Down and Out Books, PB, $17.95, 334 pages, ISBN 978-1-943402-59-5
For all of my adult life, New Jersey was a place I landed in and took off from at Newark International, rented a car and headed up the Garden State Parkway, bound for the family homestead in the Catskills. Jersey was a place overcrowded with traffic, bad roads and wretched, impatient, sue-happy drivers . . . somewhere I wanted to pass through as fast and expediently as possible. Then came The Sopranos on HBO, and years later, Boardwalk Empire, plus another network show about the Shore which showed the Garden State in a more entertaining fashion that softened my attitude and improved my feelings some. Now, comes a new novel that takes all that Jersey swagger and epic bad-assiveness to a whole new level . . . to the utter delight of every crime fiction lover who reads it.
Bad Boy Boogie, Thomas Pluck, takes place in Nutley, just across the Hudson River from New York City, and begins when forty-something Jay Desmarteaux comes back to town after a twenty-five year jolt in the Jersey State Prison at Rahway for murdering a savage, psychopathic, vicious high school bully. Jay’s come back to the scene of the crime to pick up the pieces of his life and extract a measure of revenge by living well, in the words of Okie, his mentor while in the penitentiary. Unfortunately for Jay however, the father of the boy he killed is now the Mayor, who burns with desire to extract a revenge . . . as does the Chief of Police and several of his officers. Now grown-up, they were the dead boys high school posse, and all of them want to inflict some pain on their old enemy, Jay Desmarteaux. Jay just wants to have a job, find his missing adoptive parents and tête-à-tête with his old girlfriend, but she’s married the rich kid who testified against him at the murder trial. As if that’s not enough to deal with, there’s an organized crime captain, who wants Jay gone, or dead. Maybe both. All Jay has left to fight with are his wits, a tomahawk his father carried in the Viet Nam war and the friendship of Tony, a bullied follower back in high school, now a bulked up gym rat and owner of an auto repair business catering to high-end performance cars. The task is near-impossible, the odds of Jay coming out alive slim, and the corruption bottomless in this electrifying piece of stylish and tough as tough can be, cutting edge noir. Bad Boy Boogie lives up to every aspect of its name and carries that theme through to the end. It’s one awesomely entertaining summer read and Thomas Pluck is a writer we’ll be on the lookout for from now on because his tough guy writing is so good and his characters are so bad!