Thursday, September 29, 2011

Review of Every Shallow Cut by Tom Piccirilli (Chizine, 2011)

Having been left by his wife and lost his house to the bank, a failing author sets out on a road trip with his English bulldog, Churchill, traversing from Denver to New York to visit his older brother. As he makes the journey he slips further into despair, all his hopes and dreams evaporated, so that all he is left with is his trusty canine companion.

Every Shallow Cut is a short book, even by novella standards. It runs to 162 pages, but it is a pocket sized format with generous margins and c. 150 words each page and a fair few blank pages. It took about 90 minutes to read. It cost the same as an ordinary novel that is usually about four times longer. Beyond cost to product ratio, I have nothing against short books, such as Carlo Lucarelli’s De Luca series. The condensed form can lead to a more powerful punch. In the case of Every Shallow Cut, the punch was powerful, but it seemed a little pulled. I really took to Piccirilli’s writing, which rattles along full of colorful images and nice observations. He really captures the downward spiral of a man in the process of losing everything. That said, the ending seemed to come a little too quick. I wasn’t convinced that he was yet at rock bottom, the point of no return. And I was surprised when I turned the last page (to find the ones following it were adverts; I felt it needed another twenty to thirty pages to fully wind out). Dave Zeltserman’s Small Crimes is a good example of a man’s descent into hell fully realized. Overall, Piccirilli is clearly a good storyteller and writes with engaging prose and I’m going to give one of his full novels a go, but this needed a bit more rounding out for my tastes.

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