Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Last Deep Breath by Tom Piccirilli

Another prolific writer whose talents have managed to slip under the radar, Tom Piccirilli is a four time Bram Stoker winner with over twenty novels to his credit and a slew of shorter tales ranging the gamut of mystery, thriller, horror, erotica and science fiction. A heavy-hitter in the horror clique, his name has clout – so I was excited to finally delve into his take on the novella form with Tasmaniac Publications The Last Deep Breath.

Even from the illustration and from Tom’s reputation, I pieced together this is a kind film-noir frolic and that’s exactly what's offer. The story follows Grey, a washed out drifter with no clear idea or centralized compass on where he wants to be - he only knows he must find his foster sister before the excesses of the world kill her. After both of them escaped the tortuous embrace of abusive foster parents, their crimes have seen them go in different directions … and his sister only desires reconciliation when death is just around the corner. After another vanishing act he follows her again – this time into the bustling heart of Hollywood. Soon he is seduced into a dirty world of scummy agents, fading movie stars, and half-baked leads.

The first thing that jumped out was the prose: Tom’s style is immediately accessible and I’ve always been partial to writers who are not afraid to lay on heavy doses of metaphor. Though somewhat grating at the beginning: to be sucked into a hard-boiled world set in the present day (let’s face it, most of us are conditioned to see this world through black and white sepia mirroring the styles of a bygone era). But this knee-jerk reaction is probably caused by not reading far or wide enough in the genre. Having never tackled a tome by Elmore Leonard, unfortunately my familiarity with the genus extends no further than films like Get Shorty with the locale setting of Mulholland Drive

Like other Tasmaniac titles, this one is short, sliping by with the speed of our protagonist Grey experiencing a chemical high. There are cool vintage cars, porn actors and pimps; there are movie stars and murders. And underlying all of it is the mystique and allure of what it is to come to Hollywood for the first time. Also, it wouldn’t be a Tasmaniac edition if it didn’t have a lengthy and very entertaining foreword - this time by Patrick Lussier.

To top it off there is a bonus short Between the Dark and Daylight, a completely original and funny romp whose idea might have been spawned by the real life ‘balloon boy’ saga that dominated headlines some time back. Although comical, it’s still skewed with a penchant for violence.