The Hollywood screenwriter glamour and glitz is overshadowed by a reality that’s more crumbs and handouts, nightmares rein supreme, dreams a fallacy. Haunted by the ghosts of a missing love and fractured childhood event, Tommy Pic, a b-grade has-been lives in his mothers basement waiting for the next bout of inspiration to drag him from the doldrums of excessive alcohol and depression, but when it comes, the conduit is elusive and forged by a mysterious force.
Piccirilli’s poetic depiction of depravity of one’s loss of self and constant battle to maintain a cohesive and consistent train of thought is exemplary in WHAT MAKES YOU DIE. The lead character’s hallucinations add fluidity to Tommy Pic’s reality by distorting imagines of the true and false alike as he attempts to rekindle his b-grade glory amidst blackouts and unwanted bodily inhabitants.
There is an element of the surreal to WHAT MAKES YOU DIE, notably with a komodo dragon seemingly living inside Tommy’s intestines which may or may not be the screenwriters ‘dark half’. The creative side of Tommy will draw parallels to THE DARK HALF by Stephen King but with an added hint of funhouse horror.
The ending, while not conventional is intentional. It bodes well for the overall theme of the novel and further exemplifies what Tom Piccirilli was trying to do with WHAT MAKES YOU DIE. While there is a distinct emphasis on the Hollywood lifestyle (albeit on the frayed edges), it’s the undercurrents of maddening suspense and looming hopelessness that absorbs the limelight.
WHAT MAKES YOU DIE will leave you wanting more, Piccirilli’s namesake character and interesting screenplay demand further attention, and I, for one, certainly hope Piccirilli revisits this setting.
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