Saturday, April 14, 2018

A Slice of MALICIOUS



“Excuse me, Miss, do you have this in teal?”

For several minutes, Hannah Welker intentionally ignored the skinny man with the scraggly beard as he performed an assortment of pantomimes to get her attention. One of the perks of working for Hipster Dipster was that the sales personnel were required to be rude. It was considered part of the ironic charm of the store. But she also had an English Lit paper due tomorrow on Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor, and she still had over a hundred pages that she needed to read before her shift ended, so she was planning to be more than just ironically rude to this guy. If she could get away with it, she was going to flat out act as if he didn’t exist.

“Wise Blood. Cool book,” the guy said. “Must be hard reading it with customers like me bugging you, huh, Miss?”

“It’s Ms.,” Hannah hissed under her breath.

“Ah ha! I got your attention. Finally. So will you see if you have this in teal? Twenty-eight waist, thirty-six length.”

Hannah had made the mistake of acknowledging his presence. He wasn’t going to leave now. She looked up from her book to see the skinny guy grinning widely. After all, treating him like dog poop was all part of the fun. Sighing and giving him her best put-upon look, she said, “If that’s the only way I can get you to leave me alone, fine, I’ll go check.”

She got up and flashed him an exasperated look. He giggled, thinking it was part of the act. It wasn’t. On her way to the stockroom, she gave an extra-long look at a mannequin she passed in the women’s section. This one was dressed in tan leather boots, plaid green and yellow pants, a gray blouse, and a flowery cotton sweater. It wasn’t the outfit that made her stare. She kind of liked it. But each time she had passed the mannequin that day something about it seemed off, and she couldn’t quite figure out what it was.

She found the teal-colored pants that the skinny guy was asking for. She almost went back empty-handed, because now she was going to have to spend time ringing up the sale. But doing something like telling that guy the store didn’t have an item that it did could get her fired, and this was a sweet gig, especially with all the time it gave her for her college work.

She stopped to look again at the mannequin. Something was definitely wrong about it. She decided after she finished Wise Blood she’d satisfy her curiosity and figure out what it was that bugged her.

“Your lucky day,” she told the skinny guy in her best bored voice as she handed him the pants.

“I’m sorry if I interfered with your reading pleasure,” he said, still grinning.

“English Lit assignment,” she said.

“Paper due?”

“Tomorrow.”

“Ah ha. You figure out yet what your paper’s going to be about?”

“I’m not sure yet. I  still have over a hundred pages to read. But something about sin and faith.”

A loud popping noise, like what a large firecracker might make, got both of them turning in the direction of the stockroom. This was followed almost immediately by a crashing noise.

“What was that?” the skinny man asked.

Hannah had no idea.

“I better go see,” she said.

“I’ll join you.”

She wasn’t going to turn down his offer of chivalry. What really spooked her was where the crashing sound came from. It might’ve only been her imagination, but she could’ve sworn it was where that creepy mannequin had been set up—the one that had something off-putting about it.

The skinny guy, who told Hannah his name was Josef, led the way toward the stockroom, and sure enough it was the mannequin that had crashed to the floor and now lay in two pieces—the upper torso and the lower half. The lower half was by far the bigger piece, and it didn’t look right to Hannah. Whatever the popping noise was, it had split the pants revealing not plastic, but instead what looked like bloodless, way-too-white flesh.

“That’s not blood, is it?” Josef asked.

He was pointing at a small puddle leaking out of the lower half. Hannah all at once felt woozy, and she would’ve collapsed to the floor if Josef hadn’t caught her.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

About my upcoming horror novel HUSK

“Dave Zeltserman’s HUSK is a compelling, quirky, twisty, smart, page-turner mix of horror, satire, and even a little romance with (yeah, I’ll say it) bite. A brutal love story perfect for our dark times.” Paul Tremblay, author of A Head Full of Ghosts

 I wrote this short article about the origin of HUSK and the ideas behind the novel. The book will be available May 31 in the UK and Sept. 1 in the US.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

About MALICIOUS


To Morris Brick: I’m just beginning—R. G. Berg, Serial Killer Extraordinaire.

That’s the taunting note left pinned to the grisly remains of a well-known Hollywood actress. In MALICIOUS, the third thriller in the series, former LAPD detective and famed serial killer hunter, Morris Brick, is drawn into chasing the SPM killer (you’ll have to read the book to find out what SPM stands for—but trust me, the killer is not at all happy about this name. In fact, he’s deeply insulted by it!)

Morris and the rest of his team will learn that the SPM killer has constructed an elaborate Rube Goldberg death machine, and that this victim is only the first domino in the machine to fall. If the rest of the dominos are allowed to fall hundreds of thousands of people in Los Angeles will die.

Since the concept of the Rube Goldberg machine inspired  me to write MALIOUS, let me provide a little background about it. Reuben (Rube) Goldberg (1883-1970) was a Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist known for his zany contraption machines; such as an ingenious automatic mouth-wiper for soup eaters. In this cartoon, the action of a man lifting a soup spoon to his mouth causes a cracker to be thrown into the air, which then causes a parrot to jump off its pedestal to snatch this airborne cracker, which causes a further sequence of events, all leading to a napkin swinging down and wiping the man’s mouth. Anyone who has ever played the old game Mouse Trap or has watched a Wallace & Gromit cartoon has seen a Rube Goldberg Machine in action! You can find videos of more of these machines on YouTube. Here’s one that would’ve made Rube Goldberg proud!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBOqfLVCDv8

One of the things I enjoy about writing Morris Brick thrillers is that while there’s a certain familiarity with each of them—they all have tough-as-nails Morris Brick and the same supporting cast, including his clownish, loveable, and loyal bull terrier, Parker, his smart and supportive wife, Natalie, his beautiful and steely-eyed daughter, Rachel, and the odd assortment of employees at Morris Brick Investigations (MBI)—they’re still very different from each other. In the first in the series, DERANGED, the book upends the reader’s expectation halfway through, completely altering what the reader thought was true. In the second, CRAZED, an interloper crashes the party and changes everything for both the killer and Morris. In writing MALICIOUS, I needed to construct a plot that was every bit as intricate as the Rube Goldberg death machine the SPM killer has so carefully built. In the fourth book, CRUEL (Sept. 2018), Morris must first unravel two older mysteries before he can track down the killer. And the fifth, UNLEASHED (March 2019), is a twisted psychological thriller. In all these books the killers have very different motivations, and Morris and his team face unique challenges in each of them.

So that begs the obvious question: what is a Rube Goldberg death machine? In the SPM killer’s mind, it is artwork of such majestic grandeur that it will leave the world gasping in awe. Any sane person would think it’s a living nightmare that could only be imagined by a lunatic. To discover for yourself what it is, again, you’ll have to read the book!

Publishing day for MALICIOUS

Monday, March 12, 2018

First paragraphs

Sometimes the first paragraph in a book is a short sentence, sometimes it's a longer paragraph. I've put together here all my first paragraphs.

HUSK

Labor Day weekend is always a good time to pick up students hitchhiking, but that wasn’t why I pulled into the rest stop on the Massachusetts Turnpike. While I had fourteen empty burlap sacks in the back of the van that needed to be filled before heading back home, along with more than
enough rope and gags to take care of things, I didn’t expect to be picking up any of them here. While there’s always the chance of finding a hitchhiker at a place like this, it’s a small one and I was expecting that most of the stragglers I’d be getting would be in cities off the Turnpike. Hartford, Bridgeport, and if need be, New Haven. For this trip I hoped to get mostly students. They were generally healthier and leaner than the usual types – the prostitutes, drifters, homeless, and other such stragglers that I’d often have to collect. Students also tended to carry more books, clothes, and money on them than those others, all of which was good to bring back to the homestead. If I ended up needing those others to fill up the back of the van, I would. But I was hoping for mostly students.

CRUEL written as Jacob Stone 

The rat grew frantic in its efforts to escape the trap, its front claws a blur as they scratched against the wire mesh. This one was older than the juveniles already collected, and showed the scars of a lifetime spent skulking through Los Angeles alleyways and sewers. Half of one ear had been torn off, its grayish-black fur matted, and a dozen wounds scabbed over. While the rat was larger than the others, it was still emaciated enough to be able to squeeze through a hole the size of a quarter. Rats like this one were crucial for what was coming.

EVERYTHING ENDS HERE

A wet, stickiness covers my right hand. I don’t want to look down at it, not yet anyway, and I squeeze my eyes closed instead. As I stand there in the shadows I try to remember how not too long ago I had a life. Fuck, I actually had work, a wife, a home, friends, even a future. And now look at me. My mind wanders as I find myself wondering how I arrived at this point. These thoughts are fleeting.

MALICIOUS written as Jacob Stone

The killer sat naked in front of the mirror and put in the cosmetic contact lenses to change his eyes
from brown to blue. Nine months ago, he’d shaved his head, and since then used a razor each week to keep up his bald appearance. He now carefully attached a hairpiece to his scalp that made him look as if he had neatly trimmed sandy brown hair. It was an expensive hairpiece, and the killer was pleased with the way it altered his appearance. After taking a moment to admire the hairpiece, he glued on a matching goatee. Earlier that morning he had shaved off his eyebrows, and he now glued on fake ones that were the same color as the hairpiece and goatee. He had other fake eyebrows that matched his natural hair color. Later when he removed his disguise, he would use those until his eyebrows grew back.

THE INTERLOPER

Dan Willis watched through a pair of binoculars as his target left his house through a side door to collect the morning newspaper. The target was one Brian Schoefield. Age thirty-seven, average height, and carrying an extra sixty pounds that made him appear soft with fat sausage-like arms and legs. He wore a bathrobe and slippers, both worn and tattered, and Willis could make out that Schoefield also wore a stained tee shirt under his robe. Probably boxers, too, but that was only a guess on Willis’s part. Overall, Schoefield had a pasty look about him.

CRAZED written as Jacob Stone
Griffin Bolling broke out laughing, partly from outrage, but mostly from the lunacy of what he was reading.

THE BOY WHO KILLED DEMONS

My name’s Henry Dudlow. I’m fifteen and a half, and I’m cursed. Or damned. Take your pick.

DERANGED written as Jacob Stone

As usual, Henry Pollard made sure that he was so gentle that he could’ve been cleaning dust off a dragonfly’s wing as he sponged the soap suds from his wife’s ruined body. He tried not to think about how much Sheila had physically deteriorated, but at times he’d let his guard down and his thoughts would absently drift to the subject, and it would stun him. The accident happened five years ago, back when his wife was only thirty-three. A robust woman brimming with strength and good health, and at five feet six inches and one hundred and forty-five pounds, she certainly wasn’t overweight, more buxom and full-figured. To Henry, she had been breathtakingly beautiful.

MONSTER

For far too many years Victor Frankenstein’s outrageous fabrication has stood unchallenged. I cannot blame Captain Walton for his role in this, for he was most likely an honorable man who was duped by Frankenstein’s egregious lies; lies told for no other reason than to save the reputation and name of a sinister and black-hearted man, a man who had willingly spent his life in the service of the devil. Nor can I blame Mary Shelley for further putting these lies to paper once they had found their way to her. The truth, though, is that Frankenstein was hardly the tragic figure that he so skillfully presented to Captain Walton, nor did he create his abomination out of a youthful, but misguided obsession. Instead, he was a man of a most depraved nature and spirit; his true intention being to create his own Hell on earth. I know all of this because I, Friedrich Hoffmann of Ingolstadt, am the very same abomination that Frankenstein brought forth into the world. And, despite my hardest efforts, I have not been able to leave it.

A KILLER'S ESSENCE

Back in 1972 I was seven years old and always tagging along after my older brother, Mike. This was before the attention you have today on child abductions and pedophiles—that evil existed, shit, it has probably always existed, but it wasn’t on TV or the news much, if at all. You didn’t have CNN and the Internet to focus on it twenty-four seven, and as a result a lot of parents didn’t think about it. Back then it wasn’t all that unusual for a seven year-old and a bunch of ten year-olds to spend their afternoons hanging around their Brooklyn neighborhood unsupervised. And that was what Mike and his friends and I used to do, at least when he and his friends couldn’t shake me, and I was a tough little bugger to shake back then, just as I am now.

BLOOD CRIMES
The Door’s Riders on the Storm was playing on the car radio and for a few blessed seconds Jim
closed his eyes and let the music roll over him.

THE CARETAKER OF LORNE FIELD

Jack Durkin let out a groan as his wife, Lydia, dropped a bowl of corn flakes in front of him.

JULIUS KATZ AND ARCHIE

“What do I want from you? Simple. Find out who’s planning to kill me.”

OUTSOURCED

The bar was mostly empty, which was typical for a Wednesday at two in the afternoon. Dan Wilson had the bartender pour him a Guinness Draft and a Harpoon IPA, and brought the beers back to a table in the corner where his companion, Shrinivas Kumar, sat waiting.

KILLER

“What if I gave them Salvatore Lombard?”

PARIAH

To Ed.: I was more than a bit rushed in writing this, as I’m sure you can tell from both what follows and all the newspaper accounts that must’ve come out since. All I had time for was one quick read through and scribbling a few notes. Feel free to use them as you wish. – K. N.

SMALL CRIMES

This was going to be our last game of checkers. Usually we played in my cell; this last game, though, we were playing in Morris’ office. Over the last seven years we had played tens of thousands of games. Every fourth or fifth game I’d win, the rest I’d let him beat me.

BAD THOUGHTS

The fingers on his right hand—the ones that had been broken and mangled when he was thirteen—were being squeezed hard, forcing him to move through the cold and darkness. He tried to fight it, tried to see who it was behind him, but the grip on his fingers tightened, heightening the pain. He gave up and let himself be pushed forward

BAD KARMA

Bill Shannon ran hard from his apartment to the juice and coffee shop on the eastern end of Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall where he was going to meet Eli Rosen. He did this partly to keep from being any later than the extra ten minutes Eli had given him, and partly as a challenge to see whether he could run a half mile in under three minutes. When he arrived at Juiced Up he leaned forward, resting his hands on his knees while trying to get his breathing under control. A quick look at his watch showed that he had made it in just over three minutes. His eyes wandered down his wrist to the stubs where his ring and middle fingers used to be. Five and a half years ago they were ripped from his hand. This was the first time since then that he had gone out in public with his damaged right hand exposed. He
straightened up and entered the shop.

FAST LANE

If I was lucky Debra Singer was still in Denver, and if she was, East Colfax would be a good bet. East Colfax was always a good bet for runaway teenagers.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

MALICIOUS

More about my 3rd Morris Brick thriller MALICIOUS

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Urban Book Club -- Friday 7 pm EST

I'll be hosting the Urban Book Club Friday night (tomorrow)  at 7 pm EST. So send your questions via their app!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Another CRAZED excerpt




Regina Pence let out a shriek.

Tim Pence broke out laughing. “You’re such a scaredy-cat.”

“Shush. This is scary!”

Pence smiled. He had his arm around Regina’s shoulders as they sat together in their living room, watching an early release of the serial-killer movie The Carver. One of the advantages of working for the studio was he was able to see movies six months before they were released.

The movie showed the killer sneaking into his next victim’s house, but the camera abandoned him to focus on a young woman reading a book, and then they played the cheap trick of having her look up and gasp as she saw a face in the window at the same moment heightened music blasted. Of course, the face was her own reflection, but the trick got Regina sucking in her breath and drawing her body closer to Pence’s. His hand was hanging loosely over her shoulder, and his thumb flicked against the diamond necklace he’d given her while they were having dessert and coffee at Renaldo’s. She had loved it—as well she should’ve, given that it had set him back twenty grand. But as far as he was concerned, it was money well spent. For the first time in many months he felt as if they’d turned the corner. He was actually believing that Regina would truly be able to forgive him, and that they’d be able to move forward.

As Pence watched the movie, he found himself absently thinking how fetching the blond actress was, and wondering whether he could get her name from the producer. He caught himself thinking this and forced the thought out of his mind. What the heck was wrong with him? To be thinking something like that after spending all these months winning back Regina’s trust? Still, she did look awfully appealing. Especially the way she was dressed in only a tight T-shirt and very short shorts.

Jarring music blasted as the actress looked up again, and this time she was staring directly into the killer’s face. Regina clutched Pence’s arm tightly, and she squeezed her eyes shut so she wouldn’t see the knife slashing the actress’s face. Each time the actress screamed, Regina tightened her clutch on his arm. After ten seconds or so the screaming came to an abrupt end, and for several more seconds the sounds from the movie were of a knife slashing into flesh, coordinated with a blasting, screeching noise. After that ended, Regina asked if the killer was done.

“For now,” Pence said.

She opened her eyes and moved even closer to him. Another loud screeching noise blasted as the killer caught his reflection in the window. Regina tilted her head to one side as if she were listening to something far away.

“Did you hear that?” she asked.

“Hear what?”

“I thought I heard something in the kitchen.”

Pence also tilted his head as if he were straining to hear noises within the house.

“You’re right,” he said. All at once he dug his fingers into Regina’s side, tickling her. “It’s the mad carver,” he announced, laughing.

“Stop it! Stop it! I’m serious!”

It took Pence half a minute before he could stop laughing. He wiped several tears from his eyes. With an exaggerated sigh, he said, “If you’re going to be such a scaredy-cat, I’ll go check the kitchen. Keep the movie running. I’ll be right back.”

Pence got up off the sofa. Regina bit her lip as she watched the Carver call the police to report his latest killing. She screamed as a pair of hands reached over the sofa and grabbed her by the shoulders. Her husband broke out laughing.

“Sorry,” he said. “I just couldn’t resist.”

She was furious with him, but she also couldn’t help laughing from the trick he’d played. “I ought to spank you later for that,” she said sternly.

“Please do.”

She twisted herself on the sofa so she could watch her husband leave the room. Only after that did she turn back to watch the movie.

After the Carver had called the police to tell them about his latest killing, he took out a notepad that showed the name and address for his next victim. Even though Regina kept telling herself this was only a movie, albeit one based on an actual serial killer, she couldn’t help feeling like she might scream at any moment. But she wasn’t going to let her husband play the same trick on her, even when she heard him sneaking up on her a second time.

“Forget it, Tim,” she said. “It’s not going to work again.”

A pair of hands reached over the sofa. This time, her sneak of a husband had put gloves on in his juvenile attempt to scare her, and he didn’t grab her shoulders, but instead he lightly wrapped his hands around her throat. This wasn’t funny anymore.

“Stop it,” she ordered.

Tim didn’t listen to her. Instead of letting go of her throat, he tightened his hold. Not enough to choke her, but enough to make her gasp for air. She tried struggling, but his grip only tightened.

What was wrong with him? This really wasn’t funny in the least!

He had bent over the sofa so his mouth was right against her ear.

“Boo,” he said.

A mask muffled his voice. Regina only then realized that it wasn’t Tim.


Monday, January 29, 2018

CRAZED on sale for $0.99!

My second Morris Brick thriller written under my Jacob Stone pseudonym CRAZED is on sale now for $0.99! Read it now so you'll be ready for MALICIOUS being published this March!



Friday, January 12, 2018

JULIUS KATZ AND ARCHIE on sale for $0.99

The Julius Katz detective stories have been a favorite among mystery fans since first appearing on the pages of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine in 2009, winning a Shamus, Derringer, and two Ellery Queen Readers Choice awards. JULIUS KATZ introduced readers to Boston's most brilliant, eccentric, and possibly laziest detective, as well as his sidekick, Archie, a tiny marvel of computer technology with the heart and soul of a hard-boiled PI.

In Julius Katz and Archie's first full-length mystery, the stakes have never been higher when a famous Boston mystery writer, Kenneth Kingston, tells Julius he wants to find out who's planning to kill him. The problem is almost everyone in Kingston's life has good reason to want to kill him, and this case soon plunges Julius and Archie deep into the world of murder and publishing.

On sale now for $0.99!