Others who knew him better have written far greater tributes.
Here's how good he was. A couple of years ago, I left a copy of The Coldest Mile on a bus in Seattle when Olivia and I in town for the Locus Awards. I had used my Virgin America boarding pass as a bookmark. I got a Facebook message from a stranger who found the book and said he'd like to send it back to me. It was a cheap mass market paperback, not the sort of thing anyone would miss or have a sentimental attachment to, but when this guy found the book, he started reading it, and was hooked. And he knew, because of the bookmark, that I hadn't finished and that I needed to. So he contacted me and mailed the book back to me at his own expense, then filled his Kindle with Tom Pic.Stephen Romano, Brian Keene
Tom Piccirilli had that rare gift of being able to tap into his emotional raw spots. Those places that other, lesser writers fear, those places that others turn away from? Those places were where Piccirilli lived. His fears, his desires, his hopes were all on the page in very honest ways.
Here are two of my favorite essays by Pic. The first is one of the very few "what is noir" type pieces that cuts right to the heart of the matter by avoiding many of the pedantic arguments and making an emotional one.
I want to read about men pushed to the edge, corrupted by the world, destroyed by their own vices, who face down the worst part of themselves every hour. Sometimes they win against their own baseness and frustrations. Sometimes they are consumed. Hope springs eternal. So does terror.
The second was a blog post that came out of nowhere but scared me and moved me in it's raw openness.
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.
I was such a fan of Pic's essays that I contacted him about pulling them together in a book and publishing a collection of them through Snubnose. We sent a couple of negotiation emails back and forth and came to a "verbal" agreement. Then he got sick. It's a shame we were never able to pull that book together because I don't want this side of his work to be forgotten.
Tom Piccirilli had a fierce imagination and his work was filled with a rare, raw honesty. He will be missed.