Like most of the horror authors I read, I never had the chance to meet him, but other authors (Brian Keene, Jeff Strand, et al) have remarked on what a kind, generous man he was. He was especially known for his encouragement of new writers and for his breadth of work. While he started out in horror, he branched out into dark fantasy, crime dramas, mysteries, and even westerns – sometimes mixing genres (always with dark themes). He won the Bram Stoker award four times.
Piccirilli’s list of works is extensive, but so far I’ve only read four: November Mourns, Headstone City, The Dead Letters, and A Choir of Ill Children. The latter is cited as a classic example of southern gothic horror and is my favorite. Like much of his work, it relies heavily on themes of loss, family, and secrets. Some readers may find his depiction of severely physically-deformed individuals disturbing, but Piccirilli uses such imagery to reveal the ugliness of the human soul. I once read in an interview that Piccirilli himself did not quite understand why he often featured children who did not fit society’s definition of “normal.”
I first encountered Piccirilli in a book review section of “Talebones” – a quarterly horror/dark fantasy magazine that ran for several years in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. If my memory is correct it was a review of A Choir of Ill Children. So I’d like to thank “Talebones” editor Patrick Swenson for introducing me to him and his work. While there will be no new works forthcoming, I look forward to catching up on Piccirilli’s other works.
Condolences to his wife, Michelle.