Every hear of auteur theory? It's a film term that basically says a director's films are so unique in the way they're shot and edited and the themes they hold that anyone viewing the film without knowing who the director is beforehand will instantly know. Or something along those lines. The directors are auteurs, the authors of the work. Of course, while there are many fine directors out there, few actually have a distinct style that stand out by themselves.
The same goes for authors. There are many fine ones out there who write great books, but few have a distinct style and voice. Authors that come to mind include Elmore Leonard, T.C. Boyle, Cormac McCarthy, and Charlie Huston. And, of course, Tom Piccirilli.
I've been a fan of Tom's work for some time now. Ever since I read his novel A Lower Deep years and years and years ago. Since then he's moved away from horror and into crime with knockouts like The Dead Letters and The Midnight Road and The Cold Spot. So when I had the chance to read an early copy of his latest, Every Shallow Cut, I was thrilled.
Every Shallow Cut is a novella-length work that Tom refers to as a noirella, or noir novella, a niche he's really managed to carve for himself. I read somewhere that Tom actually prefers writing the novella (or noirella) form over others, and it shows. This noirella is about a writer who literally has nothing left to live for except maybe his companion, a dog named Churchill, as they take a road trip across the country to New York. Along the way the reader learns more about how the writer has come to this sorry and disturbing state. The story is more about self-discovery than violence, though don't worry, there is some good violence included, as evidenced by the opening when the narrator gets jumped by three methheads:
I was three days into my life as a homeless loser drifter when they broke my nose and dropped me on the street in front of a nameless pawn shop. I hit like two hundred pounds of failed dreams.
My gold band wedding ring was still on my finger, covered in spit, because I'd been trying to work it out of a ten-year groove in my flesh. My mother's beloved nineteenth-century art prints and my father's prized coin collection scattered across the cement. It's all I had left of my parents and all I had left of any value. Churchill barked like a state ward maniac, trying to work his snout through the three-inch space of open car window. He hadn't eaten today and sounded a little raw and weak.
It's in this first scene where the narrator becomes aware of the kind of violence he's capable of, and I'm not giving anything away when I tell you he kicks the shit out of the three punks. From there, he enters the pawnshop, sells everything has has, starts to leave but then goes back and buys a gun.
The rest of the noirella is a downward spiral into the narrator's despair, but what makes it great is just how raw and emotional it reads. Piccirilli writes clean and crisp sentences, not a word out of place. His style, as I mentioned above, is distinct and it clearly shows in this latest work. It's worth savoring, every word a cut into your soul.
Every Shallow Cut will be released by ChiZine Publications at the end of the month. Do yourself a favor and pre-order it now.