It’s not often I refer back to the author’s blurb before the book, but in this instance, it is necessary. No, not necessary, but required to give mention of it here in this review. The author explains who he wrote the book for and it isn’t your typical: Mom, Dad, Daughter, Son, Bother, Sister, Wife, bla bla bla. He explains that this book is for you, the undesired, the outraged, the outcast and neglected, the failures, fuck-ups, and misfits. (Do you see your proper category anywhere in there yet? If not you’re still included, too.) I bring this up, because I related to Tommy Pic, to his pain of failure, his want of achieving greatness for his films, his bouts of psychotic episodes. I related to Tommy Pic and so will you to a certain degree; that’s what makes this book special.
I’ve read two books written from first person point-of-view within the last week and I’ve been shocked at how fantastic they have been. I was especially stunned because while I had an idea that “What Makes You Die”, was going be good, I just didn’t know it was going to be this GOOD. Tommy Pic is a screenwriter who’s met both brutal ends of the Hollywood spectrum, failure and success, a pair that always seem to be at hand and Tommy has finally reached the down-and-out category. The premise of the story has us following in the faltering footsteps of a delusional, alcoholic, sick-minded, yet entertaining Tommy, in an attempt to recreate the final acts of a mysterious screenplay that he has no recollection of ever writing.
“Trying to recapture the hallucinations that crafted his masterpiece, he chases his kidnapped childhood love, a witch from the magic shop downstairs, and the Komodo dragon he tried to cut out of his gut one Christmas Eve. The path to professional redemption may be more dangerous than the fall.”
If this sounds insanely brilliantly, it’s because it is insanely brilliant. These are just a few tantalizing scenes we are gifted with, amongst so many others that will rear up and slap you in the face with a dousing of strongly mixed emotions. Ironically one of the characters in this novella, Bango the Clown would literally slap you in the face with a shoe. As for the other characters, Eva (Tommy’s witch/girl interest) is my favorite; she brings a refreshing aura about her that lends us a sense of clarity and feeling that maybe things can get better for Tommy. What Makes You Die is comprised of a rich cast that wouldn’t be complete without Tommy’s imaginary family members, Bango the Clown, his less than angelic agent Monty Stobbs, and, yes, the famous Komodo dragon, Gideon, living within Tommy’s stomach and leaving him Post-it notes everywhere.
I truly had an extremely difficult time putting this one down for even a few minutes to get some work finished. Fail or succeed, author Piccirilli, does a masterful job of making us cling to every scene and page that unfolds in Tommy Pic’s quest to finish his unremembered script “What Makes You Die”. I’ve read Tom Piccirilli’s short, “Subletting God’s Head” in the anthology Dark Faith: Invocations and now after finishing “What Makes You Die”, I can say that I’m a big fan of Mr. Piccirilli’s work.The only qualms I had within this book arose at the ending. All I can say is that some of the haze and fog which blinds Tommy Pic’s eyes doesn’t completely evaporate with the novella’s conclusion. I’m guessing this was the author’s intention.
9 out of 10 Liams for “What Makes You Die” by Tom Piccirilli. This is one of those rare books where if I’m asked to recommend something special, I’ll be shoving this down a lot of throats.
Thanks to Apex Publications for providing me with this review copy.