Reviewed by Tyson
Steel Heart: Ten Tales of Crime and Suspense
I have always been wary of short story collections. You know how it goes. Usually, we find one story we love, a couple we like, and a few we skim through with disinterest. I am happy to report I read every single one of the ten stories in Thomas Pluck’s Steel Heart: Ten Tales of Crime and Suspense. Not one word was skimmed.
Right off the bat, the choppy, minimalist writing instantly hooked me, as did the hard-boiled tone of the first piece, Gumbo Weather. What I found most engaging as I continued through the stories was the way Pluck manages to flesh out his characters in very few words and give roundness to a plot, even when the story is barely five pages long.
While each piece certainly revolves around crime—all of them have a bloody, violent theme woven throughout—they were uniquely different. The range went from an MMA fighter to Catholic altar boy, and the stories from quirky humour, Six Feet Under God, to surprising heartbreak, The Forest For the Trees.
In stories riddled with what standard reviewers might call male-geared plot lines, I gobbled these shorts up in an hour. And, as an added bonus, I found myself pleasantly surprised by the emotion behind the writing. Oddly poetic turns of phrases captured me and I fell in love with the old fashion-feel in these present day stories.
Pluck truly does deliver a well-rounded, pulp collection of crime tales. I find irony in the title, Steel Heart, because the motivations behind the actions of most of the characters is in fact love. The desire to protect and avenge is bolded throughout.
If I had to choose two favourites out of the collection they would be Legacy of Brutality, because I fell in love with Denny, scars and all, and Glutton For Punishment because in a simple paragraph I am given a world of information about Terry and his sister that rounds out his character beautifully.
That said, if I had to choose my least favourite, and there always is a least favourite with these sorts of books, I would have to say it was the last story. While brilliantly named, Kamikaze Death Burgers at the Ghost Town Cafe, I remained strangely detached from Jay, unlike the characters from the other stories. Obviously this story is the collection ender for a reason, perhaps because it is far more action packed, but for me it lacked a certain depth to its characters. Although I cannot profess my undying love for this last story, it is well-written rollicking fun, a little more light-hearted, and certainly enjoyable.
Needless to say, I eagerly recommend Steel Heart to anyone looking for a collection of stories to get lost in for an hour or two.
Author Thomas Pluck will be giving away copies of Steel Heart during the bumper Pankhearst Midsummer Giveaway.