Two to Tango in Spinetingler

I am honored to appear in Spinetingler Magazine’s first Kindle issue, Winter 2012. My illustrious company includes Patti Nase Abbott, Mike Miner, Court Merrigan and Albert Tucher. Spinetingler has been around for ten years online and is a Mystery Writers of America approved venue. I highly doubt “Two to Tango” will be to the MWA’s taste, but here’s hoping that a few of them read it.

It’s one of my most polarizing stories, and while the characters are all adults, the title comes from the true closing statement of a judge who gave a child rapist a soft sentence. I learned of this judge through Alice Vachss’s eye-opening book Sex Crimes: Ten Years on the Front Lines Prosecuting Rapists and Confronting Their Collaborators, where she details how difficult it is to prosecute sex offenders in the D.A.’s office. It is out of print, but I urge you to hunt it down if you think SVU is how things play out in court.

It is a revenge story, but not a straightforward one. I’d like to hear what you think. You can’t comment on a Kindle, but you can here, and in the Amazon reviews for the magazine. I’d appreciate your feedback.

© 2012 Thomas Pluck
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I may be dead, but at least I’m not in macrame class

The Lovely Bones

Another disappointment from Jackson, which can either make The Hobbit not come fast enough, or make me worry about it being made at all. At least Guillermo del Toro is on board, exponentially increasing their chunky bearded nerd power. Maybe they’ll smash together like Station! from Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey and make one giant supernerd. The lovely Bones has a lot going for it- excellent performances by Stanley Tucci as the creepy serial murderer, and Saoirse Ronan as Suzie Salmon, his young victim, and our narrator. She’s the one to watch here; she was stunning as young Briony in Atonement, and wows yet again as the believable, freckled ’70s teen who watches her family deal with her disappearance from the afterlife.
The concept is intriguing, but the film lacks focus and was rather shockingly marketed to a young audience- which freaked the shit out of Roger Ebert- and rightly so. But I’m not going to be as harsh as he was. The film’s crime is its length and meandering. Suzie’s ghost brushes a young goth girl as she passes to the other side, and she can sense her, but very little happens with it. Her family is in anguish, except for Susan Sarandon as drinky grandma who seems totally out of place in this story, despite giving an amusing performance. We know Suzie is murdered, so as her last day drags on, we aren’t in suspense, but dread. As her murder goes unsolved, it simmers into angst, and as she peers down as a vengeful ghost wishing death upon the monster who murdered her, we are given some very mixed cues. Her father- Mark Wahlberg- becomes obsessed with solving her disappearance, but it’s made almost comical. Wrong tone. Her younger, bratty sister matures and catches the eye of her neighbor, while Suzie dances through CG heaven with his other victims.
In the end, it just feels wrong. Like Ebert, my first feeling was “boy, I wanna be raped and murdered by a creepy pedophile, so I can go to Where Dreams May Come!” It’s a grave mistake for a story where the brutal lack of justice in the world puts us so on edge that the lack of satisfaction might make us take up torches and pitchforks, and look up our neighborhood sex offenders, or worse yet give youths the idea that the afterlife is a bitchin’ place to be. Personally I like the Sumerian concept of the afterlife, where you stumble around with a mouthful of dirt; nothing like a clod of soil on your tongue to make you appreciate life, eh?

It turns out heaven is a lot like a default Windows background.

Firecracker didn’t like it much either, and she’s read the book. Is the movie worth seeing? I’d at most catch a matinee or better yet, rent it. You’ll miss some of the beautiful visuals, but to be honest, Where Dreams May Come was more memorable in that regard. That movie had problems too, but its unforgettable images of heaven and hell will outlast even Tucci’s lauded performance, which seems more like a reward for tackling so unpleasant a role.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 dead kids

© 2010 Thomas Pluck.

what goes into 13 twice?

I heard that joke as a kid when Roman Polanski raped Samantha Geimer. I didn’t get it then, but we’ve made a joke about child rape for a long time. When it’s a boy and a female teacher, we say he’s lucky. Lucky to be fucked up for life? We waver between the idiocy of making an 18 year old boy with a 17 year old girlfriend a sex offender, and the vile complicity of judges who say “it takes two to tango” when a pedophile rapes a young girl. Probably because as a society that was born of Puritans, we are both ashamed of and obsessed with sex.

I recently watched the terribly slanted “Wanted and Desired” documentary on Polanski that puts him on a pedestal and paints him as the victim. It was revealing, but I didn’t agree with its conclusion. Polanski is no Leo Frank. He was not lynched. He pleaded guilty, hoping to walk. When he realized that public sentiment was against him, and the judge could give him 50 years- he ran. The prosecutor who boasted that the judge was going to throw the book now admits he lied. Polanski also hasn’t paid damages to the girl.

Only in America would we demonize a young girl and her mother when she was violated by a rich and powerful celebrity. Polanski knew what he did was wrong. He himself said in an interview, “everyone wants to f*** young girls!” I admit that America has a Puritan view of sex, but I don’t think sex with a 13 year old, after plying her with pills and champagne, is something an adult can justify, no matter what stage of grief he may be in.

samantha geimer Pictures, Images and Photos

The tabloids and nutsos surely made his life hell after the Manson killings; I’ve read quotes that blamed him for his horror films, suggested he was involved, and so on. But that does not make him innocent in this case. He survived much tragedy, and sadly chose to victimize someone weaker than he, rather than empathize with her. He has only acted like a guilty man with power, using it to evade justice. I am disgusted by Hollywood’s outpouring of support for him. No pinnacle of artistic genius, no litany of prior sufferings, allows you to victimize another. Not even forgiveness 30 years later absolves you. I’m sure Samantha wants it all to finally be over, and doesn’t want to be dragged into court to be raped in the court of public opinion again.

We don’t ask murder victims what they were wearing. It’s another bit of Calvinist rhetoric- you deserve what happens to you. What did you do to deserve it? Admittedly, Samantha’s mother may have been pushy and starstruck, but as the judges say, it takes two to tango. Samantha couldn’t rape herself. Roman should have known better. And I hope he serves his sentence. 50 years? A bit much. But you can write a great script in a few years, in a prison cell I imagine. You have a lot to think about in there.

I like what Andrew Vachss, lawyer and child advocate, has to say about it.

Oh, the sunglasses aren’t an affectation. He was hit in the eye with a chain when he was young. I’d also like to thank Caitlyn of 1416 and Counting for getting my Irish up about this with her own post.