Monday, May 27, 2013

Kamikaze Death Burgers at the Ghost Town Cafe by Thomas Pluck

I couldn't help but smile the entire time I read Kamikaze Death Burgers at the Ghost Town Cafe by Thomas Pluck because it was just what I had expected from his character Jay Desmarteaux, and because it also introduced a character we had both talked about in the past, Kate. Well, that and the fact that these two meet up in a cafe sharing the same love of cheeseburgers didn't hurt. And the flirtatious fry sharing was pretty fun to read, too. And did I tell you that Kate gets to wear leather? Well, she does. AND she carries a dagger. I really hope this isn't the last we see of Kate, Pluckster.  She's awesome... and she'd make a great side-kick every now and again for Jay. *wink wink*

Sabrina is one of the most supportive and inspirational people I know. I've written two stories that came about after chatting with her. The first was a challenge to write an opening line on Twitter. That turned into "Shogun Honey," about a samurai who gets mixed up in a battle between a priest and yakuza. The next time, we talked about favorite characters, and somehow "Kate" became a woman on a motorbike with a penchant for leather and knives.

And that was the seed that grew into "Kamikaze Death Burgers at the Ghost Town Cafe," for the Feeding Kate anthology.

Jay Desmarteaux is a recurring character of mine who has appeared in "Gumbo Weather" in Needle Magazine, "The Rock Ridge Ringer," in Hills of Fire: Bare-Knuckle Yarns of Appalachia, and will appear in my novel BURY THE HATCHET. He is an ex-con who spent a quarter century in prison taking the fall for the murder of a brutal high school bully. In some ways he is older than his forty years, and in other ways, he is a lot younger. He had 25 years to hit the weight pile, box in the ring, study in the library, spin gears in the auto shop, and chum it up with lifer outlaws, made men, gangbangers and street thieves.

But we know none of this when we meet him in the story. He is just a man driving a rare hand-built '57 Cadillac Brougham, who witnesses a tragic accident on the highway and becomes embroiled in a gang war between bikers and truckers in the Utah desert. The biker element came from a story a man told me in a diner, about why he had an Iron Cross. He had rescued a Hell's Angel from a bad spill and the biker gave him his cross as a thank you, so if he ever needed help from an Angel, he could ask. I never found out if he ever had to cash that chip in, but the story stuck with me.

And so did the image of Kate that Sabrina and I had come up with. Jay is good at playing both sides against the middle, but I wanted him to meet his match. And he is more than matched with Kate, who became one of my favorite characters. Someone bound by law and principle, but with a wild heart that yearned to be free. Just as Jay is shackled to his young mistakes and fierce desire for elusive justice, he needed a foil. And that was Kate.

And Sabrina being from Utah, I had to set it there. I have only driven through the state on a trip to Burning Man 15 years ago, but the desolate and stunning red desert backdrop cried out for a highway chase. That reminded me of DUEL and the Mad Max films, and it all came from there (that and my time working at the docks, driving my Mini Cooper among the tractor trailers). I remembered a small diner in the town of Echo that we stopped in. It still exists, and the "cafe" is based on my memories there. They don't serve a "Kamikaze Death Burger" but they make good breakfast and cheeseburgers.

I believe there is no food more American than the cheeseburger. The idea of Jay rolling through the desert in an iconic Cadillac in search of burgers and justice to be done made him into a Don Quixote cowboy strutting out of American myth, to me. He was spinning his wheels, no pun intended, until Kate came along and smacked him upside the head, and gave him something to fight for.

Jay's like me, in that way. I'm not happy unless I am working toward something. Once I get there, I need another quest. Even if it's just to try the Kamikaze Death Burger at the Ghost Town cafe.

Thomas Pluck writes unflinching fiction with heart. His work has appeared in Big Pulp, The Utne Reader, Needle: A Magazine of Noir, Blood & Tacos, Burnt Bridge, PANK Magazine, McSweeney's, The Morning News, Beat to a Pulp, and numerous anthologies. He is the editor of Protectors: Stories to Benefit PROTECT. You can find him on the web at and on Twitter as @tommysalami

His novel BLADE OF DISHONOR, an action thriller spanning World War 2 to the present, will appear in 2013 from Beat to a Pulp press.

Feeding Kate: A Crime Fiction Anthology is available from Amazon. All proceeds from Feeding Kate benefit the Lupus Foundation of America.


Sabrina E. Ogden said...

I loved your story, Pluckster. Kate is one fine character and I really hope we get to see more of her in the future. Thanks, my friend, for being a guest today.

Linda Rodriguez said...

It was a great story with a nice twist. I love the character of Kate!

Thomas Pluck said...

Thank you both. I plan on expanding it into the third Jay Desmarteaux novel. So let me get back to editing the first...

Anonymous said...

Jay is great. Multi-layered. I like that.

Anonymous said...

I could have sworn I commented on this, but I just found the pop-up window again.

Tommy, you're terrific and you know it.