Title/Author: What Makes You Die by Tom Piccirilli
Genre: Dark Fiction.
Publisher: Apex publication.
Source: Provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Favorite character: Tommy.
Favorite Quote: The gods always know your heart. And so does the devil.
Synopsis: To see more is to find oblivion...
Tommy Pic's hallucinations come and go and leave sticky notes for him during his bipolar swings. Coming out of a blackout in an unfamiliar psychiatric ward, Tommy Pic awakes to his missing childhood love, his dead brother, his alive family, and a message from his agent that his latest screenplay may yet be his ticket back to Hollywood fame and fortune. If only he could remember writing it. Searching out the hallucinations that will write Acts 2 and 3 of the screenplay that will oust Zypho as his best-known work, Tommy goes chasing his kidnapped childhood love, a witch from a magic shop, the komodo dragon he tried to cut out of his gut on Christmas Eve.
...This is what makes you die. ~Goodreads.com
My Thoughts: I jumped at the chance to read and review this novella by Tom Piccirilli, a reknown name in the Horror genre.
What Makes You Die wasn't at all what I expected. It is the story of writer, Tommy Pic (coincidentally) and his struggle to climb his way out of his depression and the demons he created for himself. It grabbed me right away as Tommy wakes up in a mental hospital and faces ghosts that have been haunting him his entire life. His childhood love Kathy who disappeared many years ago, his deceased brother and another childhood friend. Even a baby that he can't figure out is real or not, which made me wonder right away if these ghosts were in his mind. By the time I finished this novella I realized it didn't really matter. Tommy fights what haunts him throughout the story until the end.
Written in first person, Tommy's voice is clear, his observations astute and quite humorous. Tommy is a character that I quickly grew fond of and wanted to succeed. Not only that, I was very interested in his thoughts, his experiences and his background, tangents and all.
The plot meanders yet moves forward quickly - if that makes any sense. We follow Tommy on his journey as he tries to piece together his life while living in his mother's basement apartment. He tries to figure out how he wrote and delivered pages of a new script to his agent of which he has no memory of doing and he also tries to figure out what happened to his childhood friend Kathy before she disappeared. The story relays a person in a dark place who is trying to find his way out, to save himself.
The process of screenwriting in Hollywood is also very detailed and shows the downward spiral of his career. The meetings, the game, how a script gets changed to passify the moneymakers backing the project and the parties.
There is a romance in this story between Tommy and a young witch he meets at an Occult store. It is a wonderfully bright spot in the darkness. Eva says she can see his ghosts too and wants to help him. She is like a balm to his frenetic mind.
Although the big mysteries, his script and Kathy, were not as dramatic as expected, I still thought the conclusions interesting and noteworthy and truly unique. I can't remember a story using such a plot device.
What Makes You Die shows the workings of a writer's mind, and a prolific writer's mind at that. His struggle with his life is touching and poignant. This was a piece I could not put down due to the strong writing and captivating character.
All in all: A masterfully crafted and human story.