Cover Reveal for Life During Wartime

LIFE DURING WARTIME is my newest story collection, out January 29th 2018, from Down & Out Books. It collects my best stories and includes some new ones, such as the title story, and stories heard only at various readings across the country, such as “The Cronus Club,” “Gunplay,” “Deadbeat,” and others. I’ll let you know when it is available for pre-order. Most of these stories have never seen print. Some were in Kindle collections, but those are now out of print. It does NOT include “Russian Roulette,” which you can only read in the excellent collection KILLING MALMON.

Here is the cover:

cover-pluck-life-during-wartime-1800x2700px

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

Salute These Shorts

I love short stories. Otherwise I wouldn’t write them, because they are a pain in the ass. Sure, you can get the whole idea in your head at once, but there’s no room for error. So when I read a great one, I sit in awe. Here are a few of my favorites. What are yours?

The Creature from the Cleveland Depths, by Fritz Leiber

This one felt silly when I first read it, but now that we have cell phones, ol’ Fritz is laughing in his grave.

In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried, by Amy Hempel

Amy Hempel paints pain so beautifully, without ever using fancy brushes.

The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, by Ursula K. LeGuin

An incredible fable that puts civilization in perspective and asks us why we can’t walk away.

The Gentle Way, by Lawrence Block (available in his collection “Enough Rope”)

Mr. Block writes damn fine short stories. This one, about an animal shelter dealing with a vandal, resonates deeply. His excellent story “See the Woman” is available online.

Placebo, by Andrew Vachss (Available in his collection “Born Bad,” and also in Protectors: Stories to Benefit PROTECT.) You can read the also-excellent “Working Roots” free here on his website.

Placebo is a pared down work of great power. Working Roots is a gritty urban fairy tale. I wish Andrew Vachss would write a novel about these kids.

Houston, Houston Do You Read? by James Tiptree, Jr. aka Alice Sheldon.

How do you end violence? The answer is simple, if unpleasant.

Speech Sounds, by Octavia Butler
The last Ms. Butler is interviewed by Charlie Rose here:

The late, great Ms. Butler captures the terror of a true apocalypse and losing the power to communicate in this gut puncher.

The Man from the South, by Roald Dahl

One of my favorite horror tales. You’ll be clutching your fingers!

The Chaser, by John Collier

One of the funniest and best short story writers, Collier is oft forgotten but has many lessons to teach writers today and many joys to bring readers for centuries hence.

The Appointment in Samarra, by Somerset Maugham

A classic bit of flash fiction.

Why I Live at the P.O., by Eudora Welty

A great picture of a family from one of its loony members.

A Good Man is Hard to Find, by Flannery O’Connor

If you don’t like this story, hit yourself in the face.

Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell

The inspiration for “The Thing,” this one is terrifying on a cellular level.

“I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream,” by Harlan Ellison. He has written a ridiculous amount of great short stories. How to choose one? This has always been the most memorable to me. A supercomputer destroys humanity in retribution for creating him–a genius who cannot truly move, feel or love– but he saves five individuals to torture for eternity. Misanthropy at its most dire. A close second is “The Paladin of the Lost Hour,” a wonderful fantasy story about a man who guards the “clock” that keeps the world from doomsday, and how he shares a moment with a veteran wracked with survivor’s guilt. The first is available in the collection of the same name, the second is in “Angry Candy.” I am also fond of the entire collection :”Deathbird Stories,” especially the title story, which retells Genesis from Satan’s–I mean “Snake’s” point of view.