When Jay Desmarteaux steps out of from prison after serving twenty-five years for murdering a vicious school bully, he tries to follow his convict mentor’s advice: the best revenge is living well.
But questions gnaw at his gut: Where have his folks disappeared to? Why do old friends want him gone? And who wants him dead?
Teaming with his high school sweetheart turned legal Valkyrie, a hulking body shop bodybuilder, and a razor-wielding gentleman’s club house mother, Jay will unravel a tangle of deception all the way back to the bayous where he was born. With an iron-fisted police chief on his tail and a ruthless mob captain at his throat, he’ll need his wits, his fists, and his father’s trusty Vietnam war hatchet to hack his way through a toxic jungle of New Jersey corruption that makes the gator-filled swamps of home feel like the shallow end of the kiddie pool.
Praise for BAD BOY BOOGIE …
“Thomas Pluck has launched himself into the rare category of…must read novels…must re-read…must tell all and sundry about. It is that fine, that compelling. Just tremendous.” —Ken Bruen, author of the Shamus and Macavity Award-winning Jack Taylor mysteries
“Thomas Pluck’s Bad Boy Boogie is a vivid dose of New Jersey noir with heart, soul and muscle.” —Wallace Stroby, author of the Crissa Stone series
“My first Thomas Pluck novel won’t be my last. Bad Boy Boogie is a superb, taut, little thriller that hits all the right notes and sustains its central conceits to the very last page.” —Adrian McKinty, author of the Sean Duffy trilogies
Not one for the faint-hearted here. Grim and gritty and violent throughout, populated by a cast of characters you probably wouldn’t find sat next to you at Sunday service.
Our novel traverses 25 years and more, digging back into Jay Desmarteaux’s rescue from a horrific and abusive parent in Louisiana. Mama Angeline and Papa Andre are his saviours. We enjoy some of his friendships as a boy growing up in Nutley and the early stirrings of teenage love with Ramona. There’s a tension and conflict present in this period as Jay and his friends clash frequently with a rival gang of bullies.
The storyline doesn’t follow chronologically, we dip in and out of the past discovering a bit more about Jay and the events that have just seen him freed from Rayway prison after being sentenced as a teenager for the killing of Joey Bello. We suffer with him in prison - through conflicts with other inmates and the staff, as well as some moments of solace, with some solid bonds created. Twenty five years is a long time, but Bello’s father, now the mayor and the rest of the community don’t want Jay back in the vicinity.
Jay is fuelled by a sense of injustice. His victim was a bully and a rapist, but his friends remained silent at his trial, afraid and threatened, one of them complicit in the stitch-up. Jay lost his freedom and his family and he isn’t about to let himself get bounced out of Nutley. If he leaves and heads back to Louisiana it’s going to be on his terms.
Childhood abuse, growing up as a boy - far from carefree, prison life and freedom, a rekindled romance with Ramona - a woman with a few secrets and issues of her own, a renewed friendship with Tony – one of his childhood friends and now his employer, a lot of pressure from the cops, crossing swords with former friends and enemies, a kind-hearted cabbie, a reacquainting with some ex-Rayway inmates, nightclub shenanigans, a search for his missing Mama and Papa, conflict with a crime family, and a helluva a lot more to boot.
Pluck packs everything, bar the kitchen sink into this dirty tale of one man and his unwillingness to be further fucked with. Jay Desmarteaux had my sympathy, but not always my admiration in this one.
Admirable qualities he may possess, but a period of incarceration, heaped on top of earlier horrific abuse has damaged him. He doesn’t always make sensible or rational decisions but it’s an interesting ride watching the path they take him.
4.5 from 5
I read a collection of his short stories – Get Plucked a month or so ago. Thoughts on them are here.
Read in March 2017
Published – 2017
Page count – 352
Source – Net Galley thanks to publisher Down and Out Books
Format - Kindle