“Every Shallow Cut”
“The Last Kind Words”
A little late to the party, I only recently discovered an author who is now one of my new favorites. Tom Piccirilli is what you might refer to as a modern literary stud. He’s won the International Thriller Award twice, was a finalist for the 2009 Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Allen Poe Award, a final nominee for the Fantasy Award, and not only did he receive the Bram Stoker Award, he won it four times! Oh, yeah. One of those times was the first given in the category of Best Poetry Collection. You could say he knows his way around using these word thingys.
I knew nothing of Piccirilli’s achievements when I first became aware of his name. A few mentions in chat groups where people discussed their favorite horror or thriller books. His name came up often enough that I figured I should take a look and see what all the hub bub was about. Little did I know that not only does the man have more than a few awards on his shelf, the guy has a bibliography to rival the Stephen Kings and James Pattersons of the world. Nearly fifty books come up when you look for him on Amazon! With so many to chose from, I had no idea where to begin.
As luck would have it, my son loves frequenting one particular thrift store that carries the old VHS cassettes he loves so much. Next to the movies stand shelf after wonderful shelf of glorious books. Children’s books, cook books, history books, theater books, science fiction books, romance books and (much to my dark side’s chittering glee) horror books! I scrolled my greedy limited budget fingertips along the spines when suddenly, a name appeared in white on black that I did not expect to see. Tom Piccirilli. I immediately snatched the book, read the back cover blurb and put it on the very top of my son’s pile of Willy Wonka and A Bug’s Life tapes.
“Laughter and early spring winds breezed past his ear as the words fled across his hands, running like blood.”
-from “The Deceased” by Tom Piccirilli
After dinner that evening, I sat on the couch and opened the cover. I fell into the surreal and brutal universe of “The Deceased” only rising for a gasp of air and the occasional “Huh?” as I responded monosyllabic-ally to my family’s attempts at gaining my attention. Thus began a treacherous journey into the deep and vital imagination of Mr. Piccirilli. I finished “The Deceased” the next day. A whirlwind of ghosts, axe murders, incest, lake monsters, forest magic all drawn out in nightmarish haze. An atypical ghost story throwing daggers of scares often as discomforting as they are primal.
“I was three days into my life as a homeless loser drifter when they broke my nose and dropped me on the street in front of a nameless pawn shop. I hit like two hundred pounds of failed dreams.”
-from “Every Shallow Cut” by Tom Piccirilli
With the final page turned, I needed more. Piccirilli went fishing and dangled the hook right in front of me. Over the next few days I not only devoured one more of his books, I consumed two. First came the unflinchingly merciless tale of a man’s decent into hopelessness called “Every Shallow Cut”. A swift jab to the solar plexus, I succumbed to the powerful blow of this entire book in one night. Not remotely intended for the faint hearted. An already depressed man falls further into despair until nothing remains but a search for the end. His life falling apart around him, he painfully realizes how quickly and easily you can lose everything. Then... he buys a gun. I would describe the events further, but to do so would be to give away all that will squeeze your knuckles white while gripping the small paperback.
“He had less than two weeks to go before they strapped him down and injected poison into his heart. I knew Collie would be divided about it, the way he was divided about everything. A part of him would look forward to stepping off the big ledge. He’d been looking over it his whole life in one way or another.”
-from “The Last Kind Words” by Tom Piccrilli
The next round in the .357 Piccirilli chamber was a true masterpiece of modern noir called “The Last Kind Words”. This is the first in what will apparently be a series of books about Terrier Rand. Terrier is from a family of thieves who unhappily is summoned home to visit his brother on death row for murder. Vividly cast with brilliant portraits of scratched Polaroid family members each naturally named after a breed of dogs. Dialog bites and growls from the pages. Personalities so unique and often loving, I found myself rooting for them despite their unlawful and sometimes downright nasty intentions.
I have the Terrier Rand sequel “The Last Whisper In The Dark” on top of my wish list, so hopefully I’ll be able to dive into that one soon. For now, all I can say is go find some books by Tom Piccirilli and read them! With so many available in nearly every genre you can think of, there is bound to be something you will really enjoy. For me, I am very happy to know that it will be quite a while before I run out of Mr. Piccirilli’s words.