Today marks another anniversary of Tom Piccirilli’s passing (back in 2015), and it occurs to me that a lot of my younger fans probably haven’t read him. We need to un-fuck that. Tom was not only one of my best friends (we called each other “Big Bro” and “Little Bro” for the almost 20 years that we knew each other) — he was one of the best writers my generation ever produced. Indeed, I would argue that he was the best, and I don’t know many of my generation who would argue with that.
Tom started out as a horror and crime writer, but he was never content to limit himself to one genre. During his career, in addition to a multitude of crime and horror novels, he wrote westerns, bizarro, science fiction, literary fiction, poetry, screenplays, non-fiction and one comic book (The Punisher). No matter what he tried his hand at, it was celebrated by his peers and critics. The term “writer’s writer” fit Tom perfectly. He was a writer that other writers — regardless of genre — read eagerly. If a new Tom Piccirilli book came out, you dropped everything (including your own writing) and settled in with it for the night. The harshest critics applauded him. His peers adored him. And the authors he looked up to — people like Ed Gorman and Dean Koontz — celebrated him.
It was like that even in the early days, when we were just starting out. We used to gather in this primitive Web 1.0 chatroom run by Matt Schwartz. You’d recognize the names of the folks who frequented it. Tom, myself, Tim Lebbon, J.F. Gonzalez, Weston Ochse, James Newman, Gak, Simon Clark, John Urbancik, Dave Barnett, Mehitobel Wilson, Geoff Cooper, Mike Bracken, Rain Graves, Mike Oliveri, Michael T. Huyck, Chad Hensley, Regina Garza-Mitchell and so many others. Richard Laymon, Edward Lee, John Pelan, and Ray Garton were there, too, acting as mentors to a pack of insane kids (this was many years before Garton and I had a falling out that I have tried to squash repeatedly but have ultimately resigned that it is what it is).
But I digress.
Even then, we all looked up to Tom. He was submitting to the same zines as us. When Leisure kicked off, he was competing to get in there same as everyone else. But it was the quality of his work — the strength of his authorial voice — that elevated him above us in our collective minds.
Mainstream success eluded Tom, for the most part. He had a dedicated, loyal fan-base, but much like myself, he stayed consigned to the mid-list. That always bothered me, because Tom — unlike myself — was better than mid-list. His work should have been, and should still be taught in schools. It should be recognized by the Library of America. There should be bronze signs in Long Island and Colorado noting that he was there.
But his work will serve that purpose. Tom had an extensive backlist of books and collections, and that is how we know he was here. You owe it to yourself to explore them.
Picking a favorite Tom Piccirilli book is like picking a favorite child. All I can do is tell you what my personal favorites are. But that list is going to be different for everyone who loves his work.
The best thing to do, is to peruse his books on Amazon. Click here for the complete list. Peruse them at your leisure, and find a description that speaks to you, and try him out for yourself. That being said, my personal favorites are:
THE DEAD LETTERS
THE LAST KIND WORDS
DEEP INTO THAT DARKNESS PEERING
A LOWER DEEP
FUCKIN’ LIE DOWN ALREADY
MEETING THE BLACK
A CHOIR OF ILL CHILDREN (which has one of the best opening sentences ever)
EVERY SHALLOW CUT
Most of these are in print and available. Some in paperback. Some on Kindle. Some as both. Even the ones that are out of print (such as DEEP INTO THAT DARKNESS PEERING) are well worth seeking out on the secondary market.
An actor is remembered every time someone watches them in a film. A musician is remembered every time someone listens to their song. A loved one is remembered every time someone speaks of them.
A writer is remembered every time someone reads their work.
I encourage you to remember my friend.
— Brian Keene