On July 11, we lost Tom Piccirilli, a brilliant writer who was also the first person to support The Big Click. His column was the high point of every issue in which it appeared, and it is nearly impossible to imagine contemporary noir fiction without him.
Before turning to crime fiction, Pic was a well-known horror writer and occasional fantasist. When he passed on July 11, the science fiction/fantasy trade journal Locus asked us for a few words on Pic. We reproduce them here:
Tom Piccirilli would not want me to write that he passed on after a long battle with cancer. He didn’t like clichés—everyone supposedly “battles” cancer simply by having it for longer than a day. It’s an empty phrase, a burp. Pic would have found another way to describe his death; he would have dug deep for some anecdote, some telling detail. Also, and I can hear him saying this right now in my mind’s ear, “I’d rather be alive. Don’t put down that I died!” He wrote in an essay once, Noir truth: If you write about it enough, you’ll make it real. So I’ll say this: the rest of us lost Tom Piccirill’s battle with cancer.
That’s what Pic was about. The way a woman clenches a fist (with a yip), where a madman sees an angel (inside the body of a dead dog), how a drunk waits for his beer to arrive (not realizing that it is right in front of him, and already half empty). Pic was all about writing in a simple and straightforward way about what we don’t see, what we pretend not to perceive, what we can’t recognize until it is pointed out to us until it is too late. He was a very perceptive writer and just as perceptive in his personal dealings. Pic demystified publishing for many young writers; his door was always open to aspirants. Even when he left horror-fantasy for crime, when he got big, he was always with us down in the trenches, honoring our hustle for nickels, with pats on the back and kind words for when he did well. How did you know you were a good writer? Pic told you that you were. It wasn’t just schmoozing, though he was good at that—he never said anything he didn’t mean when the subject was as important as writing. He dragged himself from his sickbed to pen tiny essays for my magazine The Big Click. His brain was attacking the rest of his body, but was never in rebellion against its purpose—to write simply and beautifully about dark things, to read and appreciate the same.
Tom Piccirilli would not want me to write that he’ll be missed. He’d want me to write that he’ll not be missed because he’ll always be read. By writing this, I hope to make it true: read Tom Piccirilli. Give him eternity in literature as well as memory. Find some noir truth.
Please support Tom Piccirilli’s family by helping yourself to some of his wonderful novels and story collections.