in general is The Farm: Angola USA. The film documents the hospice, the rodeo, and the difficulties in housing a large prison population, many for life sentences. At least three of the prisoners featured were released after long legal fights over their convictions. Which is available to view on Liveleak:

http://www.liveleak.com/ll_embed?f=c8d538bb1eb1
Direct Links to: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

I found out about The Angolite through my writer buddy and ex-con Les Edgerton, author of The Bitch, Just Like That, The Perfect Crime, Gumbo Ya-Ya and many more. Subscriptions are $20 a year, and having read my first issue of this slick and well-written magazine, it is quite a bargain. The July/August 2011 issue had an in-depth article on illicit cell phone use in prisons, plus articles on the “Long Termers,” cons in Angola for 25 years or more, the Returning Hearts family visit program, plus short “expressions” and poetry by convicts, including a touching elegy to a lifer who’d rehabilitated himself yet died behind bars, an old trusty they called “Papa Smurf.” It’s great reading, and gives an insight into prison life.

Subscribe to the Angolite

© 2012 Thomas Pluck

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