An unnamed mid-list author is pawning off his mother’s art prints and his father’s coin collection before heading out of Denver to go live with his brother in New York. He’s lost his wife to another man and his house to the tough economy. Now he’s about to lose the last mementos he has of his late parents for a pittance to the asshole behind the display case. Before he can get in the door some thugs try to roll him, but what they don’t know is that though they may be methed-out pieces of shit, they have a lot more to lose than our protagonist.
Every Shallow Cut manages to be pure noir in character and tone while far from it in terms of plot. Yes, we are watching a man at his lowest point go through many dark days and nights of the soul, but he is not backed into ridiculously dire circumstances, not forced to kill or rob a bank or some shit like that. He indeed has nothing to lose but this is not about revenge, his psyche does not spiral into true psycho noir territory.
No, Every Shallow Cut is just a dark tour across America and back to the strange-but-hazily-familiar place called home, our guide a writer whose talent didn’t translate into sales and whose house and wife couldn’t withstand the lean times of late. His anger throbs through in every sentence, his last shreds of affection only for his dog, an old high school flame and a writer friend. Denver is dead to him, his brother doesn’t understand him, and the open road and the world beyond it are almost as oppressive to him as his brother’s guest room.
Tom Piccirilli’s novel offers us no names for characters (outside of the author’s fast food-loving bulldog Churchill) and his prose is chiseled in stone, but in spite of the directness, Every Shallow Cut is a very knowing and seemingly personal work. This world feels eerily lived in, almost like Piccirilli imagined the harshest of modern, everyday tragedies befalling his own life, like he let his darkest dreads run rampant in his mind, wrote the novel with his nightmare sweat and the blood from his chewed cuticles.
If such a harrowing journey doesn’t appeal to you, the Nerd recommends you fucking start running right now. But if you’ve got the stones and stomach for it, steel yourself for a shot of some single-malt, black-as-space shit. If the Nerd were a particularly lazy Gene Shalit, he’d review this beast thusly: “Every Shallow Cut cuts deep.”