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Headstone City Mass Market Paperback – February 28, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Alternately funny, sad and thrilling, Piccirilli's stellar supernatural crime novel plays haunting riffs on old mob standards. The wise guys of Brooklyn welcome back cab driver Johnny "Dane" Danetello, fresh from two years in the slammer, with a contract on his life and a handful of restless ghosts. Burdened with the ability to see the dead, Dane spends time between fares chatting up spirits and spooks, trying to make sense of his precarious life on the outside. If his old pal (and partner in metaphysical enhancement) Vincent Monticelli wants Dane dead, why hasn't he been taken out? What does the gorgeous movie actress Glory Bishop want from him? Who's the federal lawman looking into the Monticelli family? These questions lead Dane to face his own haunted past, including a murdered father, a mother who lived and died in agony, and the beautiful young Angie Monticelli, who caught a ride to her death in Dane's cab two years earlier. Stoker-winner Piccirilli (A Choir of Ill Children) plays cleverly with his hero's paranormal ability, keeping the reader guessing—and jumping—by blurring distinctions between the living and the dead. (Feb.)
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Review

"HEADSTONE CITY is a beautifully and perversely funny sort of crime novel: a hard-boiled hallucination.... [Piccirilli has] the authentic surrealist's gift of blind trust in his imagination and that enables him to throw off striking metaphors like sparks from a speeding train."--The New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 302 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam Books; 1st edition (February 28, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553587218
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553587210
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.9 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #980,135 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tom Piccirilli is the author of more than twenty-five novels including A CHOIR OF ILL CHILDREN, SHADOW SEASON, THE COLD SPOT, and THE LAST KIND WORDS. He's a four-time winner of the Stoker Award, two-time winner of the International Thriller Award, and has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award, and twice for the Edgar Award. Marilyn Stasio of The New York Tims Book Review called THE LAST KIND WORDS, "A caustic thriller...the characters have strong voices and bristle with funny quirks." New York Times bestselling thriller writer Lee Child said of Tom's work, "Perfect crime fiction...a convincing world, a cast of compelling characters, and above all a great story" And Publishers Weekly extols, "Piccirilli's mastery of the hard-boiled idiom is pitch perfect, particularly in the repartee between his characters, while the picture he paints of the criminal corruption conjoining the innocent and guilty in a small Long Island community is as persuasive as it is seamy. Readers who like a bleak streak in their crime fiction will enjoy this well-wrought novel." Keir Graff of Booklist wrote, "There's more life in Piccirilli's THE LAST KIND WORDS (and more heartache, action, and deliverance) than any other novel I've read in the past couple of years." And Kirkus states, "Consigning most of the violence to the past allows Piccirilli (The Fever Kill, 2007, etc.) to dial down the gore while imparting a soulful, shivery edge to this tale of an unhappy family that's assuredly unhappy in its own special way."

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Doctor Futurity on March 2, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Few authors are as capable of writing H/DF/M with such a deeply human, literary flavor. His work is always highly atmospheric, with a pervasive sense of melancholy but infused with wonderful humor and wit. You never know from one chapter to the next whether you'll be shocked, chilled, disturbed, or swept up in action. Rarely have I read a book that so often could make me laugh aloud on one page and chill my blood the next.

Taking a break from his fierce southern gothic settings (NOVEMBER MOURNS, A CHOIR OF ILL CHILDREN) HEADSTONE CITY is a Brooklyn-based noir novel with elements of dark fantasy, the supernatural, mob story, and treatise on the search for identity.

Ex-con and cab driver Johnny "Dane" Danetello returns to his neighborhood, called "Headstone City" thanks to the nearby cemetery. Plagued with an overwhelming apathy and seemingly always in the wrong place at the wrong time, Dane tries to work up the energy to figure out why he's being pursued by the FBI, why a beautiful actress seems to be so interested in him, and what to do now that his former best friend Vinny Monticelli has placed a contract on his head. Along the way Dane--who's had the ability to see ghosts and take "night rides" in his cab with the souls of the living--tries to make peace with his guilt over the death of Vinny's younger sister, who died in Dane's cab of a drug overdose.

Family and personal history always play a major part in Piccirilli's fiction. Here we see how Dane's life has been shaped by the murder of his police officer father, the cruel death by cancer of his mother, his unrequited love of the beautiful Angelina Monticelli, his years stealing cars with Vinny, and the wisdom he gleans from the dead.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Gary Griffiths VINE VOICE on August 15, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Johnny "Dane" Danetello and Vinny Monticelli, best friends growing up on the wrong side of the law, jacking cars and scamming mooks in Brooklyn's Italian neighborhoods. But Vinny is connected - very connected - son of the local mob boss destined to take the reins from his ailing and increasingly ineffective pop. Dane drives a cab, but when Vinny's 15-year old sister dies in his cab, Dane ends up in prison with a mob contract on his head.

So with that backdrop, Tom Piccirilli spins an authentic drama of tough guys, bad guys, and made guys shooting it out in a convincing Brooklyn setting, flush with fast action, sharp dialogue and unforgettable characters, none more so than Dane's pink-haired, cannoli-eating grandma. But the hook that separates "Headstone City" from the pack is an unlikely supernatural twist: in a car heist gone bad, young Dane and Vinny are catapulted through the windshield of the stolen car. However, in addition to heads full of divots, staples, and metal plates, the boys find themselves with some bizarre side effects: Dane is visited by the dead, while Vinny on occasions gets a preview of paths into the future. Sounds wacky, for sure, but this goodfella's-to-ghost busters gore fest works, thanks to Piccirilli's clever plotting, black humor, and engaging cast.

As brutal as it is offbeat, "Headstone City" is 100% original, and definitely worth a read. And the prolific but largely unheralded Tom Piccirilli is a name that deserves a following.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Craig Clarke VINE VOICE on June 19, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
It's easy to admire Tom Piccirilli's versatility. Even though his novels often share certain themes, there is not one very much like another. Even more amazing is how he begins Headstone City in much the same way as his previous novel, November Mourns -- with a man returning home after some time spent in jail to find a task set before him -- yet decorates this simple plot device with a completely different motivation, setting, and cast of characters.

When his friend Vinny Monticelli's sister, Angelica, had a bad reaction to some recreational drugs, Johnny "Dane" Danetello attempted to drive her to the hospital in his cab, hitting a police officer on the way. Angelica died despite his efforts, and the killing of the police officer, especially considering Dane's already lengthy record, got him sent up for five years, and Vinny subsequently put a contract on his now ex-best friend.

Now Dane is back in town, talking to ghosts and trying settle an old score.

Author Tom Piccirilli's literary sense in Headstone City is phenomenal. Within the confines of the noir genre, he references Shakespeare, gangsters, and Old Hollywood, with room enough left for a subplot involving ghosts, dreams, and alternate realities (and don't worry -- he didn't leave out the "ill children" of his previous two novels, the aforementioned November Mourns and its predecessor, A Choir of Ill Children). And in the midst of all the darkness, there is still room for nostalgia (I got nostalgic myself upon reading the passage about "my mother's old forty-fives. With the little plastic thing in the middle so they'd fit on the record player").

Headstone City is by far the most purely enjoyable of the Piccirilli novels I've read.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By FictionAddiction.NET on May 30, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Johnny Danetello was waiting in Headstone City in Brooklyn. But he wasn't sure what he was waiting for exactly. He had just been released from prison for running over a police officer while trying to save Angie, the youngest daughter of the Don of the Monticelli Crime Family, from a lethal drug overdose.

The Monti family blamed him for her death and had put a bounty on his head. When he got out he expected to get hit on his first day of freedom but nothing happened.

The old Don was dying and his two sons, Roberto and Vincent were locked in a power struggle. Roberto wanted Danetello dead but didn't have the clout or money to hire anyone except incompetent thugs.

Vincent certainly blamed Danetello for his sister's death but Vinny and Dane shared a strange bond. As teenagers they had almost been killed in a car accident. When they had finally recovered, they discovered that Vinny could step forward into possible futures and choose which one he liked best and Dane could talk to the dead.

Dane didn't know how the conflict within the Monticelli Family would play out but the dead were telling him that it would happen soon and he would be the instrument of its resolution.

Part mob crime story, part eerie supernatural tale, Headstone City delivers an evocative and colorful backdrop. This is Brooklyn as only someone who has lived there could write and since the location is the title, clearly this is an important aspect of the book.

The characterizations are richly nuanced and believable and the language successfully treads a tricky line between gritty crime and soaring eloquence.
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