PJ Piccirillo and ‘The Indigo Scarf’
If you’re interested in historical fiction, Pennsylvania, or good stories, you have to read “The Indigo Scarf” by PJ Piccirillo.
I recently had the honor of attending a program at Lock Haven’s Ross Library, as Piccirillo discussed his book with the audience and answered questions. I’d read the book beforehand, and I couldn’t put it down. It’s a very suspenseful, excellent piece of work.
Also, not only is Piccirillo a Pennsylvania Wilds author, hailing from up in Elk Country, the book is set in the PA Wilds, as well. It takes place mostly in present-day Clinton County.
Of course, it wasn’t Clinton County then. The book is set almost two centuries ago, in the 1830s. At that time, the area was Lycoming County, and the book explains that. And that’s just one of the many finely-researched details that bring this story to life.
“The Indigo Scarf” is something of a story within a story. It begins in 1882, when traveler Anna Marie Sharpe meets alcoholic longshoreman Benjamin James on a train. James begins telling her about their shared heritage, which leads to the story of escaped slave Jedediah James in the 1830s, as the train progresses.
The story largely centers around obsession. James is obsessed with owning property and making something of himself, and he runs afoul of two local men, Samson Starret and Thomas Tillman, who are obsessed with retribution against James. James is not the most likeable character, more interested in his land than his family, but he is an interesting character to read about. Many moments, both frightening and touching, occur as the plot builds to a shocking conclusion.
Most of all, the book very realistically expresses the horror of slavery, and brings home to the reader the pain of it without dramatizing it.
“I remember the exact moment I got the idea for the book,” Piccirillo said at the Ross Library program. “I was staying in the area, and someone mentioned to me that there were still the descendants of escaped slaves living in the county. I was amazed that this had happened, that it still had an impact on the area, and I began thinking about it.”
The story is fiction, but Piccirillo did years’ worth of research into the history of the area.
Piccirillo sat down and interviewed many local historians and relatives of the county’s residents, learning and taking notes. This gives the book an especially poignant feel for those who have studied the local history, with many of the scenes in the book clearly reflecting fictionalized versions of actual historic people and incidents.
Piccirillo is a gripping writer, and this book is the kind of story you won’t want to put down. I had several late nights myself because I wanted to get through just one more chapter. He has written the novel “Heartwood,” another fascinating historical tale, and has had stories and articles appear in many other places. Twice, he has been the recipient of the Appalachian Writers’ Association Award for Short Fiction.
“The Indigo Scarf” is available from Amazon in paperback and as an e-book. Read it. The only way you’ll regret it is if you stayed up far too late because you couldn’t put it down.
PJ Piccirillo is a juried member of the Wilds Cooperative of Pennsylvania (WCO), one of rural Pennsylvania’s largest networks of creative entrepreneurs. The WCO is the main program through which small businesses and nonprofits engage with the Pennsylvania Wilds brand, networks and platforms. Visit WildsCoPa.org to learn more.
**Images of PJ were taken by Tracy Smith for the Creative Makers of the Pennsylvania Wilds — A Traveling Public Art Show. Learn more here.