Blue collar crime in a white collar suburb: Interview in the Montclair Local

Gwen Orel of the Montclair Local interviewed me about my novel Bad Boy Boogie, which is set partly in Montclair, and the surrounding suburbs. As a teenager, I biked to Montclair for the used bookstore and the punk shop, and I always wanted to live here (and now I do). I grew up two towns over in Nutley, whence Martha Stewart sprang like a decorating demon in a cloud of brimstone and potpourri, that town Futurama loves to tease. We had one bookstore that closed and the town shut down our video arcade because kids from out of town (hint: not white) came to play.

They also announce my reading on April 27th at Watchung Booksellers, with Alex Segura (the Miami-set Pete Fernandez P.I. novels) and Dave White (the Jersey-centric Jackson Donne thrillers). It will be a great time, come and join us.

You can read the full interview here at The Montclair Local. My Jersey really came out in this one. It sounds like Joe Pesci giving a line reading.

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Bad Boy Boogie uncovered!

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Ain’t she a beauty? Designed by James Ray Tuck Jr., a fine author in his own right. Working with Eric and Lance at Down & Out Books has been a dream. The book will be published in April. It will be available for pre-order soon, and I will share the links once they are live.

So you can’t read it yet, but here’s what people who have read it have to say:

“Thomas Pluck has with this novel launched himself into the rare category of … must-read novels … must re-read … must tell all and sundry about. It is that fine, that compelling. Made me relive all that a wonder novel yields. Just tremendous.”
Ken Bruen, author of the Shamus and Macavity Award-winning Jack Taylor mysteries

“Thomas Pluck’s BAD BOY BOOGIE is a vivid dose of New Jersey noir with heart, soul and muscle.”
– Wallace Stroby, author of the Crissa Stone series

“Thomas Pluck is a crime writer to watch. Steeped in the genre’s grand tradition but with heart and bravado all his own, his writing is lean, smart and irresistibly compelling.”
Megan Abbott, author of You Will Know Me and Queenpin

“Jay Desmarteaux is a worthy addition to the list of crime fiction protagonists.  He’s Louisiana heart mixed with pure New Jersey grit.  Thomas Pluck’s prose is taut, muscular, and pulls the reader through the book’s violent bursts at a light speed clip.  Look out for this one.”
– Dave White, Shamus Award Nominated writer of the Jackson Donne series

“My first Thomas Pluck novel won’t be my last. Bad Boy Boogie is a superb, taut, little thriller that hits all the right notes and sustains its central conceits to the very last page.”
– Adrian McKinty, author of the Sean Duffy crime novels

“Beautiful Bad-assery. Full of lyrical longing for a youth unfulfilled and the brutal truth of an adulthood gone dangerously wrong. Brilliant. Thomas Pluck may well be the bastard love child of James Lee Burke and Richard Stark.”
– Josh Stallings, author of Anthony and Lefty Award nominated Young Americans, and the Mo McGuire series

And here’s a little taste:

When Jay Desmarteaux walked out the gates of Rahway Prison, the sun hit his face like air on a fresh wound. The breeze smelled different, felt charged, electric. He had spent twenty-five years as a monk locked inside a dank Shaolin temple dedicated to violence and human predation while the men who put him there lived free from fear.

Men who needed killing.

I’ll be touring, so if you want to hear me read, grab a beer, arm wrassle, or set my beard aflame, check out my Events page.

 

The Simpsons and The Tube Bar Tapes

The day after Thanksgiving, FX channel puts on a 13-day marathon of “The Simpsons,” the animated satire that is set to become America’s longest-running television series, defeating “Gunsmoke”‘s 25 year run, unless it is cancelled. Confession, I haven’t watched it regularly in well over a decade; I watched the John Waters episode, and a few scattered here and there, but the last one I remember watching was the “soul mate” episode with Johnny Cash, where Homer eats the Guatemalan Insanity peppers and hallucinates. I’m not sure what changed, but I just lost interest, the show seemed less subversive. They had won. The show had broken a lot of barriers and was accused of making us more crass and vulgar when often, it was one of the more realistic portrayals of family life on the boob tube.

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Bart got his start on the Tracey Ullman Show, and took over the nation with his battle cry of “Cowabunga,” “I’m Bart Simpson, who the hell are you?” and of course, “Eat My Shorts.” It all seems so silly now, but it was a breakthrough at the time. One of Bart’s favorite pastimes was prank calling the bartender at his father’s gin mill, Moe’s, and tormenting its owner, Moe Szyslak. “I’d like to speak to Al.” “Al who?” “Al Coholic.”

Well, that gag had its origin in New Jersey. Matt Groening was a fan of “The Tube Bar Tapes,” a series of prank calls made to The Tube Bar in Jersey City, a dive in Journal Square run by a retired heavyweight boxer named Louis “Red” Deutsch. Red had a voice like Tom Waits in a cement mixer, and whether punchy or rummy, he fell for some of the oldest prank calls in the book. And when he realized he was being pranked, his colorful rejoinders, ranging from profanity to poetics such as “I’ll cut open yer belly and show ya the black stuff inside” made for entertainment in the early ’80s, when “the Red tapes” made the rounds among sports journalists and then the larger world. Once they hit the Internet in the early ’90s they became known as The Bum Bar Bastards, and went on to inspire The Jerky Boys, who were more of a performance comedy team. (The Jerky Boys Movie is more entertaining than it has any right to be, maybe due to cameos from Tom Jones singing Lenny Kravitz, and Alan Arkin playing a cranky mobster.)

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Red Deutsch with Rocky Marciano. Photo credit Jon Rowe

We listened to the Red Tapes in high school, when parody songs only heard on Dr. Demento were passed around on mix tapes and treasured for those long cruising drives around at night when you had nothing to do. My friends and I wanted to visit The Tube Bar, but Old Red died in 1986, before we could legally enter. Here’s a picture of the Tube Bar:

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If you want to listen to the infamous “Red Tapes,” they are now on YouTube. Be warned, Red and the pranksters are pretty foul-mouthed fellows.

A Hot Night in Hub City

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My next reading will be on Saturday, August 29th at Noir at the Bar New Jersey, at Tumulty’s pub in New Brunswick. Hosted by Jen Conley and Mark Krajnak, look at that great lineup (and poster, by Chuck Regan). Come join us. I’ll be hitting Destination Dogs before the show,

The Cherry Blossoms of Branch Brook Park

branch brook cherry blossomsI drove through Branch Brook Park today on my morning commute to see the cherry blossoms. I’ve written about them before, in “The Forest for the Trees” (collected in STEEL HEART) and in the Denny the Dent stories. They only bloom a few weeks a year. They were a gift from the Bamberger family, and Newark/Belleville’s park has the largest stand of them in America; over 4300. Washington, D.C. has 3020, a gift from Japan in 1912.

Branch Brook was designed by Frederick Olmstead, who designed Central Park, and hundreds more. It’s nice for a walk or drive, and Nanina’s restaurant is one of the best Italian eateries in the state. If you can get in; it’s often booked years in advance for weddings. More my speed is Luis’s Red Hots, a hot dog truck at the Belleville end, on Union Ave. They make a great potato dog- thin sliced white potatoes with paprika and spices on a snappy frankfurter. At the other end by Heller Parkway is another famous hot dog truck, John’s, who make fine chili cheese dogs.

You’ve got a week before the petals drop. Best bet is to visit on a weekday, the weekends are packed, but it’s a beautiful place to visit this time of year.

Noir at the Bar NJ: at The Saint in Asbury Park, 12/2 8pm

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I’ll reading with Jen Conley and others, some of whom appear in Trouble in the Heartland, a Springsteen-themed anthology.

There’s a $5 cover but some of us will be giving away books.

Watch out, John Taylor… there’s a new pork roll in town

For a century, pork roll in New Jersey has gone by one name, despite competitors: John Taylor.

IMG_20141123_092808Our beloved “Taylor Ham,” or pork roll, we can argue about what it’s actually called, but let’s agree that our unofficial state Mystery Meat is delicious. The spice recipe is a well-guarded secret, and because it is a type of sausage, we know not to look too closely as to how it is made. So I’ve drastically cut down my consumption, as processed food products, especially those with nitrites, have become a health concern.

Well now there’s a grass-fed, pasture raised and antibiotic-free contender in the ring, from Vincenza meats. Available in New Jersey at Whole Foods, in the deli, I first learned of them in a Saturday Star-Ledger article, and immediately walked up Bloomfield Avenue to my local Whole Paycheck. I had to scour the store; it’s not packaged, it is a deli item. I ordered mine a little thin because I like mine crispy, but forgot this is “deli thin” so normal thicker slices might have been better to mimic the packaged pork roll slices.

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They cook up nicely in a little butter. They have enough fat to not need butter, but why not? I didn’t slice the edges to keep them flat, because I thought they’d fry more like salami, but they still puffed up like the classic. You can see the spices once they start cooking.I let the edges get crisp and then flipped them, and because I don’t have rolls, I simply fried up some tomatoes and eggs to go with.

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The taste? Like good pork roll. Nothing unique or different, which was the idea- to make it taste like classic Jersey pork roll. It has some tang to it, thanks to the fermentation, and the article states they put a little port wine in the mix, but it doesn’t taste fancified. So, if you’ve been looking for a pork roll made from humanely raised pigs, Vincenza pork roll will satisfy your conscience. At $14.99 a pound (versus $7.49 for John Taylor pork roll) it’s twice the price, for about the same taste. I haven’t been able to verify the ingredients, if he adds nitrates, whether from celery juice or not.

Next time I’ll do a side by side test with kaiser rolls and Land O’ Lakes American cheese.