Friday, January 30, 2009

The Pick of Piccirilli

The stunned mug above does not belong to Tom Piccirilli, the genre-jumping, terribly underrated author of the amazing Fuckin' Lie Down Already, a classic of revenge...

The Dead Letters, a brilliant, twisted thriller about a child killer with Good Samaritan tendencies...

and A Choir Of Ill Children, one of my favorite novels of all time.

If Piccirilli were to write ABOUT writing, you'd listen to him, right?

Well, he has... and you'd better.

He did it in 2000, actually, but I've only just caught up with the Fairwood Press "Revised Edition" (2007) of Welcome To Hell: A Working Guide for the Beginning Writer.

It might be a thin volume at sixty-eight pages, but it contains a fat lot of knowledge that Piccirilli kindly shares with us about the process of writing and the business.

If nothing else, Piccirilli is a realist. He's an Asian film enthusiast, too, and he's partial to pinky violence and horror movies. I wonder if he's free for dinner tonight.

He states up front that writing can't be taught, but he does believe that it can be learned. By that I guess he's saying that the process can be understood, even by someone who can't stitch a sentence together.

Chapter 4, titled SURE, I COULD BE A BESTSELLER BUT I JUST DON'T HAVE THE TIME, is a reality check that will give the slacker in everybody a hard kick up the ring.

"You have the same twenty-four hours in the day as everybody else in the world. If you're looking for an easy trick to somehow squeeze an extra forty-five minutes in here or there, you won't find one. There is no secret. The only truth is that if you want to find the time to write badly enough -- if you need to write -- then you won't push that next story to the back burner. It'll stay in the front of your mind, forcing itself out, and when you get a free thirty minutes to work on the tale, you will."

You tell 'em, Tom!

This little bible of the blackest of arts (writing) is cheap at U.S.$9.99 and deserving of bi-annual re-readings.

Other subjects covered include grammar, syntax, repetition (and how to avoid it), conflict, atmosphere and narrative voice.

It leaves you inspired, but with a pragmatic view on the difficulty of writing well and for profit.

"Never let anyone steal your faith," Piccirilli concludes. "Have fun."

Hopefully, an encounter with this book will spawn you into digging out his literary thought crimes and devouring them.

Although his work is available in abundance on-line, a recent inventory of local bookstores turned up no Piccirilli titles at all. Shame on the lot of 'em!


  1. Very Cool!

    Piccirilli has been on my list of authors to check out - guess I'll start with A Choir of Ill Children, since that is one of your all-time faves! :-)

  2. I hope you enjoy him as much I have.