- Tom Piccirilli
- "We need to make books cool again. If you go home with someone & they don't have books, don't fuck 'em."--John Waters
I'm the author of more than twenty novels including SHADOW SEASON, THE COLD SPOT, THE COLDEST MILE, THE MIDNIGHT ROAD, THE DEAD LETTERS, and A CHOIR OF ILL CHILDREN. Look for my next one THE LAST KIND WORDS due out May '12 from Bantam Books. Contact: PicSelf1@aol.com
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Friday, December 4, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
While you're there, definitely take a gander at Cullen's previous interviews, reviews, and critiques of some great fiction & film noir.
Jedidiah Ayres of HARDBOILED WONDERLAND took some time out of his busy schedule blogging about all things hardboiled and hip to do a lengthy interview with yours truly. Find it right here: Hardboiled Wonderland: TP Your Bookshelf
Uber-hep author Seth Harwood, author of JACK WAKES UP, chats with me about my writing process on Bantam's blog Blood on the Page.
Shroud Magazine also has a terrific review of my upcoming Cemetery Dance collection FUTILE EFFORTS, due out, hopefully sometime early next year.
"To say the fiction of Tom Piccirilli often defies convention or genre labeling would be a grand understatement. Better to say Piccirilli creates his own literary space, in which inhabits beings of a dark but strangely beautiful grotesqueness, characters that offer readers twisted, warped reflections of themselves. The work contained in his upcoming Cemetery Dance collection “Futile Efforts” certainly does that and more. They run the gamut, proving what most already know: that Tom Piccirilli is a skilled and versatile wordsmith: a dark fantasist with the heart of a crime/Noir writer, a sculptor of oddities, and a gifted poet, also. However, for all Piccirilli's strange, melancholic grace, the sharp edge of steel isn't far behind."
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
"In Piccirilli's brooding, character-driven chiller, former New York City cop Finn, recently blinded, wallows in his new role as an English teacher at a posh girls' boarding school. A storm looms as Finn and a skeleton staff remain to supervise a handful of girls staying at the school during winter break. Piccirilli (The Fever Kill) harps on his theme of isolation with palpable glee as Finn, surrounded by self-absorbed adolescents and mysterious, brutally violent attackers roaming the campus, grapples with blindness amid a sonar-dulling snowstorm in a remote area with no cellphone service. Terrified of solitude and driven by his cop instincts, Finn embarks on a wrenching journey that exposes the raw emotion of a man nearly destroyed by disability and circumstance."--Publishers Weekly, starred review
"The Christmas recess has just begun at St. Valarian's, a private secondary school for girls in upstate New York. A handful of students and staff are still on campus as a nasty blizzard gathers strength. Finn, a blind and deeply conflicted former NYPD detective, teaches literature at the school and longs to murder Ray, his former police partner. Making his way across campus through the storm, Finn encounters a teenage girl, a townie, who warns him that an "ill will" is coming for him. Soon, students and staff are dying, and Finn must defend himself and the survivors. Shadow Season has enough mystery, suspense, dread, and mayhem to satisfy nearly every crime fan. Characters are well developed, but most maintain a hint of mystery. Finn's students, variously precocious, willful, mocking, and provocative, are totally believable. The blizzard ratchets up tension, as does our eagerness to learn why Finn wants to kill Ray. The portentous "ill will" may be a bit over the top, but the novel is terrific entertainment."- Thomas Gaughan, Booklist
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Punisher #75, featuring stories written by Greg Hurwitz, Duane Swierczynski, Charlie Huston, Peter Milligan, and myself, hit the stands today. I started the day out all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as I’m ever likely to get anyway, and decided to hit the local comic shop to nab a couple copies. I’m a comics geek. This is a big moment for me. Right on.
Got to the shop about 20 minutes before they opened at 12:30, so I drove over to a second hand bookstore and scrounged around the dusty stacks for a while. Zipped back over to the shop at 12:45. Still not open. With growing irritation, I killed another half hour at a different bookstore.
Tried the comic shop one more time at 1:15, 45 minutes after they supposedly opened today. Still closed. Fuck ‘em, they’ve lost my business.
So I drove up to Fort Collins and tried the one comic shop they have in town. Took me a half hour to get there and another ten minutes to park down in Old Town where there’s all kinds of tight road work happening.
The place is owned by a husband and wife team. Stepped in and spotted the wife putting new comics on the wall. Asked her about Punisher #75.
She said, "That’s not out today."
"Ah, yes, it is."
"No, you’re wrong. No matter what they say on their website, it’s due out next week."
She seemed very certain of herself. Was it possible I’d made a mistake? My editor at Marvel specifically told me it was due out today. But he edits dozens of comics a month. Maybe he was wrong or I got confused on the dates?
The husband pops up from behind the counter and says, "No, it’s here."
"Great!" I say.
"But they’re all damaged copies."
"Yes, they’re really fucked up."
"Can I see a copy anyway?"
The guy reaches down into a box and flings the issue at me as if he’s disgusted with its condition. It has the slightest bend at the corner. It probably got bent when he zealously hurled it at me. It’s damn near pristine. I tell him, "This is fine. I’ll take five copies."
He looks at me like I’m out of my bird. "Well, I’m not going to sell it to you!"
"I’ve already reported them damaged. I have to mail it back. I’ll have more copies next week. Come back then."
I leave the store in somewhat of a daze. Fuck ‘em, they’ve lost my business.
I decide to try the first shop one last time. Maybe someone just overslept. Maybe they took an early lunch. Maybe their car stalled on the side of I-25. I head back to the shop and sure enough, now it’s open. All I needed was faith.
I walk in and check the new comics rack. No Punisher #75. This no longer surprises me. This is something of a foregone conclusion. I ask the owner about the new comics.
"We don’t get new comics on Wednesday."
"But new comics come out on Wednesday. Everyone knows that."
"Yeah, they’re out, but we don’t get them. We get ours on Thursday."
"Otherwise we’d have to drive down to Denver to get them."
This makes no sense to me. Comics are delivered to comic shops. "Why?"
"It’s just how we do it."
Well, in point of fact, it’s just how they don’t do it. If they were doing it, if they were actively pursuing something to its goddamn conclusion, they’d have the comics.
"Okay," I tell the guy. "Pull five copies aside for me."
"I don’t know if I’ll have five extras."
"Okay, pull one extra."
"I don’t know if I’ll have even one extra."
"How about if I come back tomorrow and check and if you have any extras I’ll buy them from you?"
Score: The World 1, Pic 0.
Hopefully you will have much better luck than I did.
While I was there I did manage to nab a copy of issue one of Ed Brubaker’s CRIMINAL: THE SINNERS. Another noir/hardboiled storyline that will rock your socks off. If you haven’t picked up the earlier CRIMINAL comics or graphic novels, do so immediately. The man knows how to write a hard tale, and Sean Phillips, the artist, is also flat-out amazing. Best of all, Ed even gives a nod to SHADOW SEASON at the back of the issue.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Been trapped in the mire of two projects that WILL NOT FUCKING QUIT! And jonesing to start another that I can't get around to yet. Driving me out of my head. Literally. Well, kind of literally. Wound up suffering through two occular migraines this afternoon. Only nominal pain but my head fills up with flashing kaleidoscopic lights. Bizarre and freaky, and nothing to do but lie down in a dark room and wait for it to stop.
And what goes on with you?
Monday, October 5, 2009
Seth Harwood, author of the uber-hip crime novel JACK WAKES UP.
Joe Schreiber, horror author of CHASING THE DEAD, EAT THE DARK, and NO DOORS, NO WINDOWS. His latest is a real chiller.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Received a sweet starred review in PW this morning: "In Piccirilli's brooding, character-driven chiller, former New York City cop Finn, recently blinded, wallows in his new role as an English teacher at a posh girls' boarding school. A storm looms as Finn and a skeleton staff remain to supervise a handful of girls staying at the school during winter break. Piccirilli (The Fever Kill) harps on his theme of isolation with palpable glee as Finn, surrounded by self-absorbed adolescents and mysterious, brutally violent attackers roaming the campus, grapples with blindness amid a sonar-dulling snowstorm in a remote area with no cellphone service. Terrified of solitude and driven by his cop instincts, Finn embarks on a wrenching journey that exposes the raw emotion of a man nearly destroyed by disability and circumstance."
You can check out a new interview with me over at HORROR WORLD.
Books you need to read:
Seth Harwood's JACK WAKES UP, a fine action-packed Hollywood-hip ripsnorter about a one-hit wonder action actor who is thrust into living the life of his once big screen persona by the murder of a friend and one big drug deal that causes strife and mayhem a'plenty.
Joe Schrieber's mystery chiller NO DOORS, NO WINDOWS, about a man who returns home for his father's funeral only to discover that his Dad had started writing a dark fantasy novel about a haunted house. When the house turns out to be real, our protagonist attempts to finish his father's book and learn whatever secrets his Dad, and the house, might have long held.
BLUE CANOE by T.M. Wright. Damn fine surrealistic novel in the grand Wright tradition about a man who may or may not be dead, living in what may or may not be the afterlife, recalling memories that may or may not be real. It's an evocative, haunting, sweet tale that packs an emotion wallop. With an introduction by yours truly.
You can also find a new interview up at THE BIG ADIOS with Ken Bruen & Reed Farrel Coleman talking about their collaboration on the one-of-a-kind TOWER.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
The Christmas recess has just begun at St. Valarian’s, a private secondary school for girls in upstate New York. A handful of students and staff are still on campus as a nasty blizzard gathers strength. Finn, a blind and deeply conflicted former NYPD detective, teaches literature at the school and longs to murder Ray, his former police partner. Making his way across campus through the storm, Finn encounters a teenage girl, a townie, who warns him that an “ill will” is coming for him. Soon, students and staff are dying, and Finn must defend himself and the survivors. Shadow Season has enough mystery, suspense, dread, and mayhem to satisfy nearly every crime fan. Characters are well developed, but most maintain a hint of mystery. Finn’s students, variously precocious, willful, mocking, and provocative, are totally believable. The blizzard ratchets up tension, as does our eagerness to learn why Finn wants to kill Ray. The portentous “ill will” may be a bit over the top, but the novel is terrific entertainment.
— Thomas Gaughan, Booklist
Also, northern Colorado's biggest newspaper, The Coloradoan, had this to say:
This is an intense thriller not for sissies. The complex main character tears into savage situations described with authenticity as he grinds through each crisis while dealing with his blindness.You will appreciate the portrayal of the main character Finn’s so-called disability, which really isn’t one given the way he knows how to utilize it. The entire plot never lets the reader take a breath and never lets up on the gut-wrenching emotional safari into Finn’s world of blackness.The dialogue, plot and the multi-layered character reveals itself to you with hammer blows page after page. Highly recommended for thriller fans who appreciate a quality read.
Friday, August 7, 2009
Thursday, July 30, 2009
New interview up with the nicest writer of haunting crime novels you're likely to find, the inimitable Ed Gorman. Check out what he has to say about his latest THE MIDNIGHT ROOM over at The Big Adios.
A new blurb for SHADOW SEASON is in from one of the very best in the biz. If you haven't already checked out Bill Pronzini's novels, you're doing a disservice to yourself. His Nameless Detective series continues to rock hard after 40 years, and his standalone novels are just as good.
"Reading SHADOW SEASON is like being put through an emotional wringer. Visceral. Savage. Intense. Powerful. Finn is a fascinating character, the most complex of all Pic's noir protagonists; I can't think of another in recent memory with such a multi-faceted personality or more compelling mix of gut-level feelings. Flawless portrayal of his blindness and his ways of dealing with it, particularly in crisis situations. For my money, Pic's best novel to date."--Bill Pronzini, MWA Grandmaster
Books you should be reading:
Ken Bruen & Reed Farrel Coleman's dynamic & twisted collaboration TOWER.
Lester Dent's lost crime novel HONEY IN HIS MOUTH written back in '56 by the man who brought you most of the Doc Savage pulps. Sharp & engaging noir.
HOGDOGGIN' by Anthony Neil Smith, a riotous hardboiled biker novel. Sequel to his YELLOW MEDICINE.
Megan Abbott's superb historical noir BURY ME DEEP, based on the true story of the "Trunk Murderess."
PARIAH by Dave Zeltserman, brutally dark follow-up to his first novel SMALL CRIMES.
Charlie Williams' uber-funky crime-horror-dark fantasy-rock'n'roll crossover STAIRWAY TO HELL.
KILLING MUM by Allan Guthrie, a black as night noir about a murder broker who discovers somebody wants him to off his own mother. And the Kindle version comes with a grabber of a cover, featuring a squirrel that looks ready to chew your face off, man.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Check out Al's Hard Case Crime novels featuring his hitman for hire QUARRY.
He's hot! You love him! You want him! You need him! You got him! New interview with crime/suspense author Jason Starr, author of THE FOLLOWER, FAKE ID, and the upcoming PANIC ATTACK over at The Big Adios.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
All the stories take a hard look at that fateful day in Central Park when Frank Castle’s family was slaughtered in a mob crossfire, and the Punisher was born.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
ITW Announces Thriller Award Winners
On the evening of Saturday, July 11th, 2009, the International Thriller Writers announced the winners of their literary awards at a gala celebration in New York City. Unfortunately I couldn't be in attendance though my tale "Between the Dark and the Daylight" from Ellery Queen was up in the short story category. I got crushed but I hold no grudges. I'm just all zen-like and shit.
ThrillerMaster Award: David Morrel: In recognition of his vast body of work and influence in the field of literature
Silver Bullet Award: Brad Meltzer: For contributions to the advancement of literacy
Best Thriller of the Year: THE BODIES LEFT BEHIND by Jeffery Deaver (Simon & Schuster)
Best First Novel: CHILD 44 by Tom Rob Smith (Grand Central Publishing)
Best Short Story: THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN by Alexandra Sokoloff (in Darker Mask)
Congratulations to the winners.
A generous comment came in from Publishers Weekly about the piece, which is also the title of the new Gorman & Greenberg Year's Best.
Between the Dark and the Daylight and 27 More of the Best Crime and Mystery Stories of the Year Edited by Ed Gorman and Martin H. Greenberg. Bleak House (www.bleakhousebooks.com), $27.95 (600p) ISBN 978-1-60648-058-8; $17.95 paper ISBN 978-1-60648-059-5
"Gorman and Greenberg follow up A Prisoner of Memory (2008) with another impressive anthology, which features a diverse assortment of styles and settings. Readers familiar with Steve Hockensmith only from his novels will enjoy "The Devil’s Acre," a typically amusing story featuring the Amlingmeyer brothers, cowboys inspired by Sherlock Holmes. Joyce Carol Oates continues to display her facility with crime fiction with her portrait of a man’s descent into violence in "The First Husband." The title story should attract deserved notice for Tom Piccirilli, who tugs at the heartstrings while maintaining the moral relativism of classic noir. Other contributors include Michael Connelly, T. Jefferson Parker, Charlaine Harris, Bill Pronzini and Charles Ardai. "
Friday, June 26, 2009
"Thanks for your generous compliments. Keep reading!
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Friday, May 22, 2009
So it's good to get out and see friends and meet fans and discuss process and let the thoughts that are generally bouncing around inside your skull fly free. At last weekend's Mo*Con in Indianapolis we got a chance to hang with good friends (including Gerard & Linda Addison, Wrath James White, Alethea Kontis, Kelli Dunlap, the "Mo" himself Maurice Broaddus, and a slew of other buds), fun fans, and folks who are interested in all aspects of the writing life. Just being among other folks who understand where you're coming from, what challenges you face, what bars you set for yourself is inspiring. It can recharge the batteries.
So a big shout-out of thanks to everyone who attended Mo*Con and helped my flagging will. The past few months I've felt like Chev Chelios from Crank 2, running out of energy and being forced to stick my finger in a car lighter outlet or rub up against old ladies to build a static charge. Thanks for juicing my heart, people.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Well, in film noir the Femme Fatale is certainly a central figure. More than anything, I think that noir can be defined as a "date with doom." Characters know that they're making mistakes, missteps, tempting fate, but for whatever reason they're drawn to doing so anyway. Usually by a woman but not always. They step out of the average life and step into another life that they seem to have been destined for, a kind of surreal or hyper-real existence.
Take for example my fave noir SUNSET BOULEVARD. William Holden is an average joe just trying to escape from the repo man when he drives into the world of Norma Desmond, who lives in that bizarre mansion where she watches only her own old films, holds a funeral for a dead monkey, has her own ex-husband/former director for a man-servant. Even when Holden has a chance to escape and find true love with his best friend's girl he gives her up because he knows she's better off without him, and he re-enters Norma's world to find only sorrow and death. There's no way out. He was fated to meet his demise, and he more or less knew it.
Another great noir is ODDS AGAINST TOMORROW starring Harry Belafonte and Robert Ryan. Ryan is a vicious racist who's thrown together with Belafonte to pull a bank heist. Belafonte is deep into debt with the mob so even though he knows he shouldn't be working with this prick, he's forced to do so. The entire movie he's aware that the score isn't going to work out. But he has to go forward. And of course, things end...explosively.
Step by step characters knowingly move to their own demise.
Charles Willeford wrote a fine noir novel called PICK-UP. I don't want to give the twist away but it's about a woman who falls for a guy and she eventually is led to her doom. He loves her, and she loves him, but for a twist reason (that you don't find out until the last line of the book...it's really just a big shaggy dog story) they're fated for destruction.
Jim Thompson's THE KILLER INSIDE ME can certainly be considered noir, full of nihilistic despair. Lou Ford is a sociopath deputy sheriff, a genius pretending to be a bumpkin. His "sickness" as he calls it forces him to murder. Two women love him and, as you might guess, two women end up doomed, as does Ford himself.
Cornell Woolrich wrote THE BLACK ANGEL, about a woman who's husband is leaving her for another woman. When the other woman is found murdered, the husband is found guilty. The wife believes he's innocent and searches for the real killer, invading several men's lives, making them fall in love with her, and then shattering them and casting them aside when she gets whatever information she needs. In point of fact, she's the femme fatale, but it's her blind love for her husband that sets her on her mission. So in one regard, she's as much a victim as the others.
In BORN TO KILL Lawrence Tierney plays a homicidal psychopath who murders his casual dates when he finds out they're seeing other men. Claire Trevor finds one of the victims and boogies out of town on a train, the same train that Lawrence happens to be on. When he figures out that she's a witness and she realizes he's a murderer they do what comes naturally...fall in love! They have a hot and heavy relationship even after she brings him home to her wealthy family. Of course, the inevitable happens and they kill each other and die in each other's arms.
That sense of fate, inevitability, highly romanticized-energized living before tragedy, the flame burning brighter before it burns out is the essence of noir, I think.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
New interviews with Lawrence Block and David Morrell can be found at THE BIG ADIOS. Larry discusses his memoirs STEP BY STEP and David explains just where he got some of his ideas for his latest thriller THE SHIMMER.
From the YUMPED UP YIMMINY YEESUS YOU NEED TO BE READING THIS Dept.:
If you're not already a hardcore fan of ED BRUBAKER then you need to jump on board now. This minute. Get thee to a comic shop or start picking up his graphic novels off Amazon. Read his CRIMINAL graphic novels and follow the brilliant INCOGNITO. Ed is deservedly the hottest writer in comics right now, due in no small part to his edgy noir underpinnings. CAPTAIN AMERICA, DAREDEVIL, IRON FIST, every series he touches he transcends. SLEEPER is in development with Sam Raimi and Tom Cruise attached.
From the THANK KEERIST IT'S FINALLY OUT ON DVD Dept.:
Well, not quite yet, but in under two weeks we finally get a Criterion edition of THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE, the gritty and gutwrenching film based on the brilliant novel by George V. Higgins. And yes, it really IS Robert Mitchum's best performance.
From the ED GORMAN IS THE MAN YES HE AM Dept.:
Our good pal, the incredible writer Ed Gorman informs us on yesterday's blog that FOOLS RUSH IN, his latest Sam McCain mystery, is out now in trade paperback. Do yourself a favor and scarf this baby up now. All the McCains are terrific novels and FOOLS RUSH IN might be his best yet.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Saturday, April 25, 2009
So how’s your day going?
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
My thanks to everyone who bought, read, reviewed, and help to promote my latest novel THE COLDEST MILE, the follow-up to my Edgar Award-nominated THE COLD SPOT. I appreciated all the isnightful, positive, and even critical comments.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Ok. How did you come to be represented by David Hale Smith, an agent who does not accept queries? A referral? Or you were already established and repped by another agent, like J. D. Rhoades was?
DHS and I worked together years ago through Write Way Publishing, a small press that brought out three of my mystery novels in the mid-90s. David was their agent and sold THE DEAD PAST and SORROW'S CROWN to Berkley for mass market paperback release. Then for about ten years afterwards I wrote horror novels and worked without an agent. When I turned my eye back towards crime fiction, most of the guys who were doing all kinds of great work in the field--Duane Swierczynski, Sean Doolittle, Victor Gischler, among others--turned out to be repped by DHS. So I contacted him and discovered he'd been keeping an eye on my career over the interim, so we started working together again.
He's the fifth agent I've had in my career and the first to ever sell something for me. The other four failed to garner any interest at all, although on my own I sold seventeen novels to the likes of Pocket Books, Leisure, and Bantam. So no, I have absolutely no advice I can give you about how to find a good agent, because it took twenty years for me to find one.
Tony Zuma asks:
W.H. Auden commented on how crime fiction follows a familiar pattern:
1) First there is peace2) Peace is shattered3) Search for wrongdoer4) Apprehension5) Punishment6) Restored Peace
Your crime novels are anything but formulaic (with the exception of the theme of revenge) and I was wondering if you can contribute your success to not following this or other established patterns in your mass market crime fiction. Are you a blank slate for every novel?
I think Auden's list is pretty accurate for my work, with the exception that none of my characters ever starts off or ends up truly at peace. And it's because I focus my energies on trying to explore that chaos of a charater's life that I think each of my novels follows its own course. Even if I do return to certain themes and plot points, it's in that confusion that I try to find exactly what sets a protagonist off on his quest and how he is stymied and suffers and may or may not eventually overcome. I don't think "blank slate" quite conveys the impetus--rather the opposite. The slate is covered over and it's how I try to weave the mess into a cohesive tale that gives the story its structure, momentum, heart, and resolution.
TT also asks: Do you prefer white or red clam sauce with linquine.
If you mean white sauce as in alfredo sauce, then I'm all about the alfredo. If you mean a garlic and butter sauce, then I've gotta go with the red clam sauce.
Keith Rawson asks:
Okay, as you know I'm a pretty big fan of your fiction and I've read just about everything of yours that's in print. And I've noticed in your novels the running themes of automobiles and dreams. So my question is, what's the deal with muscle cars and hanging with dead folks in your novels? Are you a gearhead? Do you have a vivid dream life that carries over into your writing life?
I'm about as opposite from a gearhead as you can get. I know how to start a car, where to put the gas, and maybe in a clinch I could change a tire. Other than that, I'm useless. But as a person and a writer and a 70s movie junkie I know that the Americana myth is front-loaded with on-the-road freedom and muscle car mayhem and movement. We don't just tap into what we are to find our stories, we guess at who we want to be, at what our alter-egos might be like, what they'd do in certain situations that, God willing, we never find ourselves in. So I groove on muscle cars. I can respect their power and their iconic imagery on the road and in film and in fiction. It's a way for me to bring some street value into the work. It's a way for me to dig on my own fantasies. Who doesn't want to be Steve McQueen in BULLIT? Or Peter Fonda in DIRTY MARY CRAZY LARRY? Or Burt Reynolds in WHITE LIGHTNING? I don't need to know shit about an engine to drop the hammer.
As for the dead folks who ride shotgun or sit in back--along with that iconic imagery comes a lot of Americana history and personal burdens. Freedom costs on the road. Who doesn't like to kick back and go for a ride and hit a righteous radio station and gun for the sun? But it's during those long lonely rides that my thoughts turn back to the folks I've lost--who might be dead or might just be distant, who might be twenty years out of reach. But they're with me in my lonely moments, and the dead and the missing are with my characters on their treks. It's a theme that reverberates with me. That sticks in my gut. So I revisit it every so often.
Anyway, in my next two novels I promise you won't get any muscle car mythos.
Stink-Eye Pete asks:
What else can you tell us about your latest "noirella" THE LAST DEEP BREATH?
It'll be another novella for Tasmaniac Publications, due out in early '10. The story follows Grey, a drifter on the search for his foster sister, who showed up for the first time in ten years with a knife in her side, then vanished without a trace. Grey winds up in Los Angeles dealing with manipulative actresses and scummy agents, hoping to find some clue as to what happened to her after she dropped out of a porn career he didn't know about.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Also, remember, you've got until April 15th to join in on the SHADOW SEASON - THE COLDEST MILE Contest.
For National Poetry Month it looks like FAIRWOOD PRESS is having a sale on my poetry collection WAITING MY TURN TO GO UNDER THE KNIFE. Normally $27, now on sale for $20. Signed & limited to 250 copies.
Here's what JACK KETCHUM had to say about it: "I find this book remarkable on a number of levels. First, the poems themselves are tight and packed with on-target imagery — in the service of narrative. They are decidedly not obscure and read like wicked, funny, sometimes deeply troubling short stories. Then, together, they form a kind of autobiography-of-the-soul. I've never said it before about a book of poetry—but it's a real page-turner."
Monday, March 30, 2009
Thriller Awards Nominees
The International Thriller Writers proudly announces its nominees for the 2009 Thriller Awards.
BEST THRILLER OF THE YEAR
Hold Tight by Harlan Coben
The Bodies Left Behind by Jeffrey Deaver
The Broken Window by Jeffrey Deaver
The Dark Tide by Andrew Gross
The Last Patriot by Brad Thor
BEST FIRST NOVEL
Calumet City by Charlie Newton
Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
Criminal Paradise by Steven Thomas
Sacrifice by S. J. Bolton
The Killer's Wife by Bill Floyd
BEST SHORT STORY
Between the Dark and the Daylight (Ellery Queen Magazine) by Tom Piccirilli
Last Island South (Ellery Queen Magazine) by John C. Boland
The Edge of Seventeen (The Darker Mask) by Alexandra Sokoloff
The Point Guard (Killer Year Anthology) by Jason Pinter
Time of the Green (Killer Year Anthology) by Ken Bruen
David Morrell honoring his influential body of work
SILVER BULLET AWARD
Brad Meltzer for his outstanding charitable contributions
The Thriller Awards Banquet & Presentation is an event you don't want to miss. Register now for ThrillerFest 2009!Recipients will be recognized and winners announced at ThrillerFest 2009, July 8-11, Grand Hyatt, NYC. The Thriller Awards Banquet will be held Saturday July 11. For more information, registration and tickets, visit www.thrillerwriters.org.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Case in point: my latest novel THE UNDERNEATH. This is the story of a young former thief named Terry who returns home to his family of professional card sharps, burglars, and grifters on the eve of his brother's execution. Five years earlier, Terry's brother, Collie, went on a night-long killing spree, murdering seven people for no reason. After leaving his family and the bent life behind, Terry returns when Collie asks him to visit him in prison. Collie admits to six of the killings, including a seven-year-old girl, but claims he's innocent of one of the murders. Why he bothers or even cares at this late date is a mystery, but Collie begs Terry to look into that single killing.
Loaded with his own baggage, Terry returns to his family and must face cops and criminals from the past. He must deal with a younger sister who runs with the wrong crowd, his feeble grandfather dying from Alzheimers, his card sharp uncles who have just cheated a local mobster.
Now, anyone who's read any of my fiction knows that the "ghosts from the past" is a major theme of my work. It's not because my own history is any more dramatic or haunting than yours or anybody else's. But the job of the writer is to constantly scratch at himself and dig up his own feelings, to pick at his scabs and sores and keep them bleeding. And it's in that running blood that he finds his conflicts and tensions and characters.
It takes a toll, this kind of self-rending. It gets me thinking about my older sister, who's mentally handicapped (or mentally disabled, or learning challenged, or whatever the new PC term is nowadays). When I was a kid I recall her growing very angry and frustrated over minor incidents. On occasion she'd lash out with incredible strength, but more often she'd wind up biting the backs of her hands. I remember my mother rubbing lotion on my sister's hands to soften the scars and calluses, and then she'd lovingly scrub them with pumice stone. Afterwards her hands would be pink and raw and shining, the outer layer of dead skin wiped away.
Maybe it's a strained metaphor, but that's how I'm feeling lately. Raw and pink and shiny, missing a few extra layers of hardshell. Some of it has to do with our current economic situation. Like many of you, I'm beating my brains out for a buck. I'm getting shanked everywhere I turn. But more than that, I think it's because each time out of the gate I try to stretch and strain myself to take my old themes and move them someplace new. To expand and expound upon them, to explore them further as my worldview and perspective shift with each passing year.
It's digging the well deeper and diverting the water. The deeper you go, the more stone you have to cut into. I'm starting to notice it more than ever before. Maybe because the last one, SHADOW SEASON, took a real toll. I had to face head-on my own terror of blindness. Not only face it, but put it to use. Laugh if you want, but I wrote most of the book with my eyes closed, imagining moment to moment, page to page, what it would be like to be blind, how frightened and enraged it would make me. It was like being frightened of heights but writing a book while sitting on the roof. The fear and anger became me, the way I became the book.
With THE UNDERNEATH there are some new pains and aches and unresolved issues to discuss. Some of them will be obvious to my readers, some won't be. Some I'll see clearly and some I won't notice until I'm nearly finished with the novel, or well after. Right now though, there's a couple of things that keep catching in my craw, putting me on edge. It makes me resist the story. The scenes meant to build tension in the reader build tension in me, and who needs that kind of shit on a sunny glorious spring day? I don't. But I still need to keep to my deadlines. I still need to face down the empty page. I still need to face my doubt and fear. I still need to punch through my own hindrance and defense. Once again I need to bring pumice to the pink and scuff another layer off.
And how was your day?
Friday, March 13, 2009
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
The photo of Mitchum is because, of course, you cannot use the word noir without posting a photo of Mitchum. You know it's true. So tell me, which is your favorite Mitchum noir? OUT OF THE PAST? HIS KIND OF WOMAN? WHERE DANGER LIVES? CROSSFIRE? MACAO? THE BIG STEAL?
Monday, March 9, 2009
I look down at my computer monitor and there's a line about a man who is fighting his friend, trying to stop him from killing someone. I fiddle with the line. I add to it. It becomes two sentences, then a paragraph. Then a page.
I head downstairs. My father, who's been dead for 35 years, is standing on my patio with a spatula in hand, occasionally flipping burgers on the grill. He looks the same as he did when he died at 46. I'm nearly as old as he is now. I have more gray in my hair than he does. I sit at the picnic table and start reading the paper and we talk about...something. I don't know what. I can't really hear him. I don't remember the sound of his voice. I remember his smile though. He's smiling now.
My mother, whose been gone 7 years, is in the kitchen making salad. She calls out to my father and asks him what kind of dressing he'd like. He doesn't respond because he's feeding Edgar one of the hotdogs he's overcooked. My daughter is beside me. She's laughing and her laughter fires through my chest and fills me so much joy that I feel like my heart will explode.
I look down at my computer monitor and there's a line about a woman turning over in bed and asking someone to kill her husband.
Edgar lies down at my feet and nestles his chin on top of my foot. I glance out the window at the back yard. The grill is cold. The patio furniture has been put away in the shed.
My daughter stands in the doorway crying. She bumped her knee. I hold her, shushing her, until she quiets. She goes to sleep in my arms. I press my nose to her hair and breathe in her scent deeply.
I'm chewing on a pen. My hands are a blur on the keypad. The next page is about a Hollywood agent trying to rip off a client.
This is how my workday goes.
Writers slip in and out of identities. We can be cops or gunmen or high-paid assassins. We can be heroes or badasses. That's where the work takes us, into our own fantasies, into romanticized notions of ourselves.
And then drops us back into our real selves. And at least one element of that fantasy is comprised of daydreams–the common and average daydreams that fill out my common and average life. The people I miss are returned to me. The ones who were never born are there for me to cuddle and protect. It's what happens when my mind wanders. I drift. I dive into the page. I call back to memory. I get swept away. Sometimes it goes so far that when I'm snapped back into myself it's something of a shock and I feel like someone's thrown cold water in my face. I suck air through my teeth like I've been holding my breath for minutes. Maybe I have. That's the power, the pain, the gift and the disappointment of trying on someone else's skin. Even if that someone else looks exactly like me.
My daughter asks if I'm busy. I tell her no. She giggles and asks me to read her a story.
My hands flash. I shut my eyes and the writing continues.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
But they were all something special back in the day–many of them massive bestsellers--and even if they're mostly forgotten now, they remain special in their own right. You've seen a lot of movies based on their books, even if you didn't know it. Their influence is felt throughout the entire mystery genre. And there's been a recent resurgence in this specific kind of noir/hardboiled material. Current authors like Charlie Huston, Duane Swierczynski, Sean Doolittle, and Ken Bruen (check The Big Adios for interviews with all these guys) have run with noirish tropes and taken them to new heights...or, more accurately put, new depths.
When I started work on THE COLD SPOT and THE COLDEST MILE I went in with the hopes of distilling just about everything I loved about the form, the themes, the action, and the humor, and pouring all of that into my own work. Creating my protagonist, Chase, who lived in the underworld of crime but still had his own code of honor, and finding out what might push his buttons. What might bring out the best in him, and the worst. And what might force him to consider breaking that code and becoming the person that he most hated in the world...his own grandfather, Jonah.
If it's one thing those classic writers knew about, it was how to keep a story moving at full-speed. I also wanted to stomp the pedal and let the engine scream. I wanted to write hardboiled but with some real heart and soul. Moments of grace and reflection. I thought it was important to have more thoughtful elements in the books to help balance the story out. It's a part of who I am and what my worldview is. Action is terrific but you need a greater context. The work has to actually be ABOUT something. I've got things I want to examine and scrutinize. Things that genuinely matter to me. The hardboiled and noir elements are there to underscore and dramatize all the other stuff. The Cold books are as much about family, loss, love, and heartache as they are about guns and scores and wheelmen. And sometimes the bloody action scenes and the emotionally-charged ones are the same.
That's one of the things I like best about the crime genre. You never know when someone is going to shake hands or pull a S&W .38. Or betray a friend or save a life. Or fall in love or dive into lifelong hatred. The whole human condition from best to worst can crop up at any second.
Saturday, February 28, 2009
I hate outlining (in case you didn't get that from the FUCK OUTLINING title of this post). I find the process of writing to be more organic. I need to dive in and find the story as I actually make my way through the material. I've never quite understood folks who outline beforehand--whether it's a two page or ten page or, as in one case I recall when I was a first reader at an SF publishing house, a 180 page outline. I don't fully understand how you can know what the story is about before you actually write it. How do you know what your characters will do when you don't really know who the characters are? Where does the emotional context come in? Where is your personal surprise and discovery?
What do the rest of you kids think?
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
I hope that everyone who gives it a go really enjoys it. Feel free to drop me a line and send me a link if you blog about it (good or bad) or do a review on Amazon.com or B&N.com. Nowadays, novels live or die by word of mouth as much as by anything else.
"[Tom Piccirilli’s] prose has the visceral punch of the best pulp writers of the past century…."—Eddie Muller, San Francisco Chronicle
"Hard-boiled crime writing ... It’s pedal to the metal for 352 pages. Don’t miss it."—Booklist
"Prepare for a journey as thrilling as it is provocative." —James Rollins, author of The Judas Strain
"Blackest noir, the most minimal kind of minimalism, and at the same time deeply emotional: this is not easy to do."—Peter Abrahams, bestselling author of Nerve Damage
"The book roars off the line with all the force and forward velocity of two tons of Detroit muscle car and never lets up on the pace. Crime novels don't get faster or grittier than this one, and in Chase, Tom has created a character who'll stick with you for years to come."–Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore
Several folks have asked merecently about what kind of process I use when writing. Whether I outline in detail or just dive in and sink or swim on my own.
For me, the process is very organic. It needs to be a journey of surprise and discovery, otherwise I don’t really see the point of writing at all. I’m here to discover something about myself, my values, what I do think, what I do mean, what I do understand of life. The only way for that to happen is to start the story and then see what new places it leads me. Once I’m on some different ground, I have a different perspective. If my perspective wasn’t always shifting, I’d just be telling the same story over and over.
I’m not sure where the need to write comes from except to say that the need to fantasize has always been with me. We all need a mixture of the world as it is and the world as metaphor, as art. A fundamental part of the human condition is to take what we know of reality and reshape it, rethink it, reimagine it. And then reapply it somehow to our own lives. When the process stalls, I get it going again by any means necessary. I have to. I pray to the great god mortgage and the only way I can pay my bills is off what I produce. The responsibilities of my life can only be attended to through my art. I can only take care of my family through my work.
Some people think that writing for money is selling out. But I’m here to tell you, kids, it’s the opposite. It means walking the wire without a net. You gamble your fate on the possibility that you can grind out another book or story no matter what. It means you have to go out and track your inspiration down and wrestle it to the floor every single day. That’s not selling out your work. That’s putting the greatest amount of faith in it. The roof over your head is at stake. The food in your mouth is at stake. Your very life is at stake.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Monday, February 2, 2009
"Piccirilli’s latest book strips away the occult overtones associated with some of his earlier works (The Night Class won the 2002 Stoker Award) and jumps full bore into hard-boiled crime writing. This guy evokes Jim Thompson and David Goodis in the way he flays away at our illusions that there is comfort to be found in the human condition. Cranked by stolen cars and raw nerve, getaway driver Chase takes a violent cruise through the world of gangsters high and low, hoping to settle old scores with his con-man grandfather and avenge the murder of his wife. But first he needs some capital, which means a quick score. What Piccirilli’s masterfully realized protagonist gambles is his last remaining glimmer of dignity—a commodity he isn’t sure he needs or even wants. It’s pedal to the metal for 352 pages. Don’t miss it." — Elliott Swanson, Booklist
Saturday, January 24, 2009
We all have days when we wake up edgy. Today was one of mine. Sometimes there’s a reason for it, sometimes there isn’t. Sometimes you come up out of your dreams or nightmares already in the throes of an anxiety attack. I don’t get them much anymore, but when they hit they usually nail me as I’m falling asleep or just waking up. My heart is hammering and I can’t quite move yet, and my woes and worries and regrets are all melted together into one great iron anvil set down on my chest. It kind of sets the mood for the rest of the day.
So, besides being rattled off my pillows by a phone call at 7:30 am by some guy trying to sell me new windows ("But it’s not a sale, we DO NOT want your money, Tom! We want to GIVE YOU these windows! All we want you to pay for is...")...
And besides being shook out from under the covers at 7:45 by the same prick who clearly didn’t understand the implications of my saying, "FUCK YOU! DO NOT CALL BACK!" and slamming the phone down in his ear...
Besides being set on course by a panic attack about a half hour after that, no doubt due to the adrenaline already surging through my system...
Besides the fact that my wife’s credit card was hacked and maxed out by some online scammers who have the audacity to put their phone number and website right there on the cc bill...and if you hit the site you find a page that states: "If you want to know why you are being charged, put in your credit card number..."
Besides the fact that the shit economy, the closing of bookstores, and the loss of a literate culture is putting even more pressure on the publishing companies to only put out "commercial fiction" despite no one knowing what is commercial and just what might make for a major seller...
Despite my work being just about anything but commercial, and my hitting an oil slick of the spirit that has me rolling and tumbling along the open road, unsure of what direction the next book should go...
Besides the fact that after the Edgar Award nominations were announced a week or so ago I’ve seen at least three brouhahas burst out about how political awards are, how meaningless, how stupid, how discouraging, how empty, and how mercenary they are, all of which tends to overshadow my sixteen seconds in the sunshine and detract from my own Edgar nod...
Despite the fact that I just finished Sean Doolittle’s new novel SAFER and it’s brilliant and I’m green-eyed and slathering with jealousy...
Despite the fact that I just started Charlie Huston’s new bestselling novel THE MYSTIC ARTS OF ERASING ALL SIGNS OF DEATH and it’s brilliant and I’m green-eyed and slathering with jealousy...
Despite today being the official start of our one-month countdown until THE COLDEST MILE hits bookstore shelves, and I’ve got that burning stomach pain of eagerness as I wait to see what fans will think of the novel...
Regardless of ALL that, I still plan to get my ass in gear, walk the dogs around the lake, smile and wave to the neighbors and strangers as well, then sit my fat ass back in the desk chair and stare at the empty page until the next part of the story slithers into my brain, creeps down through my nervous systems, fills my heart, and pumps power into my hands to type out the next word, the next sentence, the next paragraph, the next page...until the story is done and the next one begins...and the next...and the next...
So that’s where I am at the moment–
And how was your day?
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Although I wrote three mysteries early in my career, and although some of my later titles such as NOVEMBER MOURNS, THE DEAD LETTERS, HEADSTONE CITY, and THE MIDNIGHT ROAD are all horror-crime fusions, THE COLD SPOT is my first real crime novel.
As a genre, Crime wasthe last that I tackled. I'd been a staunch reader of science fiction, fantasy (especially sword & sorcery), and horror, but it wasn't until I tackled Raymond Chandler's THE LITTLE SISTER about 20 years back that I really launched into reading the field. Odd that it should take me those 20 years to really dive in and write it.
In an interview, Harry Crews once said that he didn't much admire "science fiction and detective stories" because they weren't close enough to the real blood and bone of life. In a fashion, I suppose that's why it took me so long to come to writing crime. At first, I was more eager to get away from the world and create my own, than to tackle deeper issues that my mid-life crisis (or more properly crises) have hurled me into. We all have doubts and questions about our lives, especially when we start to hit the hill. We fear the waste, we fear the inevitable. We search for answers about our own morality and mortality. And I can't think of a better genre to delve into those issues than in Crime.
Not because it's a genre that deals with black and white, but because it features a wider horizon of gray. To me it's a much truer parallel of the real world. Of the place closest to blood and bone. It's where the confusions an frustrations of our lives are pared down to a single thread. One mission, one cause, one ambition. Whether it's to score a bank or to have your righteous revenge, the world is narrowed and focused down for you. As a writer, I suppose in some bizarre way that's my favorite element of the genre. I can distill all my daily fears and pains and regrets, and I can plant them into a story where some fucker has a halfway decent shot of figuring the world out. Even if he does so from a prison cell or a police station or a morgue slab. In the end, he gets his answer.
In any case, let me just say that I'm flattered and honored as hell to make the Edgar list. Good luck to all my fellow nominees.
You can check the complete list HERE.