Panel at the New York Public Library, 6/8

What are you doing next Thursday? I’ll be on a panel with one of my favorite writers, Laura K. Curtis, discussing the Decision to Self-Publish, at the New York Public Library’s Ottendorfer Branch, at 5:30pm.

I know, I lost you when I said “Ottendorfer.”  The Ottendorfer Branch isn’t a secretive government agency, despite how it sounds. It’s the original branch of the New York Public Library, donated in 1884 by Oswald Ottendorfer, who ran a German-American newspaper. And holy cats, look at those muttonchops. They’re practically full-grown sheep:

Oswald Ottendorfer

The panel is titled Self-Publishing: Is it Right for You? and Curtis and I will be discussing that decision and answering questions, as we have both had our books published traditionally and self-published them:

Have you considered self-publishing as an outlet for your work? Can’t decide whether to do it yourself or wait for an agent or a publisher to help you? Laura K. Curtis and Thomas Pluck, who have written short stories and novels in multiple genres, and who have both published independently and with traditional presses, discuss the pros and cons of self-publishing. What questions should you ask yourself before deciding to send your work out into the world yourself? What strategies will give it the best shot at success? They’ll answer all your questions about the brave new world of publishing!

As these debates get “lively,” it should be a good time. I’ll have copies of my traditionally published crime thriller Bad Boy Boogie, and my self-published adventure novel Blade of Dishonor on hand for taste tests.


The Ottendorfer Library, 135 Second Avenue, Manhattan

When: Thursday June 8th, 5:30pm




Noir at the Bar Queens Lit Fest 5/28

With barely time to take a breath after my lovely tour of the bookstores, taco stands, and bars of Los Angeles, I’m off to Long Island City in Queens this Memorial Day weekend to read with a delightful bevy of crime writers. So if you’re in town this weekend, Sunday you can get your book fix in Queens, and when night falls on the City, you can join us for libations and larceny at LIC Landing, by the Coffeed. It’s also just a few blocks from The Creek & the Cave, a comedy club and CaliMex eatery that I frequented when Katie East and crew used to tear the place up. I can vouch for the eats and the brews there.

Reading with Sarah Weinman, Jen Conley, Cathi Stoler, Scott Adlerberg, Alex Segura, SJ Rozan, SA Solomon, and Nick Kolakowski will be a good time. It’s a quick hop off the E train from the PATH, that’s how I plan on getting my Jersey ass across two rivers. The festivities begin at noon, and the reading kicks off at 5pm.


Noir at the Bar Manhattan on June 7


The lineup:

Galal Chater
Rob Hart
James Ray Tuck Jr
Jen Conley
William Welles
Thomas Pluck
Ken Wishnia
SJ Rozan
Richie Narvaez
Tim Hall
Jason Starr
Todd Robinson

Join us at Shade, 241 Sullivan St. in Manhattan, corner of West 3rd. Easy walk from the blue ACE line and the 9th Street PATH station. The fun begins at 6pm, and ends only when we run out of noir.

Dark City Lights available for pre-order

Last year, Lawrence Block contacted me for a story. He’s one of the writers who inspired me to write, and I keep a signed copy of TELLING LIES FOR FUN AND PROFIT near my writing desk, so I buckled down to tackle an idea I’d been saving. The collection is titled DARK CITY LIGHTS, and my story “The Big Snip” appears alongside work by Jerrold Mundis, Erin Mitchell, SJ Rozan, Warren Moore, Robert Silverberg, Jonathan Santlofer and many more.
Three Rooms Press has it available for pre-order from Amazon. If you want to see what 23 writers do when Lawrence Block, the crime-writer King of New York, asks them to write about the 8 million stories in the Empire city, this is the book to read.
You can pre-order it from Amazon, or from your local bookstore.


Good Reads, mid December

Read any good books lately? I have. Here are a couple.

couplandAll Families Are Psychotic, by Doug Coupland. I’m a big fan of Mr. “Generation X.” My friend Suzanne kept goading me to read Microserfs, and I was surprised at how damn good it was. Coupland has a knack for seeing the heart of things, especially generational differences and the string in the sweater of our personality, that when tugged, causes everything to unravel and be seen for its component parts. “Families” is no different, pitting ’50s-born parents against children born in the ’70s and ’80s, with his unique, insane caper-style stories. Almost if Don Westlake decided to write John Irving stories, these books are always fast, packed with humor and unpredictable yet inevitable collisions between unforgettable characters. This one involves AIDS, the space shuttle, endangered species smuggling, Thalidomide, surrogate parenthood, and … well, it’s set in Florida, so maybe all that’s expected. This was one of my favorite reads this year. The paperback is sadly out of print, but it is available on Kindle, and at used bookstores. Coupland always manages to play fun games with book design. My paperback felt like it was bound in corrugated cardboard, and the end wraps had a photo of the author next to a huge statue of a green toy Army soldier. I’m told the hardcover was flipped midway through, like the old Ace Doubles, but I haven’t been able to find one.

tampaTampa by Alissa Nutting will be polarizing. It’s the story of a monster, like Nabokov’s Lolita, with the gender roles reversed. The main character is a middle school teacher who preys on her male students. Because we view women as less dangerous, Nutting can carve a dark satire of our mores, media, and expectations. By the end, the damage to her victims is clear as day, but our cultural beliefs are barely shaken, even when the protagonist’s monstrosity is laid bare and raw, and our double standards flayed before us like a laboratory specimen. This was a daring novel that will certainly be pilloried as salacious, but its depiction of a heartless female predator and the incalculable damage sexual abuse inflicts on teenage boys is an important and generally untold story.

lush_lifeLush Life, by Richard Price is like a season of The Wire moved to the Lower East Side on the cusp of gentrification. The book flies, despite being crammed with storylines of street kids, detectives, bartenders, and hipsters. Any fan of the series will want to read this. I hadn’t read Price since Clockers, to my detriment. That book was fantastic, and remains one of the best crime novels written about New Jersey. The Wanderers, his ’60s era coming of age in NYC novel, is delightful, too. One of the first books I ever read that had characters that reminded me of my friends and family, who “tawked” like me. But Lush Life is an accomplishment, encapsulating the sausage factory of the criminal justice system and how even the best intentions ricochet like mad.

Parable of the SowerAnd finally, The Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler. Her stories have always resonated with me, from “Bloodchild,” which I’d read as a teen, to “Speech Sounds,” an amazing apocalyptic tale where humanity is slowly robbed of language. The Sower is another story of slow collapse, as the economy crumbles and America becomes a Balkanized state of gated communities and enslaved company towns. Written from the perspective of Olamina, a teenage girl prepping for the day looters clamber over the walls to destroy her family, this book is equally entertaining for teens and adults. It is rich and thoughtful, but written as diary entries, by a young woman creating a scientific philosophy where God is change and cannot be worshiped as much as prepared for. As dark as The Road but as compulsively readable as The Hunger Games, this 1991 novel is due for a deserved resurgence. The politicians will sound all too familiar, as they bargain away our rights and national assets in the name of “the economy” as the country foments into a corrupt Third World state without the rule of law. I’m waiting before I tackle the sequel, The Parable of the Talents. Butler died while still working on a third novel, that was never fully realized or completed.

Give yourself a gift, and read a book. Happy holidays to you all.

Proud to announce: Dark City Lights

Proud to announce that my story “The Big Snip” will appear in Dark City Lights, a NYC themed anthology edited by Lawrence Block, and published by Three Rooms Press. From the cover, I’ll be joining Erin Mitchell, Jerrold Mundis, SJ Rozan, Elaine Kagan, Jim Fusilli, Jonathan Santlofer, Robert Silverberg, Ed Park, Warren Moore, Parnell Hall, David Levien, Jill D. Block, Jane Dentinger, Peter Carlaftes, Tom Callahan, Eve Kagan, Bill Bernico, Kat Georges, Annette Meyers, Brian Koppelman and Peter Hochstein.

Good company. It comes out in March 2015, but you can pre-order it from Amazon.


In Memoriam

WTC 1995

I was working in Manhattan that day. Well, I would have been, if I hadn’t been late. I worked near 53rd & 3rd, immortalized in the Ramones song about a male hustler, from their debut album. So far away from the horror. I grew up with the Towers in my skyline; we lived on a hill where they poked through the trees, across the river. My heart still clenches thinking about that day.

I memorialized it in my work in progress:

I joined up on my eighteenth birthday, after the planes hit and Manhattan smoldered like a blindfolded man’s cigarette at an execution.

That’s what the city looked like for a month or two after the attack. Riding the DeCamp bus in on the Lincoln tunnel loop, I saw it, breathed it, every day. We all did. They replayed the strikes on TV so often I can see them between blinks, even now. I think many of us suffered trauma that day. Some more than others of course, but enough that the country as a whole is very different than it was the day before. What I like to remember is how we came together afterward, before the fear settled in. Everyone gave blood, everyone chipped in. I lost my job shortly after, right before the holidays, because my employer was headquartered in Israel and their stock plummeted. Now they’re doing great, they got into surveillance. I’m glad I moved on. My grandmother broke her arm that year, the first stumble down the spiral before she passed on a few years later. I’d just returned from living in the Midwest, and everything felt like an omen. It was a rough couple of years for us all. My friend Johnny, who joined the Marines as a reservist the day he turned eighteen—inspiring Scotty, the character in my WiP, above—was eager to go to Afghanistan and fight the Taliban, but Iraq? Not so much. We’re still recovering from that misadventure. Many fought bravely there, but for what? It looks like we’re returning a third time. Then again, if you follow history, we’ve been mucking with the Middle East for a lot longer than that. What’s the answer? I’m not sure. But I think our move toward US oil and renewable energy is good first step to staying out of the nation-building (and destroying) business.

We’ve neglected the homefront for a decade, our roads and bridges are collapsing, our people overworked and underpaid (wages stagnant, profits soaring). We’ve barely rebuilt what the terrorists destroyed. I hope in the next decade we’ll focus more on that.

I like this old photo, I’m chubby and innocent and hopeful, having just graduated from Rutgers. My friend Tim is in the background, my friend Jim took the photo. It’s 1995, the Internet boom (and bust) was just up the road. And so was 9/11.