Brimstone and Potpourri: MysteryPeople Q&A with Thomas Pluck

Thomas Pluck’s Bad Boy Boogie follows a man just out of prison after a twenty-five-year stretch for killing a bully back in his mid-teens. The victim’s father, a mob captain, doesn’t think he’s paid enough. This a hard-core crime novel with a beating heart. We caught up with Mr. Pluck to talk about it.

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

MysteryPeople Scott: How did the idea for Bad Boy Boogie come about?

Thomas Pluck: Bad Boy Boogie is a story I’ve been kicking around for at least ten years, inspired by events in my hometown, and how the place has changed since. It’s an odd suburb, Martha Stewart sprang from one side like a decorating demon in a cloud of brimstone and potpourri, and I grew up on the other, literally across the tracks, in a zoned industrial dump between a truck repair shop, a quarry filled with trash and capped that we called “the Fields”, an and abandoned paint factory we used to explore. The part of town where my old Italian grandmother, when she went to the town hall to ask the mayor to replace our streetlamp light bulbs, was told, “if you don’t like it, move.”

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Scott’s Top Ten of 2017 (So Far)

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

Around this time of the year, we like to look back on what has come out so far in the year as we think of suggestions for reading for the rest of the summer. Below, you’ll find recommended reads that deserve their due. In fact some are so good I had to combine a few, so my top ten is a top twelve.

97800626644191. The Force by Don Winslow

I know, an obvious choice, but it is so obviously great. This epic look at today’s New York through police eyes has plot, character, and theme singing together in this opera of city corruption. You can find copies of The Force on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

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MysteryPeople Review: BAD BOY BOOGIE by Thomas Pluck

9781943402595Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

If Thomas Pluck has a problem in crime fiction, it’s that he’s good at too many things. He writes insightful reviews and does fun informative interviews (visit his website, Die Laughing) and has served has an editor on The Protectors anthology series (the proceeds of which go to child advocacy groups); he also writes short stories that vary from genre fun to hardcore noir – he’s even got a samurai story. A few years back he released his first full-length novel, Blade of Dishonor a rollicking action-packed ode to men’s paperback fiction of the Seventies and Eighties. His latest novel, Bad Boy Boogie, is practically the opposite of his previous work.

While both books have a lot of violence, Bad Boy Boogie doesn’t portray it in the comic book style of the previous one, focusing instead on its repercussions. Jay Desmarteaux, the novel’s protagonist, is a Cajun transplant in New Jersey who once killed a bully when he was in his mid teens, and has just been released from a twenty five year stretch. Some believe he still has to pay, particularly the mob captain father of the boy he killed. The only thing to see him through everything that’s coming at him are a few old friends and his father’s hatchet from Vietnam.

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Crime Fiction Friday: JUNKYARD DOG by Thomas Pluck

crime scene
Seems like dogs are marking their territory (so to speak) on crime fiction as of late. With the popularity of the Chet and Bernie series and Dennis Lehane’s short story Animal Control being turned into the film, The Drop. A few years back Thomas Pluck wrote this pitch black hard boiled for Plots With Guns about the love between a tough guy and his dog. Not for the squeamish.

“Junkyard Dog” by Thomas Pluck

 

“I like hard work. It keeps my mind right. A cool day’s best for it.

It’s cool this morning and still dark when I park by Earl’s house. He’s got a place on Frelinghuysen. He’s not on the porch like he usually is, waiting to waddle to my truck in his overalls, with a list of jobs on a scrap of yellow paper. Not today.

I eyeball up and down the street. It’s quiet, barely dawn. I like this hour, have since I was a boy. Feels like it’s just me in the world, and nothing hurts. I climb out, and a lady hurries into her car, fear in her eyes.

I don’t blame her none. I know how I look. Six and a half. Three fifty. And I got a dent in the side of my head like a bruised apple. But I never hurt no woman.

I walk up Earl’s driveway slow. Maybe he’ll come out, tell her I’m good. I slap his front door, her car squeals off. It needs a fan belt. I could fix it. She won’t let me.

‘That you, Denny?’

‘Yeah.’ I put my face by the little hole he looks through.

His locks open, sound like a good break in pool.

Earl’s a head shorter than me. Big belly fills his overalls. Horseshoe of gray hair on his shiny brown head, and a beard to match. I shave everything clean; probation officer said it made me less scary. I been with Earl six months now, moving junk and scrap. Officer Fiore was right…”

 

Click here to read the full story.

MysteryPeople Q&A with THOMAS PLUCK

Thomas Pluck is one of those authors who I hope sees much success, mainly because reading will be a hell of a lot more fun if he is. He’s written several stories that can be found online. One of my favorite features 1970S African American Kung-Fu Fighter Brown Sugar Brookdale in his story for Blood & Tacos, a homage to men’s action paperbacks from that era. His novel, Blade Of Dishonor, is an update of the genre, featuring an Iraqi war veteran and former MMA fighter, Rage Cage Reeves, caught in a centuries old war between ninja and samari over an ancient sword. We caught up with Pluck to ask him a few questions.

MYSTERYPEOPLE: How did the idea for Rage Cage Reeves come about?

THOMAS PLUCK: David Cranmer of Beat to a Pulp approached me with the idea after I sent him a story about an MMA fighter called “A Glutton for Punishment,” that connected with readers. The comment section got wiped out in an upgrade, but even Lawrence Block liked it–I’m kicking myself for not taking a screenshot–and David approached me with an idea about a mixed-martial arts fighter battling ninjas over a magic sword. It didn’t grab me at first, but after some research, I learned that the most treasured of Japanese swords, handed down to the Tokugawa Shoguns, went missing at the end of World War II. That’s when it came together. I train in Kachin Bando, which is Burmese boxing and grappling, and I trained at a Shooto Dojo in Japan that all helped make Reeves the fighter he is.

MP: The book is a throwback to the action paperbacks of the ’70s and ’80s. Do you have a favorite title in that genre?

TP: I like The Rat Bastards, and, of course, The Destroyer, which I came to in a roundabout way- I saw the Remo Williams movie on HBO. It’s not the best ’80s actioner, but Chiun is unforgettable. He’s so much better in the books. He’s a huge inspiration for old Butch. I liked Lawrence Block’s Tanner books, and Marc Olden’s Black Samurai, too.

MP: The fight scenes are great. As someone who is a practicing martial artist, what advice can you give about writing these kinds of scenes?

TP: I actually choreographed a few of them at the gym I train at, Asylum Fight Gym in Mahwah. My trainer Phil Dunlap loves action films, and I wanted to make the fights as realistic as possible, so class would begin with me asking, “What’s the best way to break someone’s clavicle?” My advice would be to keep the fights short. Overlong slugfests are rare, and they can be criminally boring. I took advice from Frank Bill: keep them short, brutal, and jarring. From my experience, I don’t remember much from fights, just details -like “I had my fist around his throat and then I was flat on my face with his knee in my back,”- and I tend to write that way, not from a play-by-play football game perspective.

MP: Butch’s World War II flashbacks are full of adventure, but you get a sense of the emotional toll it took on him. What did you want to convey about that war?

TP: The book is dedicated to my great-uncles, all veterans of that war. I saw the emotional toll it took on them every Sunday when we met at my grandmother’s for coffee. I feel like WWII and the Greatest Generation are slowly becoming the cowboys of the American West for our culture. They were all morally upstanding, brave, and believed in the cause. Which is a load of horseshit, as Butch would say. They were people in a war they didn’t want to fight; they wanted to be back home with their families. And, as in any war, you do some crazy things to protect the man fighting beside you. All sides did some terrible things. We don’t talk about Japan’s Unit 731 because we’re allies now. [A biological & chemical warfare research facility that conducted human experiments. ] We dehumanized each other. And it’s all too easy to do that in fiction, but I made every villain have good reason to do what he did, at least in his mind. Doesn’t justify it, and it surely doesn’t stop Reeves from killing them.

MP: You also edited a short story collection, Protectors. Can you tell us about that?

TP: Protectors is a charity anthology I edited to support PROTECT: The National Association to Protect Children. They are a non-partisan, pro-child and anti-crime nonprofit organization which lobbies for legislation that protects children from physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. 100% of the proceeds from the book go to PROTECT, and I’ve donated thousands of dollars since it was published. Authors including Joe Lansdale, George Pelecanos, Andrew Vachss, Ken Bruen, Chet Williamson, Roxane Gay, Josh Stallings, Todd Robinson, Johnny Shaw, and many more contributed stories, many of which appear nowhere else- including “Spectre in the Galway Wind” by Ken Bruen, and “Runaway” by Dave White, which was included as a distinguished mystery story in The Best American Mystery Stories 2013. The book was a labor of love and continues to find readers, and I know you have some on the shelf at BookPeople. It is also available on Kobo through your store, if folks want it on their e-reader.

MP: You’re working on a book titled Bury The Hatchet. What can you divulge? It stars Jay Desmarteaux, the Cajun bruiser who stars in “Gumbo Weather,” which you so kindly chose for Crime Fiction Friday in January.

TP: Here’s the pitch: When Jay Desmarteaux walks out of prison after serving 25 years for the murder of a vicious bully, he seeks his family and follows the advice of his convict mentor: the best revenge is living well. But old friends want him to disappear, and new enemies want him dead. With his wits and fists, Jay unravels a twisted tale of small town secrets and good old New Jersey corruption. He only wanted to bury the hatchet… and now someone wants to bury him instead.
Today they’d say Jay has attention deficit disorder. I’ll just say he’s quick with his fists and deals with the consequences later. And there are always consequences. If you liked the taste of “Gumbo Weather,” he gets in a lot more jams in this one. Guess you can say he jumps out of the gumbo and into the pot of crawfish boil.

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Copies of Blade of Dishonor are available on our shelves at BookPeople and via bookpeople.com.

MysteryPeople Top 5 Debut Novels of 2013

This year’s debut list means a lot to me. Three of the authors (Todd, Thomas, and Dan) have been good friends whose work I’ve been waiting to see in novel form. They prove they deserve to be widely read. Terry and Elaine (aka Anynomous-9) are others who I discovered this year who became good friends. Congrats gang, hope this was an early step to a road of success.

1. The Hard Bounce by Todd Robinson

A rich hard boiled novel about two Boston bouncers hired to find a missing girl. Tough and smart, with a lot of wicked humor and fist fighting.

 

 

2. Blade Of Dishonor by Thomas Pluck

This novel of non-stop action has an MMA fighter caught in battle between a ninja and samurai over a sword that his grandfather brought back from World War II. It’s the most pure enjoyment I’ve had this year. Pulp in epic scale.

 

3. A Killing At Cotton Hill by Terry Shames

Shames looks at her central Texas community the way Craig Johnson looks at Wyoming and Louise Penny look at Quebec, with the intimacy and expertise of a native. While not bloody or violent, it resists pulling punches when it comes to small town life, greed, politics, family, and nearing the end of one’s life.

 

4. Penance by Dan O’Shea

A sniper shooting outside a church pulls a Chicago police detective into dirty local and Washington politics, CIA assassins, and a 1970s cover up connected to the murder of his father, who was a cop. With strong characters and plenty of action, it’s like your favorite ’80s cop movie  given a literary treatment.

 

5. Hard Bite by Anonymous-9

This may not qualify, since technically it was available as an ebook in 2012, but I can’t neglect this offbeat and often violent tale of a quadriplegic who uses his helper monkey to kill hit and run drivers and runs afoul of the Mexican mob. Unique and also incredibly well crafted.

 

 

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Copies of all of these books are available on our shelves at BookPeople and via bookpeople.com

BLADE OF DISHONOR: Fun, Fast Action

blade of dishonor

For my generation, our pulp fiction was the men’s action paperbacks of the ’70s and ’80s. Series like The Executioner, The Destroyer, or my favorite title, The Rat Bastards, were full of action, beautiful women, and the toughest of tough guys. The stories ranged from vigilantes, martial artsists, to World War II commandos. Thomas Pluck lovingly crams in as many of the tropes as he can in his epic update of the genre, Blade Of Dishonor.

Our hero is Rage Cage Reeves, a former MMA fighter returning from service in Afghanistan. He stays with his grandfather, Butch, a World War Two vet who lives above his army surplus store. After a bar fight where we see Rage Cage in action (and where he meets up with his old flame, Tara, a sexy and sarcastic ambulance driver), a Japanese businessman makes an offer for Butch’s store. When Butch refuses, an attempt is made on his life and the store is burnt to the ground.

Along with Tara, Reeves is on the run and out for revenge. It’s all tied to a war between samurai and ninjas over a sword Butch gave Reeves. We’re given flashbacks of Butch’s war years as a commando and how he got the blade, as Reeves’ journey of revenge takes him to the far east and the ultimate cage match.

This book is The Raiders Of The Lost Ark of pulp paperbacks. It has everything we love about those old pulp classics, fast pacing, tough beautiful women, macho guys, codes of honor, and a lot of action, all done with a high level of execution. Pluck gives us tons of gratuitous fight scenes, yet motivates it so well it never comes off as such. A martial artist himself, he delivers the blow by blow with a visceral feel. He also knows when to give a humorous aside, giving a nod to the reader. His love of the genre acts as a great undercurrent to the story.

Blade Of Dishonor is the most unpretentious book I’ve read in a long time. It simply wants to entertain and pulls out all the stops to do so. I hope Thomas Pluck realizes that many of these pulp books had a hundred to a series.

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Copies of Blade of Dishonor are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com