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"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

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Underneath

See, this is good. People ask questions, and I don't have to write about pasta fasool. Mama would be proud that I haven't let out her secret recipe.

So, some readers wanted to know a little more about the novel I'm currently working on called THE UNDERNEATH. As mentioned yesterday, I'm trying to bridge the gap between my suspense fiction and my world of crime fiction with this book. Those two sub-genres might seem essentially the same to an audience, but to me they're two very distinct forms and call on me to get my head, my heart, and my craft into two different places.

After all these years, it's easy to fall into something of a pattern, to attack a story in the same way, to find an easy groove. I try to shake up the material every time out of the gate, not just to make the readers happy but to also keep myself nailed to the seat. Who wants to write the same book over and over? I do what I do in an effort to explore my own life, my own values, my own past, my own priorities. The work has to bring me surprise and discovery, otherwise there's not much point to it.

Anyway, THE UNDERNEATH is the story of Terrier Rand, raised by a family of criminals who strikes off on his own after his older brother Collie goes on a murder spree killing several innocents. Now, five years later on the eve of Collie's execution, Terry gets word that his brother wants to talk to him and he returns home.

On death row, Collie admits that he killed several people, but claims that he's innocent of murdering one of his supposed victims, a teenage girl. While in prison he's learned that several other girls have also been killed in similar ways and he wants Terry to look into it for him.

That's the basic thrust of the narrative. A criminal investigating his brother's crime even while having to deal with his own madcap and quirky family of grifters and thieves, as well as facing up to other personal troubles from the past.

You don't have to be too sharp-eyed to see that I've used elements and themes here that I've used before. We all have themes and metaphors that help to shape our own lives. We all have a monkey on our back. Something we can't let go of. Something that, no matter how often we ponder it and hold it up to the light, we can't fully make sense of. It haunts us. It tempts us. It revisits us. It reveals itself a little more every time we attack it, but we never discover its true nature. Our own true nature.

The themes of my own life still resist my efforts to understand them, which is why I continue to write about them. They're puzzles, they're small dramas, traumas, things that have followed me across the arc of my life. They flit at the edge of my vision. They present themselves in the dark. But I fumble after them time and time again, which is maybe why I've written so many books. If I ever catch my answers and fully comprehend them, I'm not sure I'd still feel any real burning need to write. It's the pressure that drives the engine.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Please get this on crimespot so I don't need to remember to check it out.

Tom Piccirilli said...

Thanks for the note, Patti. Forgot all about Crimespot.net. I'll drop them a line.

Anonymous said...

Storyline for THE UNDERNEATH sounds great! I'm looking forward to this already.


Anonymous said...

One great idea after another, Tom. Keep'em coming, and I'll keep reading.