Denny the Dent: 5 Tales of Street Justice

Out now and headed your way…

Denny the Dent

I’m not smart, but I listen good.

When God judges me, I’ll beat his ass for making this hateful world.”

Denny “the Dent” Forrest is six foot five, three-fifty, and born with a dent in the side of his head that makes everyone he meets think he is just big and stupid. He can lift a truck off a trapped child… or twist a man’s head clean off with his bare hands. In these five tales of urban noir, the baddest men on the streets of Newark just won’t let Denny and his friends be. He may not know a lot, but he knows right from wrong… and how to make wrong right with his two big hands.

“I fell in love with Denny, scars and all.” –Pankhearst Review

The first five Denny the Dent stories are collected in Denny the Dent: 5 Tales of Street Justice
Legacy of Brutality: Denny just wants to pump iron at the gym. When a trainer’s boyfriend thinks she’s sweet on big Denny, he starts all sorts of trouble.
Rain Dog: On a run through Newark’s Weequahic park, there’s no telling what you’ll find. Denny finds trouble, and ends it the only way he knows how.
Junkyard Dog: When Denny’s scrap hauling buddy’s pitbull puppy is taken by a dogfighting ring, he must save it before it’s tore up and taught to live on pain, just like Denny was.
Garbage Man: In his biggest adventure yet, Denny fights gangbangers and cops to save do-gooder neighbors from themselves.
Train: A woman from Denny’s past shakes his world, and he learns there are some things you can never set right.

Available for:
Amazon Kindle US
Amazon Kindle (all other countries)
Barnes & Noble Nook
Kobo e-readers (soon)


Brad (hits it out of the…) Parks

Went to see Brad Parks, author of the Carter Ross mysteries, at my local public library last night. Brad is a very funny guy, has a mellifluous singing voice, and charmed the hell out of the room. Margot Sage-El from Watchung Booksellers was there as well, and I picked up a copy of Brad’s latest- THE GOOD COP.

brad parks

Brad being altogether too self-effacing, he calls this his first “real” novel. It’s the fourth in the Carter Ross series, which began with the hilarious and heartfelt FACES OF THE GONE, a book I loved. Not only for its honest yet loving picture of Newark and the surrounding suburbs, including my hometown of Nutley, but for how he juggles comedy and tragedy in a manner that feels a lot like real life, only more vivid. Faces and the two that followed are based on news stories Brad either covered or was intrigued by, such as a grisly quadruple execution killing that was his first story as a crime reporter, or the subprime mortgage scam, and so on.

good cop

Brad didn’t think that was “real writing,” and like many writers, he is too hard on himself. While some stories do spring from the mind like Athena from Zeus’s skull, most are a gumbo of inspirations and experiences that we simmer until it makes a sort of sense. Unlike life, a story has to do that. So I’m eager to read The Good Cop, as I enjoyed the novel he considers “not made up.” The latest concerns illegal gun-running along I-95, the “Iron Pipeline,” so it is quite prescient as the nation argues over whether we can even talk about guns, and the policies of neighboring states that allow illegal firearms to flow to street gangs without a trace.


Brad gave a great talk and sang a little of “As Time Goes By,” which was written by Montclair native Herman Hupfeld. Then we strode to a local pub and enjoyed Founder’s Centennial IPAs. Brad’s got good taste in suds, as well. We met up with friends from his tenure at the Star-Ledger, including mutual pal and sportswriter Steve Politi, and I fled before I was cajoled into karaoke. Brad sang that old Billy Vera and the Beaters tune so well I felt like I was back in 1987.

Full of heart, like the man and his writing. If you don’t know Carter Ross, start with Faces of the Gone, or jump right into The Good Cop. You won’t regret it.

The Good Cop (Carter Ross #4) at Watchung Booksellers

Faces of the Gone (Carter Ross #1)

Eyes of the Innocent (Carter Ross #2)

The Girl Next Door (Carter Ross #3)



Krug’s Tavern – still the best

Open since 1938, once owned by Raging Bull boxer Jake “The Bronx Bull” LaMotta and still owned by his family, Krug’s Tavern in Newark’s Ironbound neighborhood is housed in an unassuming and dilapidated building that could be mistaken for a run of the gin mill bar full of cranky old men drinking piss-yellow beer out of tiny glasses. Inside, it has that kind of feel. A few high top tables, a long mahogany bar with patched red vinyl stools. A poster of LaMotta behind the bar, amidst the bottles of Tullamore Dew.

But if you venture in the flimsy storm door and linger, you’ll find an energetic blue collar crowd stuffing the place at lunch hour, from electrical workers and hard hats in uniform, the boys from the docks in their tracksuits, and cop brass stretching their conservatively cut sport coats. The kind of place where crook and law alike will belly up to the bar. Behind which sits a glass case brimming with meatballs the size of grapefruit, which will soon become a legendary burger for those with king size appetites. Order one and they’ll flatten out that softball of fat speckled chuck on the griddle and sizzle it low and slow so it remains juicy even if you order it well done.

When I was a kid, there was a diner car named Nunzio’s, run by an eponymous, mustachioed fellow who could’ve jumped in a pair of overalls and white gloves to play Super Mario. He served a juicy burger on a Kaiser roll that remains the paragon of burgers to me. He wouldn’t serve me one on Friday during Lent, either. I had to get peppers and eggs on a roll. Krug’s burger hits that nostalgic memory in the bullseye. They serve theirs on a large sesame seed bun that is just barely up to the task. It stays together, but you eat your burger wondering if you’ll have to finish with a knife and fork, especially if you’re generous with the ketchup.

Places that manage a juicy griddle burger are uncommon these days. Ann’s Snack Bar in Atlanta makes an even bigger patty than Krug’s, their infamous Ghetto Burger- a full pound of well-seasoned beef topped with chili and cheese, the size of the paper plate it’s served on- and Jimmy’s in Harlem steams theirs under a steel ice cream cup. Both are worth visiting, but if you’re in New Jersey, only Krug’s will do. Oh, I love the burgers at the Cloverleaf Tavern. If you get them medium rare, those perfect chewy rolls handle any number of toppings, from their Cajun Crunch burger topped with house-made spicy potato chips, to the Fatburger with Monterey Jack cheese sticks and Taylor Ham pork roll. But Krug’s is all about the beef.

I’ve had bacon cheese burgers at Krug’s, and most recently, a Taylor Ham & cheese (pictured above). It is that rare burger that is not overwhelmed by a crisp and smoky slice of bacon, or two slices of fat and spicy pork roll. All you taste is good, juicy, ground beef. What a burger should be. They pack 3/4 of a pound into that bun for $6.50. Bacon or Taylor is a buck extra. Fries and battered onion rings- both excellent, crispy and always fried in fresh, tasteless oil- are extra. And enormous. Their mozzarella sticks are house made, never frozen, fried to bursting, crisp and gooey as they are meant to be. They have a good selection on tap, with Harpoon and Sam Adams available as well as the American trinity of Bud-Miller-Coors. They serve Cokes in the can, and your meal begins with a fresh sour pickle and two hot cherry vinegar peppers arranged in vulgar fashion.

I’ve written about Krug’s before for Serious Eats, and it is always a memorable experience. They are consistent, and I’ve never had a bad burger. Doing it since 1938 must help. The place ain’t pretty, but it’s got character. There’s a biscuit shaped elbow of pipe jutting through the tiles in the men’s room. A ’58 Thunderbird rusts on flat tires in the parking lot. Loud men lunch here, venting out the day’s woes. But it’s an original, and without pretense. My kind of place. Next, I’ll give you the rundown on my favorite seafood joint- not Legal Seafood, despite their excellent food- but a little hole in the wall in Garfield where a bowl of fried clams and a beer won’t set you back more than six bucks.

© 2012 Thomas Pluck
I post on Twitter as TommySalami ~ My Facebook Page

Denny’s triple whammy offer!

The latest Denny story, “Junkyard Dog,” is in the new issue of Plots With Guns. If you like him, he also appears in Pulp Modern issue one, along with great stories by Lawrence Block, John Kenyon, a Cash Laramie western by Ed Grainger Jr., a disturbing tale by Glenn Gray, seventeen stories in all.

If you purchase Pulp Modern, or have already, send me the email receipt via the Kontact link on the right, and I will send you a PDF file of Denny’s first story, “Rain Dog,” in PDF format for free. That way you can read all three.

© 2011 Thomas Pluck

Denny returns in Plots with Guns

If you’ve read my stories about Denny the Dent such as “Rain Dog” in Crimespree Mag issue 43, and “Legacy of Brutality” in Pulp Modern #1 (links at the right) you know he doesn’t need a gun to get the job done. He’s 350 pounds of muscle and rage against those who hurt the weak.

In his latest rampage, he’s a junkman working with a new partner who finds a little pit bull … that dogfighters have other plans for. Denny’s pit fighting past crosses with the ugly world of modern dogfighting, and you know it won’t end well… for the bad guys.

PLOTS WITH GUNS is in my opinion the best designed crime fiction site on the web, and this issue has stories by Matt C. Funk my Louisiana transplant homeboy, Patti Abbott the mama tiger of noir, and seven other hard-hitting tales that readers of PWG know to expect…

© 2011 Thomas Pluck

Greasy Spoons: Krug’s Tavern

The Burger Battle of the Best continues…
When you walk into a hole in the wall tavern like Krug’s in the Down Neck section of Newark, you expect a row of old men manning the barstools, no light but the sun peeking through the front window, scattering dust motes across the aged linoleum floor. You don’t expect a juicy 3/4 pound burger with a fresh made sesame roll for a mere six bucks, maybe seven if you throw 4 slices of bacon and cheese on there. But that’s what you’ll get, and an pint mug full of beer and atmosphere.
Krug’s Tavern has been slinging jumbo burgers, fried shrimp and calamari slathered with spicy marinara, and mugs of beer since 1932. The LaMottas, grandson of original owner Frank Krug and relations to boxing Jake of Raging Bull fame, still run the joint 77 years later, and serve much the same food they’ve always been famous for. Maybe one time I’ll try the shrimp or the “gollamod” but the burgers are so good, and enormous, that I try to come here no more often than every 6 months and digest my meal like a python in between visits.
My boss, “Pallie,” and I went there for lunch this week. It’s near the docks where I work, and buddy Rob W on facebook asked if I’d ever been there after he read the last burger joint review. I have, but it had been years- too many. So we went back. Tucked in a brick building on Wilson Street, but with free parking round the corner on Napoleon, Krug’s barely fits in its now Brazilian and Portuguese neighborhood. But it draws in a big lunch crowd from the whole town. It’s rep precedes it. We snagged a table and ordered our burgers right away. This ain’t fast food. Grilling a burger of this magnitude to medium takes time, but it’s oh so worth it. Grab a beer while you wait. They only have Bud, Coors and Yuengling on tap but have a good selection of longnecks to supplement.
We got onion rings as well. The oil was fresh and the batter was crispy and light, like the first batch of zeppoles at a summer festival. The burgers come on fresh sesame seed buns of proper size made especially for Krug’s, that don’t fall apart while you dig into it. Look at the meat- not too densely packed. If you look closely in the top photo of the bar you’ll see huge meatballs pre-made in the fridge, ready to be slapped on the grill as burgers. The burger is plain or very lightly seasoned, letting the pure beef flavor speak for itself. I got bacon on mine, and it was just right. Not crumbling, not fatty. You get a huge sour pickle and some hot cherry peppers marinated in vinegar on the side, so I put pickles, hot peppers and an onion ring on mine with just a bit of ketchup, and it was one of the best burgers I’ve had in a long time.
Don’t get me wrong; this is good old ground round, not brisket, sirloin, Kobe or whatnot. But as far as plain Jane burgers go, Krug’s is one of the best since I went to Miss Ann’s for a Ghetto Burger in Atlanta. It’s definitely in the top ten for best burgers I’ve had, and the onion rings were some of the freshest. The Ironbound, or Down Neck, is more famous for Portuguese food such as rodizio and seafood, but Krug’s has been there for 3/4 of a century, selling 3/4 pound burgers for less than 3/4 of a ten-spot. I highly suggest you go try one. And don’t forget to check out Sassy Assy’s exotic dancewear across the street, for some more local Newark culture!,+newark+nj&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=48.909425,67.412109&ie=UTF8&z=14&iwloc=A&cid=14001587978610754184&ll=40.734446,-74.148188&output=embed
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Greasy Spoons: Taste of Portugal’s Steak on a Stone

From an unassuming little building in Newark’s Ironbound section, you can get some of the best steaks you’ve ever had. I’ve been to a few of the top-rated steakhouses in America– Manny’s in Minneapolis, the Chicago Chop House. But for half the price I’ve had a fantastic marbled filet cooked just the way I want it, without worrying about reservations or throwing on a sport jacket. At Taste of Portugal on Delancey Street.

If you’ve eaten in the Ironbound, you’re familiar with Portuguese restaurants, famous for their rodizio, the unending delivery of grilled meat on huge skewers, sliced directly to your plate. Those that don’t offer that up often have similar menus full of platters of steaks and seafood, huge slabs of sea bass or bucket-sized bowls of paella, the obligatory appetizers of charred Portuguese sausage, and the platters of potatoes, rice and vegetables shared on the table. Here you get the standards trimmed into a concise yet varied menu that touches all the meat groups, including a goat leg appetizer and occasional deliveries of wild boar. If the boar is offered, all bets are off- skip the steak and have it.
Their flagship dish is the Steak on a Stone, a baseball sized filet with good marbling. It comes on a searing hot slab of black granite heated in their ovens, and arrives at the table raw. Your server slices it into four smaller chunks and places them on the stone to sizzle, and tops them with huge chunks of garlic herb butter. If you like, they will stay to flip the pieces for you. If you’re a hands-on diner who would rather eat the stone than a well-done steak, you can flip them yourself. I opted to be the captain of my own destiny, and was rewarded with a terrifically tender filet mignon slathered in creamy butter.

The side is red beans and rice with chunks of Portuguese sausage, and a gravy boat of mushroom sauce; not a green in sight. Our appetizer was a special of shrimp and pineapple; this turned out to be shrimp cocktail, with half-round chunks of pineapple and twirled slices of prosciutto. The salty slices where not di parma, but the drier, thicker kind. It all went well together but was nothing spectacular, except for the huge shrimp. The desserts are good but average, including Italian specialties like tartufo and tiramisu, plus Portuguese ones like serradura, which I found sort of bland.

If you want a great and unique steak meal for a mere $26.95, hie yourself down to the Ironbound section and get to Taste of Portugal. You won’t regret it.