My good friend Tom Piccirilli’s latest novel, and his very first in hardcover, The Last Kind Words, comes out next month from Bantam. A crime novel being compared to The Godfather and Mystic River for its literary depth and strength of characterization, it’s been getting crazy good advance reviews from the likes of bestselling authors Lee Child, James Rollins, and David Morrell, and is sure to be his breakout. Of course, as a crime writer who got his start writing horror, Tom is no stranger to blood or death. Here, in a guest post as part of his blog tour in advance of The Last Kind Word‘s release, Tom talks about blood, family, and staring his own mortality in the face. These are the things the best writers draw upon, folks. The personal things. The things that keep us up at night. The things that matter.
Blood by Tom Piccirilli
I’ve been getting a chance to look at my blood a lot lately. According to my doc I have “metabolic syndrome” and that I’ve become “insulin resistant,” which are delicate phrases to describe the fact that I’m fat and lazy and headed towards diabetes if I don’t start getting some exercise. My blood sugar levels are wonky as hell and I have to keep watch. I have to stay vigilant. I have to prick my finger and test my glucose levels. Depending on where they fall I’ve got to spike myself with an insulin pen, which allows you to dial the correct dosage.
All in all it doesn’t hurt, but it can get a little messy. I have a tendency to bleed. My blood wells and pools and runs. And, of course, whenever I stab my finger I get to shout, “By a pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes!” My wife doesn’t think I’m funny, but I swear, I’m a hoot.
I flashback to when my mother who, in her last few years, had late life diabetes. She also had to do all this shit with needles. It was harder back then. She had keep bottles of insulin in the fridge. She had to make sure to eat or she’d go into a fugue state and pass out. I clearly recall one day when she stared at me like she had no idea who I was. I had to repeat to her, “Ma? Ma? Are you all right? Do you know who I am?” She didn’t. My aunt had to jam cake into her until she came back to herself. I watched her memories of me return to her eyes. It’s a spooky thing, kids, having your own ma look at you like you’re a stranger who just climbed in the kitchen window.
So part of my blood is her blood, the legacy of her blood. As mine wells from the pinpricks and pools at my fingertip, a bead of my history, full of my parents and grandparents, my forefathers, my ancestors clubbing sabertooths, I can almost hear each one of them in turn taking account. These are people who sailed over Italy in steerage with $5 in their pockets, who worked in sweatshops eighteen hours a day, who fought wars. My father lied about his age so he could enter the Navy at sixteen. Six-fucking-teen. No fatass “metabolic syndrome” for him. Fuck no. He was out there protecting the country, sailing around the Phillippines, sticking shells into those long guns on the deck, his friends dying. When I look into my blubbery sugary blood I see him there, I feel him there. I see him watching me with a face dark with sadness and disappointment.
My blood drips onto the pretty flower calendar I use to record my results. The insulin is helping. The meds are helping. The numbers grow progressively lower. Today is May 15. In twelve days I turn 47. My old man died at 46. I always felt like there was a line drawn in the sand, like I would never last this long. Some kind of cosmic balance would need to bump me off before 47. So now I wonder if my heart will give out over the next twelve days. If I’ll dig too deeply with the needle and hit something vital and suddenly arterial spray will paint the walls, and they’ll find me with my face on the pretty flower calendar. I wonder if it’s bound to happen. I wonder if I’m somehow continuing to tempt fate. I wonder if the wicked thing is still coming closer. Or if, in fact, it’s already here.
Tom Piccirilli is the author of more than twenty novels including The Last Kind Words, Shadow Season, The Cold Spot, The Coldest Mile, and A Choir of Ill Children. He’s won two International Thriller Awards and four Bram Stoker Awards, as well as having been nominated for the Edgar, the World Fantasy Award, the Macavity, and Le Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire. You can read all about him online at tompiccirilli.com and visit his blog at thecoldspot.blogspot.com.