Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Fifty, Work Avoidance, and Bad Boy Boogie

by Holly West

My husband turns fifty next week and I'm throwing him a birthday party this weekend. I'm not sure why I'm so stressed out about it, but I am. Planning the party, not the turning fifty--although it seems impossible that he's reached that age. Lately, I've felt haunted by the passage of time, but that's a subject of another post, or the theme of a future novel, perhaps.

Stressed or not, party planning is a terrific form of writing avoidance. How can I sit down and do my work (editing, at this point) when I've got a menu to create? Shopping to do? A house to decorate at the last minute so that all my guests will be impressed by my interior design prowess?

Just typing that last paragraph makes me feel anxious.

This week's post will therefore be brief, but I want to point out two things:

1) The new Writer Types podcast is out and it's full of good things.

2) Thomas Pluck's latest novel, BAD BOY BOOGIE (Down & Out), dropped yesterday and it's a dad-gum-doozie (see what I kinda did there)? I was fortunate to read an early draft of the book, which I loved, and now, reading it in its final form, I can't say enough how impressed by it. When Jay Desmarteux exits prison after serving twenty-five years for killing a vicious school bully, he steps into a world that has, in many ways, left him behind. His parents have disappeared, his friends are reluctant to engage with him, and the local bigwigs want him out of town. A Louisiana native, Jay's got no love for his adopted New Jersey home town (unless you count his childhood sweetheart, Ramona) but he's got debts to settle before he'll head south. What follows is a complex story that's heartbreaking, violent, subtly funny, and above all, well-told.

In Desmarteaux, Pluck has succeeded in creating a nuanced character that is both naive and yet incredibly street smart. While Desmarteux has experienced some of the worst life has to offer and done things that are morally hard to reconcile, the twenty-five years he's spent in prison makes him a bit wide-eyed and innocent as he re-discovers life on the outside. This contrast is key to getting the reader to take his side. Like his protagonist, Pluck doesn't pull punches--there is nothing watered down here. And speaking as a writer, I admire and applaud Pluck for, as they say, going there. BAD BOY BOOGIE showcases in wonderful detail Thomas Pluck's talent for observing life and distilling it into a terrific story with a cast of memorable characters.

Note: In keeping with my promise to rate and review every book I read this year, I've cross-posted this text to relevant websites.

Have a great week!

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