EVERY SHALLOW CUT by Tom Piccirilli (2011 Chizine Publications / 162 pp / tp)
Piccirilli's latest noir tale is told from the point of view of an unnamed man who we learn is a mid-list author who has lost everything: his 2nd wife, his house, and apparently most of his readership. He lives in a car with his dog, Churchill, and decides to take a cross-country trip back to New York to visit his older brother.
Before he leaves Colorado, he hocks some of his final belongings at a pawn shop and purchases a .38 with some of the money. After a long, tiring trip, his brother is surprised to see him, and reluctantly allows him (and Churchill) to stay for a while.
EVERY SHALLOW CUT's strength is in its slow-building suspense: we know the unnamed author is on the brink of going postal, especially when he hits Manhattan to visit his agent who has (apparently) given up on promoting his books. The author also visits his ex-girlfriend, and though wild thoughts go through his head as they speak on her front stairs, he doesn't act on them.
An old friend in the Bronx (a psychiatric counselor and part-time author himself) offers the author his apartment to crash in, and after going through his rucksack, tries to get get the author to understand he's having a nervous breakdown. The author leaves his friend's apartment after a few days and has a run-in with a young cop, and things quickly get ugly.
At first I felt a bit let-down by CUT's non-dramatic conclusion, but after chewing on it a while, it made me look at this "noirella" in a different way. Piccirilli has once again created a strong, troubled character who we can't take our eyes off; we don't know if he's going to snap or let things go on as always (the ending leaves it for the reader to decide). And as with any good story (regardless of length), we're left wanting more.
(*-Blog title taken from page 124)