Review: ‘Every Shallow Cut’ by Tom Piccirilli

Many are saying it’s the best book of his career, and while I may disagree (I personally give that title to A Choir of Ill Children), there’s no denying the raw power of Tom Piccirilli’s latest work, Every Shallow Cut.

Every Shallow Cut is the story of an unnamed mid-list writer who finds himself one nudge away from plunging into an abyss of failure, depression and desperation. Piccirilli puts us right inside the character’s head and, in the space of a few pages, brings to life a man we simultaneously fear and fear for. A failed marriage and a floundering career have sent him on a roadtrip to his brother’s house, a place where his every misstep, bad decision and run of bad luck is highlighted by the brother’s success and good fortune. The writer is looking to build himself back up, but every thing he does serves only to tear him a little farther down.

The book is written in the no-nonsense, stripped-down prose that has become Piccirilli’s signature style as of late. It’s also a fast read – the compact paperback produced by ChiZine clocks in at well over a hundred pages, but I read it through in one lunch hour. The pace makes it no less impactful, however; Piccirilli has claimed the novella (or “noirella” as he has dubbed them) length as his own, and it’s perfect for the kind of stories he’s telling these days.

Much of Every Shallow Cut feels intensely personal; maybe that’s a by-product of Piccirilli’s chosen point-of-view, maybe it’s a reflection of the author’s real-life struggles. If it’s the latter, it’s a shame – a writer of Piccirilli’s ability deserves to be signing fat contracts and raking in the dough, not struggling from one $12 royalty check to the next.

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