About Me

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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

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sometimes Santa Shows Up a Couple of Days Late

Santa showed up a couple of days late and left these kind words beneath my tree.

You know Brian Keene. You read Brian Keene. You love Brian Keene. You hinge on his every word. So go, fly, Keene-minions, and buy multiple copies of his favorite books of '09, including SHADOW SEASON. Your master bids you.

Also, purveyor of literary taste in all things thriller, mystery, and suspense, David J. Montgomery gave his year-end roundup, and had these wonderful words for SHADOW SEASON as well: "Tom Piccirilli, the ITW Thriller Award-winning author of The Midnight Road, has produced one of the most chilling thrillers of the year. Shadow Season is an intriguing story of isolation and violence with a haunted man at its center." For the full review, check HERE.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Straub's the Man

My interview with Peter Straub, focusing on his latest novel A DARK MATTER, is now up over at The Big Adios.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Some Updates

Me and my BFF James Ellroy, who I met at the Tattered Cover down in Denver a month or so ago.

I'm the featured author over on New Mystery Reader. Interview/review of SHADOW SEASON can be found at: http://newmysteryreader.com/Tom_Piccirilli.htm

Nerd of Noir did a sweet review of SHADOW SEASON over at the popular BSC site: http://www.bscreview.com/2009/12/shadow-season-by-tom-piccirilli-review/

DEADLY PLEASURES MYSTERY MAGAZINE has voted THE COLDEST MILE one of their favorite novels of 2009: http://www.deadlypleasures.com/yearsbest.html

Here's an interview with the one and only Ed Gorman, focusing on his latest, and he says last, Sam McCain novel TICKET TO RIDE: http://thebigadios.yuku.com/topic/995?page=-1

As for what's upcoming: Finished up a novella recently entitled COLD COMFORTS that will be available through Delirium Books' digital releases next month. Currently working on an X-Mas crime-themed novella for Tasmanic's FESTIVE FEAR 2 anthology, due out next Christmas. Also turned in the latest draft of my novel THE UNDERNEATH to my editor at Bantam. Look for it hopefully late in '10.
How's the end of '09 shaping up for you kids?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Plenty o' Pulp Goodness

Over at PULP SERENADE, hardboiled/noir/crime fiction critic Cullen Gallagher has a lengthy write-up of SHADOW SEASON where he says, in part: "Shadow Season was one of those books that I connected with from the very first line, and went on to read in a single afternoon. It’s an uncompromisingly dark story masterfully told that speaks well beyond its gripping scenario. Piccarilli allows us to connect with the characters on a level that feels very private, perhaps all the more so because of the main protagonist’s blindness: together, we share in his darkness. Piccirilli’s refined artistry as a writer, particularly his expressive phrasing and impeccable pacing, are on display throughout Shadow Season."

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

SHADOW SEASON out today!

My new novel SHADOW SEASON hits bookstores today. Race across the face of the earth, people, and get your copy of SHADOW SEASON today. Hope you love the fuckall out of the book. If you do, and you blog about it, write a review on Amazon.com or B&N.com,buy extra copies for your mama & daddy... & the kiddies, spread the word, then you will be blessed by heaven and all the riches you so rightly deserve will be yours for the plucking.

You can find a new piece by Jeff VanderMeer on the Amazon blogs here: http://bit.ly/2UcuXg

Here's an interview with me up at The Big Adios focused on the writing of the book: http://thebigadios.yuku.com/topic/959

And a few really nice reviews:

"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

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."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

How You Waste a Whole Day Trying to Track Down A Comic Book (and Fail Miserably)

The longer I live out here in Loveland, Colorado, the more I miss New York. In NY I could toss a stick and hit 20 comic shops. Out here, there’s two within an hour’s drive.

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."

"All damaged?"

"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!"

"Why not?"

"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 can’t."

"You can’t?"

"I don’t know if I’ll have five extras."

"Okay, pull one extra."

"I can’t."

"You can’t?"

"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

More Yackity Yack (I'm Talkin' Back)

Another new interview up over at THE BIG ADIOS. This one, oddly enough, is actually WITH me.

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

Update: Where ya been, Pic?

Since you asked, I'll tell ya:

Been busy as hell, kids. Sorry it's been so long since I've done a blog, but the work's been rougher than usual lately. Finished two major projects, including revisions on my next novel, tentatively titled THE UNDERNEATH (but that might change to THE LAST KIND WORDS or who the hell knows, maybe something else. Which do you like better?) Knocked out three short stories for various anthologies, and I'm currently in the midst of a noirish ghost story, or maybe it's a supernatural noir, I'm not certain.

Here's a few places you can catch up with some of what's been going on--

You can check out the brief article about me now up at the International Thriller Writers zine THE BIG THRILL.

New review of SHADOW SEASON over at Horror World.

Another new interview can be found on Ed Gorman's blog.

The German edition of THE MIDNIGHT ROAD retitled SMERZ (PAIN) is out now and can be ordered via the German Amazon.

Also, over on THE BIG ADIOS you can find new interviews with the likes of:

Russell Atwood, author of EAST OF A and LOSERS LIVE LONGER.

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.


And REMEMBER, it's T-minus 21 days (that's right, three frickin' weeks) until SHADOW SEASON hits the shelves.

And PUNISHER #75 should be out in the next week or two. Nab a copy and let me know what you think of my first comic book story. Unless you hate it, then you don't need to share.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Update: Interview & Starred PW Review

Sorry I've been in complete hype mode on the blog recently. I know that can be wearying for readers, but after months of trying to build buzz and start the always sluggish process of pushing a new novel, it's a huge relief when the publication date finally approaches. SHADOW SEASON streets in about six weeks on October 27th.

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

Booklist review of Shadow Season

SHADOW SEASON received a nice review from Booklist today:

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

Futile Efforts

The long wait is over, friends. Just announced: my new massive collection FUTILE EFFORTS will soon be available from Cemetery Dance. Starred review in PW. Almost 600 pages long featuring introductions to my short fiction by the likes of Brian Keene, Jack Ketchum, Christopher Golden, TM Wright, Tom Monteleone, Ray Garton, Jack O'Connell, Simon Clark, James A. Moore, Gerard Houarner, Tim Lebbon, Michael Laimo, and many others.

Check it out here: http://cemeterydance.com/

Thursday, July 30, 2009

"What's Been Going On, Pic?" Well, Since You Asked...

Let's hope he doesn't fall off the roof while reviewing THE COLDEST MILE. Our favorite librarian from the L.D. Fargo public library in Lake Mills, WI is out of the basement and up on the roof battling his air conditioning unit while telling the world on YouTube to check out TCM.

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

Soft Hearts of Hard Case Crime

Some generous words have come in from one of my faves and yours: "Tom Piccirilli is at the forefront of the new breed of crime writers, welding his sense of history to a modern sensibility, creating a strong new voice."--Max Allan Collins, author of ROAD TO PERDITION.

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

More on Punisher #75

In Joe Quesada's regular Cup O' Joe column he spotlights Punisher #75, an issue where the direction of Punisher Max is bound to change.

Kiel Phegley: After last week’s CUP O’ JOE about Marvel’s pricing sparked discussion of what gets published under the MAX banner, you’re back with some MAX news this week on the Punisher front?

Joe Quesada: Yup. “Punisher: Frank Castle” #75 is a double-sized special with stories by Charlie Huston (“Moon Knight”), Gregg Hurwitz (“Vengeance of Moon Knight”), Peter Milligan, Duane Swierczynski and a great crime novelist, Thomas Piccirilli with art by Ken Lashley (“Black Panther”), Laurence Cambpell (“Punisher”), Das Pastoras (“Wolverine”) and more.
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.
Looks like crime fiction fans are really going to have a good time with this one. Charlie Huston's "Hank Thompson" books are some of my very fave neo-noir novels (and also make sure you check out his latest THE MYSTIC ARTS OF ERASING ALL SIGNS OF DEATH). Gregg Hurwitz's latest TRUST NO ONE is racing up the charts, and my buddy Duane Swierczynski tackles suspense/thriller fiction like no one else out there. His novels SEVERANCE PACKAGE, THE BLONDE, and THE WHEELMAN are all ripsnorters that will keep you nailed to the page

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Neuroses is Me, Still

Amazing how after 20 years, 20+ novels, and 200+ stories, the skin can still be thin and the insecurities abundant. Advance Reading Copies (actually just bound manuscripts as for the time being Bantam is no longer printing true arcs up for their mass market paperback originals) of my new novel SHADOW SEASON are winging their way to various reviewers, friends, peers, comrades, hopefully a literary hero or two--and so once again my heart's on the line. I guess it never gets any easier, really. And I guess it's not supposed to. The fact that a writer still worries, gets excited, or becomes anxious is probably a sign that this bizarre biz/art of ours still matters deeply to us. Or maybe we are just fucking crazy.

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

Love for Pic

This is the reason why you all want to become professional writers. Because of the adoration, respect, unconditional love, and a readership that's not too proud to shower you with a little grateful attention.

This fan letter comes from our good friend D. Ford of Mnpls, MN. "Always looking for new mytery writers, hoping I'll find a gem to add to my favs collection. Bought your "Midnight Road" sight unseen from Amazon. Have tried to get into it 3 times. All failures. This is the most disjointed, unrealistic attempt @ writing a mystery novel I've tried in over 5 yrs. The character and his rambling 1st person problems make no sense at all. There's no cohesion or sense of danger or any tension. The dead dog!! Give me a break, don't know what you're trying for, and I don't think you do either. And the manufactured danger he faces from the police for no apparent reason, just makes this a VERY weak attempt. $$ wasted. Go back to Lit 101 & read Mike Connelly, John Sanford, Stephen Hunter, Robert Crais, and start all over!!"

Sure, I could've spent a half hour writing a resounding & insulting missive that would ring his ass like a bell, but what's the point? Here's what I wrote instead:

"Thanks for your generous compliments. Keep reading!
Tom Pic"

Haters. You know you want more of them in your life. Become a novelist now!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Pic & the Punisher plus Another of those Damn Memes

Been parceling out the info in drips and drabs the past couple of weeks, but the paperwork has been signed and things are official now.

My story "Dolls" will appear in Punisher #75, an oversized issue featuring 4 tales that's due out in October. I know brilliant crime novelists/comic writers Charlie Huston and Gregg Hurwitz will also be in this one, so that's a serious fuckin' honor right there.

Originally Marvel wanted a 4-6 page story but my terrific editor kept giving me more and more room. The final piece will be 10 pages long, about half the length of a regular issue. All the stories had to touch on the day in Central Park when Castle's family was murdered.

"Dolls" opens as Frank is about to take a sniper shot at a mobster when a little lost girl asks him to help her find her father. It's her birthday soon and she asks if he'll buy her a present. He buys her a doll that--ding ding--reminds him of his own dead daughter. Frank only has a certain amount of time to take out his target and is torn between helping the girl and leaving her and getting back to killing the guy.

The brilliant Laurence Campbell is slated to do the artwork. A sample of his work is up top.

Total fanboy geeking out here.

Got tagged with this four-shot meme which is going around to crime writers all over the place.

Four Movies You Can See Over and Over

Seven Beauties (fave film of all time)
The Wild Bunch
Sunset Boulevard
The Maltese Falcon

Four Places You Have Lived

There's only been two:
New York

Four TV Shows You Love to Watch

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
The Odd Couple

Four Places You Have Been on a Vacation

Santa Fe, NM
Phoenix AZ
Quebec City, CAN
New York, New York (If I had my way this is where we'd always go).

Four of Your Favorite Foods

New York Pizza
New York bagels
Pasta Fasool (I make it better than your grandma does)
London Broil

Four Websites You Visit Daily

Four Places You Would Rather Be

Manhattan (okay, so it's a running theme)
Florence, Italy
Newport Beach, CA
1977 (so I could tell my younger self not to be such a dweeb)

Four Things You Hope to Do Before You Die

Have a New York Times bestseller
Have Hollywood woo me
Do film commentary for a film based on one of my novels
Celebrate my 83rd birthday with my 18-year old second wife Bambi (heart over the "i")

Four Novels You Wish You Were Reading for the First Time

THE DEAD FATHER by Donald Barthelme (fave novel)
CATCH-22 by Jospeh Heller

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Hard Eight

So as of May 27 I’m now I’m 44–a hard eight as you craps shooters say–and another year closer to 46, which is something of a benchmark as it’s the age my father was when he died. Who knows if I’ll make it (place your bets, everyone). My mid-life crisis started a couple of years ago. I’m not sure when it’s supposed to end. With the advent of classmates.com and Facebook, clearly I’m not the only one suffering through severe bouts of sentimentality and romanticized youthful times. I suppose it’s just a part of what everyone goes through. We’re just louder about it because we all fucking blog.

So, some news:

You can find my article on Korean crime/horror films in the latest issue of Asian Cult Cinema (#62), including my reviews of Our Town, Dream, The Chaser, and Open City among others.

The cover for SHADOW SEASON has been finalized. It’s a bit tweaked from the previous images I’ve posted (now with "Edgar Award nominee" listed among my attributes). I think it’s a real grabber and hopefully it’ll pop nicely on the shelf. The book is due October 27 but of course you can pre-order now from Amazon or B&N.com. Also remember to spread the love and support your independent bookstore.

I recently placed my first script with Marvel. I’m playing it close to the vest for the time-being until all the paperwork is signed, etc., but this is a real dream come true. Comics have been a big part of my life, both personal and creative, since before I could read. I clearly remember my brother handing me issues of Daredevil #4 (1st app. of the Purple Man) and Avengers #5 (first app. of the Lava Men) when I couldn’t have been older than two or three. Although my collection has thinned considerably over the years, at one point I owned about 8k comics, all properly backboarded, bagged up and boxed. The collector’s bug, that need to own every issue of every series that came out every month, eventually left me and I sold off about half my comics. Which means I currently own about 4k, including DD #4 and Avengers #5 (though not the same copies my brother gave me).

From the You’ve Got to Check This Out Dept:

Gillian Flynn’s second novel DARK PLACES is out now. Her brilliant SHARP OBJECTS was an Edgar Award nominee and DARK PLACES might even be more twisted, naughty, and noir-stuffed. It follows the story of the lone survivor of a family slaughter, alternating between the narrative of that emotionally screwed-up young lady and flashbacks of her murdered mother and her brother, the supposed killer. A real grabber of a novel that is mysterious and haunting in the best ways.

Also, out now on DVD is J.T. Petty’s THE BURROWERS. A horror-western film that is gripping, realistic, grueling, and genuinely disturbing. The story focuses on a posse hunting after a missing family believed to have been taken by renegade Indians. But soon it becomes apparent that something else, something inhuman, has stolen the folks. There are scenes that won’t be leaving your mind anytime soon. This is one unsettling, nihilistic gut-stomper the way great horror fiction/film is supposed to be.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Brotherhood of Inspiration

You've heard the line so much that it's almost become a mantra: Writing is a lonely business. But the truth is that most writers hold down day jobs, travel for business, and have families that they have to make time for. Most writers can barely find any free time to write, much less time to become lonely. But for the professional author who's sitting in front of the screen with nothing but himself and his own thoughts, the process can become particularly wearying. Especially if he's working on something that draws heavily from his own life and keeps him locked inside his own past as well.

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

What is Noir?

Over on Shocklines, uber-horror writer Douglas Clegg and I have been discussing fiction/film noir a bit. He says, "It seems to me that in noir, there is a sort of Fata Morgana or Lorelei aspect -- in that a woman leads men to their doom at the center of the story, whether she wants to or not. " He goes on to ask, "If I'm wrong let me know -- my reading and movie-viewing in noir has been limited. Has there ever been a noir where a man lead women -- or a woman -- to her doom, and still could be called noir? Are there specific parameters to noir in fiction? How would you define it?"
Here's my shot at an answer:

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.
So how about you folks? How do you define noir?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Update & Spreading the Love

Just found out I was nominated for a Macavity for "Between the Dark and the Daylight" (EQMM), which is also up for a Thriller Award. Sweet. For the full list, check HERE.

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.


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.


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.


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

I'm a Loser, Bay-Bee...

I'm a loser, bay-bee...so why don't ya kill mee...

Okay, so no sour grapes about losing out at the Edgars. I was damn sure Christa Faust would take the award home for MONEY SHOT but instead Meg Gardiner walks off with it for CHINA LAKE. My thanks to everyone who was willing to toss a molotov cocktail and cry foul, overturn tables, set fires, smash bottles of tequila and wave around the busted glass ends at the throats of the MWA judges. Never trust whitey!

You can check out all the winners right HERE.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Bleeding at the Bottom of the Tiger Trap

Writing a scene where my protagonist regrets some of his life's choices and pines for what might have been. Really shaking my head up. Sometimes you create a character so you can slip inside someone else's skin, and sometimes it feels like you're just suffocating inside your own. You go in deep and pick open your emotional sores and let them bleed all over the page. You wonder what life would have been if you’d cut right instead of dodging left, if a phone conversation thirty years ago went a different way, if you’d cared more about that instead of this. The trouble is that this kind of thinking can’t be quantified. It has no parameters, no start and stop. Way leads on to way, the dominoes fall. I dwell on mistakes. I reflect on faults and fumbles. I ponder oversights and blunders. Writing is nothing but a series of what ifs. Sometimes the scenes sweep you in. I finish a sentence and then stare at it and reread it and reread it. What if? What if? I see myself in the page, I hear speeches that have been swirling around inside my skull for decades that have never been spoken aloud. Bits and pieces show up in dialogue. One regret leads to another, one dream into the next, and a few dusty holdout hopes come creeping out of their corners. It makes the writing real but it leaves me in a sweat. What if? All these years of digging so deeply inside have left trenches and abysses. There are spots now that are like camouflaged tiger traps set with punji stakes. If I get too close I drop in and get carved up, and it takes me forever to claw my way out again.

So how’s your day going?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Redemption of the Sandman

For all friends & fans in France, and for those of you who just want to put your high school French to the test, La Rédemption du Marchand de Sable aka The Redemption of the Sandman aka The Dead Letters is available in France today. And while you're hanging around Amazon Francais, you can check out Un Choeur d'enfants Maudits aka A Choir of Ill Children as well.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Shadow Season - The Coldest Mile Contest Winner

We had twenty-two entries in the SHADOW SEASON - THE COLDEST MILE contest. I scrawled each person's name on a piece of scrap paper, and with the help of my trusty sidekick Edgar Allan Poe and a piece of tape, a winner has been chosen at random.

NICK CATO, editor of the HORROR FICTION REVIEW will receive a signed, pre-advance reading copy of my next novel SHADOW SEASON, due out October 27th. This is a printed out copy of the final edited manuscript placed in one of those cheapo binders with the cover art attached. Publishers occasionally send these out extra-early to start some buzz and bring in a few early blurbs. Only about 20 of these have been done, and this is the only one that is signed by me.

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.

SHADOW SEASON is the story of a blind ex-cop turned teacher at an isolated girls' school. Amid some scandalous events concerning an enamored student, he tries to struggle by with his handicap and a lot of unresolved issues dealing with his girlfriend, his dead wife, and his former partner. When a deadly blizzard hits, it brings along with it a mysterious girl and a pair of killers.

What else is doing--

TASMANIAC has accepted my latest noir novella THE LAST DEEP BREATH for an early 2010 release. More details when the Taz site is updated with ordering information. They'll also be reprinting my story "Between the Dark and the Daylight" as either additional material in the volume or as a separate chapbook.

I'll also be a guest at MO*CON this year, alongside my good pals Gerard Houarner, Linda Addison, Gary Braunbeck, Lucy Snyder, Wrath James White, and the sinister minister himself Maurice Broaddus. I've never attended before but I'm looking forward to a weekend of horror fiction, poetry & spirituality. Yes, you read that right. If you're planning to attend, make sure you step up and say hey. Or bless you. Or get thee behind me Satan. They all work.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Q & A

A few questions came in during ASK ME WEDNESDAY. Thanks for the interest, folks.

Josephine asks:

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.

Ask Me Wednesday

Ask Me Wednesday - if you've got a question about my work, writing process, voice, style, reading habits, emotional ambivalence and indifference to just about everything these days, or anything else within reason (ah ha, there's the codicil), fire away and I'll answer right here within a day or two.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Blue April Updates

I'm not sure why but I always seem to get a little blue in April. Bluer than usual. Maybe it's the shift in the weather. Here in Colorado we never know what to expect. One day will be like summer, the next we'll have a blizzard. It's hard to get your feet under you emotionally when you wake up and can't figure out if you can go for a walk with the dogs or if you need to lock all the storm windows. Plus, it's tax season, which nobody likes, especially self-employed writers who make peanuts and still have to pay through the whazoo. I'm in the middle of several different projects but can't seem to settle my head into any one of them for any great length of time. I feel anxious and a touch claustrophobic. Looks like the major snowstorm we were expecting has skirted us, so maybe I'll get out of the house later and burn off some of this edge.

Started a new "noirella" for Tasmaniac Publications, the same fine folks who brought you THE NOBODY and the forthcoming CRUEL SUMMER by my good pal, the uber-talented Matt Venne. This one will be entitled THE LAST DEEP BREATH.

Another sweet blurb has come in for SHADOW SEASON, this one from the most excellent suspense writer Robert Ferrigno. If you're not already reading his Assassin series, get moving. His latest SINS OF THE ASSASSIN is out now in paperback.

"SHADOW SEASON is a beautifully written thriller filled with heart and wit, sharp dialogue and characters you utterly believe in. A great ride."--Robert Ferrigno, author of Sins of the Assassin and The Horse Latitudes.

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

ITW Award nomination for "Between the Dark..."

While I'm honored beyond saying at being a finalist for the International Thriller Writers Award for my short story "Between the Dark and the Daylight," I am SO not looking forward to the inevitable beatdown I'm going to get from my esteemed and kickass fellow nominees.

Thriller Awards Nominees
The International Thriller Writers proudly announces its nominees for the 2009 Thriller Awards.

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

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

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

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

On the Edge of The Underneath or Pumice to the Pink

I read a lot of writers' blogs, and I'm surprised at how many of them talk abut always meeting their deadlines, always smoothly plotting out the work, always working non-stop for hours on end. Me, I'm here to tell you that, at least for this writer, I hit wall after wall. I fight with doubt and insecurity just about every day. I look at the work and my head spins, my heart sinks, my nerves itch. It probably happens for all of us stuck in front of the computer even on a beautiful day like today, but I'm amused by how few authors admit to it. If I didn't admit to it, I'm not sure what the hell else I'd have to blog about.

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

Shadow Season - The Coldest Mile CONTEST

In the neverending effort to hawk wares and win vainglorious emotional validation, I'm holding my first blog contest.

THE PRIZE: From today, lucky Friday, March 13th until your favorite day of the year April 15th, you'll have a chance to win a SIGNED, PRE-ADVANCE READING COPY of my next novel SHADOW SEASON, due out October 27th. This is a printed out copy of the final edited manuscript placed in one of those cheapo binders with the cover art attached. Publishers occasionally send these out extra-early to start some buzz and bring in a few early blurbs. Only about 20 of these have been done, and this is the only one that is signed by me.

HOW TO PLAY: Simple. Buy, read, and promote the hell out of my latest novel THE COLDEST MILE, the follow-up to my Edgar Award-nominated THE COLD SPOT. (Now here is where you get to say, "Well hellooo Mr. Fancypants!") Blog about it, review it on Amazon.com or B&N.com or elsewhere, sing my well-earned praises, and then send me the link. Anybody who makes an honest effort (And I'll spot you lazy lollygaggers, oh yes I will) goes into the drawing.

If you don't already have a copy of THE COLDEST MILE you can click the handy dandy link just to the right there. I know how much it hurts that the other children keep pointing and laughing at you while holding up their copies of TCM and frolicking all about the playground. It hurts me as well. But in this case, it's okay to give in to peer pressure. Seriously. Join the cool kids.

SHADOW SEASON is the story of a blind ex-cop turned teacher at an isolated girls' school. Amid some scandalous events concerning an enamored student, he tries to struggle by with his handicap and a lot of unresolved issues dealing with his girlfriend, his dead wife, and his former partner. When a deadly blizzard hits, it brings along with it a mysterious girl and a pair of killers.

You also might want to consider becoming a follower of this blog (i.e., A Minion in Pic's Dark Legions) so you won't miss out on other promotions, giveaways, news, and writing advice.

Now off you go--

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Some Kind Words

Awesome editor & writer Jeff Vandermeer recently wrote an article for Amazon.com over on Omnivoracious, where he was kind enough to inform folks that "modern noir master Tom Piccirilli brings the heat with THE COLDEST MILE." Check it out when you get the chance, and make sure you also read through Jeff's other incredibly informative posts.

Also, the great crime/thriller writer Sean Doolittle, author of THE CLEANUP and the spanking new hardcover release SAFER, was kind enough to grace me with a blurb: "Tom Piccirilli is fast becoming one of the most notable names among today’s top suspense writers. Join the growing club of Piccirilli fans and you’ll see exactly what everybody’s been talking about. . . "

Bruce Grossman over at Bookgasm gave a spanking fine review of TCM, saying that "the book fires on all cylinders, like a souped-up GTO on straightaway." Sweet.

And thanks to my wife & webmistress Michelle, there's a big update and new look to my official website.

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

The Gift & the Disappointment

The eight-year-old daughter that I don't have rushes into my office, leaps onto my lap, and asks me to help her with her homework. We spend a few minutes doing basic math and practicing her spelling. She's got her d's and b's switched around. She's bright and precocious and she's missing an upper tooth. She's got curly brown hair, like me, and when she zips out of the room she turns her head and her corkscrew curls bounce wildly and she says, "Thank you, Daddy." My dog, Edgar, who is real, runs after her.

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

Neo-Noir, Baby

The Cold books are heavily influenced by the 50s Gold Medal classic authors such as David Goodis, Charles Williams, Jim Thompson, Harry Whittington, Peter Rabe, Bruno Fischer, Gil Brewer, and Donald Westlake (Richard Stark). For those of you who don't know, Gold Medal was a paperback publisher noted especially for its crime fiction. Unless you live and breathe this kind of writing (and even if you don't, you should keep your eyes open when hanging around the secondhand shops), you've probably only heard of one or two of those names in passing.

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

Fuck Outlining

For all you folks on Facebook who've got me friended, you might want to check my latest UPDATE STATUS and the gentleman's discussion that's arisen from it. I'm not sure if that link will work, but if not, just head over to my page anyhow and read up on the discussion about whether to outline a novel or not. Somehow noted authors Ray Garton and John Passarella have been roped into it, with some further comments by the one and only Trey R. Barker too.

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

Fast Cars, Dark Bars, Me & Noir

My latest novel THE COLDEST MILE, follow-up to my Edgar Award-nominated THE COLD SPOT, officially streets today. Amazon.com has been shipping for the past week or so. Most stores should have it in stock, but if not, you can always special order it.

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.

Some blurbs:

"[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

In the Middle of My Funk

A couple of nice things happened this morning while I was in the middle of a particularly cruel funk (and no, nothing really happened, I was just feeling funky). I received the first copy of THE COLDEST MILE hot off the presses. And yes, I realize how ironic it is to use "coldest" and "hot" in the same sentence, but hey, that's what writers get paid for. To use artistic license like that to make a point and call attention to ourselves.

Also got a mock-up of the cover for my next novel SHADOW SEASON, due out in October. It'll be tweaked some and have blurbs added, but as is I think it's wonderfully rendered and encompasses the same kind of atmosphere that the novel itself does. There's a bleakness to it but also a real moody beauty to it. You know you've got a good cover when you worry if the book will do the art fucking justice.

Okay, so--

Facebook has been sort of derailing me lately. I've been on there six or eight months, something like that, but it seems like everyone from my past has suddenly joined the site in the past few weeks. Old buddies, school chums, ex-girlfriends, you name it. I've got a natural inclination toward nostalgia, good and bad, and lately I can't quite keep as focused as I like to be because I'm dwelling on the past. I mean dwelling on the past even MORE than I usually do. A ton of memories have come surging in and, being the hyper-sensitive weenie that I am, I've been getting a little kicked around by it all. I've been lost in playing Let's Remember and thinking about the laughs, the heartaches, first loves, first lays, big fallouts over nothing, the wasted time, the damned and the dead, the initial call to be a writer.

So all you other funky people, does this shit happen to you? You ever hit a patch where you just can't pull yourself from the draw of the past? When your head is filled with the faces of people you haven't seen in ten or twenty or more years? Some of whom you can still reach out to and some who are long buried? What funky stuff have you been into lately?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

New Interview up at THE BIG ADIOS

For anyone interested, you can read a new interview with me over at THE BIG ADIOS conducted by founder/owner David T. Wilbanks. It focuses mostly on THE COLDEST MILE and the state of current affairs in the publishing biz. Hope you'll all check it out. And while you're there take time to peruse the forum a bit. It's a great place to learn about crime fiction and film from the noir/hardboiled classics to what's on the horizon.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Booklist review of THE COLDEST MILE

The first review of THE COLDEST MILE is in, and it's a rave from Booklist (due out in the Feb. 15th issue, but here's a sneak peek). As a fan of classic noir Gold Medal noir fiction, the comparison to my personal literary heroes Jim Thompson and David Goodis is especially gratifying.

"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

Living with Fear, Anger, Anxiety, and the Deep Need to Smack the Shit Out of Almost Everybody

Okay, I admit it. I’m moody.

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

New Interview Up

There's a new, brief interview with me up over at Ed "the man" Gorman's PRO-FILE. We cover the ground of career highs and lows, new work, and lots of groovy stuff in between. If you haven't already checked out Ed's blog, make sure you stick around and scroll back through his archives. It's funny, informative, and full of Monk-love.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

THE COLD SPOT nominated for an Edgar Award

Yesterday the Mystery Writers of America announced the nominees for the 2009 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction, television and film published or produced in 2008. And it is with complete jaw-dropping awe that I can say that THE COLD SPOT has made the list in the Best Paperback Original Novel category. The Edgar(R) Awards will be presented to the winners at our 63rd Gala Banquet, April 30, 2009 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York City, even as we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe.

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.