The Cold Spot by Tom Piccirilli: An Instant Noir/Hardboiled Classic

Order Here: The Cold Spot by Tom Piccirilli

Chase is smart enough to be a wheel man for his grandfather Jonah, as hard an SOB as you’ll find in noir fiction, but not smart enough to get out of the business. After he finds himself on the outs with Jonah, Chase strikes out on his own and heads south, winding up in Mississippi. There, he falls for a sheriff’s daughter and tries to reform his act, even as he knows his lover (and then wife) is as much drawn to him for his rakishness as any other quality.

His new life can’t last for long, of course, and when tragedy strikes Chase finds himself on a path back to his grandfather, back to the secrets of his past, and back into a life on the other side. What follows is a short, sharp shock to the system, and one of the best crime novels I’ve read in a very long time.

Few novels have the focus and driving energy of Tom Piccirilli’sThe Cold Spot wedded to an innate intelligence and rough lyricism. Many, many lines from this novel kept coming back to me after finishing it. For example:

He’d wake up from a deep sleep with a noise so loud in his head that he had to press his hands over his ears. It was the sound Walcroft made after Jonah had shot him in the head. It went on and on, growing louder as it came down through the years to find him.

In Chase’s world, the past has weight, and so do the relationships in his life. Time and time again, some of the best choreographed action scenes in recent fiction are transposed with the characterization of Chase, a bright guy in a not-bright business. Violence also has weight in The Cold Spot. When Chase gets in a fight with his girlfriend’s sheriff father, you feel the blows, you experience the blood, and there’s no comic-book quality to it. You’re always in the moment. You’re always in Chase’s head–and close in, too. In every scene. This is tough to pull off, but because Piccirilli is able to do it, the streamlined, focused plot acquires added depth and texture.

From start to finish, there’s not a wasted scene, not a wasted paragraph, not a wasted word, in The Cold Spot. It ranks right up there with my favorite work by Ken Bruen (who blurbs the novel) and other masters of hardboiled fiction. In fact, in some ways it surpasses those other books because of another great aspect of the novel: Piccirilli’s ability to give you a great, gritty picture of New York, Long Island, and the immediate environs as well as a pitch-perfect snapshot of the Deep South–and then on top of that, with quick but careful brushstrokes, he adds on details about the thief’s trade that, whether they’re true or not, are as authentic on the page as I’ve read.

If all of that doesn’t convince you, here’s the opening of the novel. And check out my Omnivoracious interview/feature with Piccirilli.

Chase was laughing with the others during the poker game when his grandfather threw down his cards, took a deep pull on his beer, and with no expression at all shot Walcroft in the head.

Only Chase was started. He leaped back in his seat knocking over some loose cash and an ashtray, the world tilting left while he went right. Jonah had palmed a .22 in his left hand and had it pressed to Walcroft’s temple, a thin trail of smoke spiraling in the air and the smell of burning hair and skin wafting across the table into Chase’s face.

You’d think it would be disgusting, acrid, but it was actually sort of fragrant. There was almost no blood. One small pop had filled the hotel room, quieter than striking a nail with a hammer. It didn’t even frighten the pigeons off the sill.


  1. says

    Excellent review. I could not agree more. perhaps you would be interested in reviewing another brand new piece of Tom’s work:

    Signed Piccirilli novella available for pre-sale now…


    Shroud Publishing is proud to announce the upcoming publication of a new novella by one of the most respected and dynamic voices in the horror and suspense genres: Tom Piccirilli.

    In All You Despise, a signed, illustrated, limited edition hardcover, Piccirilli’s characteristically lean prose grimly illustrates the high price of redemption and the violent limits of brotherly love.

    When a nameless man awakens to find his blood-spattered brother passed out in his trailer it sets off a chain of painful, hard-hitting events that tests family loyalty and shows the savage impact of a father’s dark legacy.

    Fast-paced and packing a visceral punch, All You Despise will keep the reader anxiously turning pages all the way to its unexpected conclusion.

    This exclusive offering from Shroud Publishing features a special introduction penned by Bram Stoker-winning author Brian Keene and stunning illustrations by veteran illustrator Alex McVey. Both contributors will also sign this special limited edition alongside the author.

    Limited to only 500 copies and available only from Shroud Publishing, All You Despise will be a unique addition to your quality book collection.

    All You Despise will be priced to move at only $29.99. However, if you pre-order now, you can get it for a special reduced rate of only $24.99.

    At this price, supplies will definitely not last.

    Tom Piccirilli is the author of twenty novels including THE COLD SPOT, THE MIDNIGHT ROAD, A CHOIR OF ILL CHILDREN, and THE DEAD LETTERS. He’s a four-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award and has been a finalist for the World Fantasy Award, the International Thriller Writers Award, and Le Grand Prix de L’Imagination. Learn more at

    Brian Keene is a two-time Bram Stoker Award winning horror author. His novels include Dead Sea, Ghoul, City of the Dead, Terminal, The Conqueror Worms, Fear Of Gravity, and many more. Several of his books and stories have been optioned for film, video game and comic book adaptations. The New York Times, Fangoria, the History Channel, and others have credited Keene with ushering in the new era of zombie popularity in pop culture.

    Alex McVey is an award-winning illustrator whose work has been published internationally, ranging from album art to graphic design to book illustration. He has illustrated the works of Stephen King, Joe R. Lansdale, Gahan Wilson, Brian Keene, Ramsey Cambpell, and Richard Matheson, among others. His clients include ad firms, gaming companies, film studios, bands, and book and magazine publishers.

  2. says

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