Dark and, at times, amusing fiction from award-winning author Dave Zeltserman

Saturday, August 10, 2019

PW on Everybody Lies In Hell

Publishers Weekly weighs in on my upcoming (Oct. 1st) EVERYBODY LIES IN HELL:

This clever depiction of hell explores the lies that people tell, both to others and to themselves. Mike Stone dies and wakes up in a flawed simulacrum of Brooklyn within the afterlife, created from his patchy memories. He passes eternity by acting as a private investigator for other people who are aware of being dead, finding out how they died or answering questions they still had from when they were alive. Stone moves among the hells created by stronger personalities, such as warlord Al Zaoud and the White Devil of Wallachia, and lesser ones, searching for answers for his clients, as well as for himself. Although the constant repetition of details occasionally grates, it doesn’t detract from the strength of the premise or the power of the story’s resolution. Zeltserman (Husk) has developed a rich world with a complex protagonist, and the stated stagnation of hellish eternity doesn’t stop his story from moving briskly along.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

On sale for $2.99!

The Kindle Edition for A Killer's Essence is on sale now for $2.99! Things could've worked out so differently for this book if Penguin hadn't delayed the printing by months, which caused B&N to cancel not only their co-op but their order. It had strong film and TV interest at the start, and I went with the film option with a company that got hit hard by the financial meltdown and never recovered. Now that it's on sale I hope folks check out this supernaturally-tinged crime novel which has a good part of it taking place during the 2004 ALCS between the Sox and NY (and sox fans get to watch the Yankees meltdown from eyes of a diehard Yankees fan). This may or may not be my best book, but I think it's my best written.

“Zeltserman’s lean but muscular style, so evident in “Killer’’ and “The Caretaker of Lorne Field,’’ is just as sharply honed here. His ability to juggle Green’s story and Lynch’s, develop a riveting murder mystery, and even mix in some Brighton Beach ex-KGB sleazeballs, all in less than 250 pages, is a pretty neat page-turning trick.” Boston Globe

“This eerie thriller deftly blurs the lines between madness and the perception of reality.” —The Star-Ledger

“[A] chilling page-turner attuned to the most discerning of avid crime lovers. Well written and well paced. Recommended.” —New York Journal of Books

“Zeltserman’s signature creepiness is available here and there, but what really drives this novel is the engaging portrait of an honest, hardworking cop who, on the job and off, gives the best he’s got, knowing how rarely it will be enough.” —Kirkus Reviews 

"A scary, keep-you-guessing thriller not to be missed.” Booklist

“Highly recommended for those interested in the suspence/noir/thriller genre” A Momentary Taste of Being

“A KILLER’S ESSENCE is complete in itself, but Zeltserman leaves just enough plot threads dangling at the end that a sequel, while not necessary, would be appropriate. And Green? I was screaming at the guy halfway through the book, but by the conclusion, I wanted to buy him a beer. And a ticket to a baseball game. Sequel or not, you need to meet Green and read A KILLER’S ESSENCE.” BookReporter

“It’s here: another entry into the gritty and grim world of Dave Zeltserman. For those unfamiliar, Zeltserman has crafted some of the darkest crime novels to have come out in the past few years, and A KILLER’S ESSENCE shows it’s still a world with no sunshine in sight.” Bookgasm

“Dave Zeltserman takes more risks than any other writer I know. With each book he pushes harder against the comfortable definitions of genre fiction: A Killer’s Essence brilliantly blurs the lines between police-procedural and horror/ paranormal. So forget about pigeon-holing Zeltserman, just grab this book and immerse yourself in the brutal world of an author who is a true original. Then (if you haven’t already) go and read all his others.” Roger Smith

Sunday, June 2, 2019

My next novel

My next novel EVERYBODY LIES IN HELL will be published by Eraserhead Press October 1st. From the back cover copy:

Hell can be a tricky place with all of its rules. Mike Stone, hell’s lone practicing private eye, thinks he has it figured out, and more often than not, solves the cases that come his way. It’s not easy, though. Not with the fact that everyone in hell lies. And not with having to worry about a barbaric warlord from a long-forgotten time after his head. Or a compatriot of Vlad the Impaler wanting to purify his soul in a chamber of horrors for all eternity. Or that his circa 1992 Brooklyn private hell might be absorbed at any moment by a more aware soul. And then there’s that creepy Mortuary Man and whatever his agenda might be.

When Stone takes on a young woman as a client who wants him to find out who murdered her, it turns out to be his most dangerous case yet, and what he discovers might just be Hell’s biggest secret.

"In Everybody Lies in Hell Mike Stone's eternal damnation is a private detective's office in a re-imagined Brooklyn. In Hell, the beautiful woman with a case opens a literal Pandora's Box, and Stone is soon inundated by all-too-recognizable evils and lies of Hell's tortured souls, powerful ancient demons and devils, and haunting personal ones. Classic pulp, noir, and horror--think James N. Cain and Bukowski and Palahniuk--are all ground up in a blender and the result is a nasty, wild, and ultimately redemptive novel that only Dave Zeltserman could write."
--Paul Tremblay, author of A Head Full of Ghosts

"Everybody Lies in Hell is a wild adventure centered on confronting our demons--literally and figuratively. At once compulsively entertaining and bizarre, Zeltserman has written a metaphysical masterpiece. Hell has never been so much fun."
--Jon Bassoff, author of The Drive-Thru Crematorium

EVERYBODY LIES IN HELL is available for preordering now from Amazon.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Farewell, Dave

Dave Kanell, who formerly owned and operated Kingdom Books in Waterford, VT with his wife, Beth, until it became economically unfeasible, passed away earlier this month. Dave was a goodhearted, generous, and gentle soul who first and foremost loved his wife, then the NY Yankees, crime and mystery books, especially those taking place in Vermont, his corner of his adopted state of Vermont, and his Jewish book collection. Anyone who used to go to the holiday parties at Kate's Mystery Bookstore would've met Dave as one of Kate's helper elves. Similarly, if you'd gone to any of the New England Crimebakes before Dave's health started to fail, you would've had a good chance of meeting him. Or if you were a New England crime/mystery writer while Kingdom Books was still operating, Dave probably would've gone out of his way to help promote your books.

I first met Dave in 2008 at Kate's holiday party. With me being a Jewish writer from New England and Small Crimes taking place in Vermont, it was inevitable that Dave would be interested in the book, and we soon became friends, with Dave and Beth taking a special interest in my writing and helping to promote me in any way they could. Dave might've also been Julius Katz's most ardent fan, and if Beth agrees, I'll find a way for Dave and Kingdom Books to live on in future Julius Katz stories.

Writing can be a hard business, but what makes it worthwhile is meeting and becoming friends with people like Dave. I always enjoyed our phone calls, whether we talked about books, our favorite authors, the publishing industry, baseball, politics, or whatever subject we ended up on. I'll miss Dave. The world has gotten a little bit colder without Dave being part of it.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The short story ending

I  don't necessarily want to play favorites here and give short shrift to the novel, but a great ending is more important for a short story. Good endings are needed for novels--you can think of a novel as a large ocean liner being brought into port. The ship has been out at sea for days and it's been a fun trip, and you certainly don't want to ruin it at the end by crashing and sinking the ship as it's being brought into the harbor. As long as most folks leave the ship happy, good job! And so with a novel, it's the journey that matters most, although a stunning and startling ending certainly doesn't hurt.

Short stories are different. The reader needs a great ending for the story to be worth their time.

So what makes a great ending? It depends on the genre.

For mysteries, all the elements to solve the mystery have to be present so the reader has a fair chance to solve it, yet doesn't, but still ends up admiring the solution and not feeling cheated.

For crime fiction (and other genres as well), the endings I strive for are ones that changes everything the reader believed he or she knew about the story and does so in a way that makes perfect sense. It will leave the reader gobsmacked.

Friday, April 19, 2019

I am now a Black Mask author

There's no crime writer I admire more than Dashiell Hammett. The Continental Op stories are a gift to all of us, and Hammett's five novels in a way created five different subgenres of crime fiction: The Maltese Falcon, the search for the MacGuffin, Red Harvest, the stranger cleaning up the crime-ridden town, The Glass Key, the political crime novel, The Dain Curse, the supernatural crime novel, and The Thin Man, the screwball crime novel. There's never been a writer who has had more influence on the crime fiction genre than Hammett and whose works I revere more. Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine is the premiere crime fiction magazine, and I never take it for granted being published within its hallowed pages, but it's because of Hammett's connection with Black Mask that having my 18th EQMM story be published as a Blask Mask story means something extra special to me.

You can read an excerpt of my story Brother's Keeper.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Investigator has been Investigated!

Publishers Weekly has conducted a thorough investigation of The Julius Katz Collection, and their conclusion: fresh and funny … There’s good fun to be had along with the brainteasers in this sprightly volume. 

Sunday, March 17, 2019

About my Morris Brick serial killer thriller series

I’d had fourteen novels and dozens of short stories published by the time I sold my first Morris Brick thriller, Deranged, to Kensington Books, and my editor, Michaela Hamilton, thought it would be a good idea to differentiate this new thriller series by using a pseudonym. It made sense. While the Julius Katz mystery stories published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine turned into an accidental series, and my ‘man out of prison’ books published by Serpent’s Tail could be looked at as a noir trilogy, this will be my first planned thriller series. The tone of these books are also going to be different than my darker crime noir novels, or my moody and supernaturally-tinged A Killer’s Essence, or my metaphysical crime thrillers Bad Thoughts and Bad Karma. My Morris Brick thrillers will be suspenseful crime thrillers with a dark edge, humor, lots of surprises and twists, and rapid-paced plots. They’re also going to be written more along the lines of the stories I write for Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine: little to no profanity, no onscreen sex, and while the violence will by horrifying and gruesome it will either take place off screen or be described with minimal detail. Also the protagonist, Morris Brick, will be someone the reader will want to root for, as will his bull terrier, Parker.

So how did I come up with the pseudonym Jacob Stone? Well, it was a team effort with Kensington Books! I also liked the symmetry between Brick and Stone, and that Stone suggests someone solid. Also, after using my long and somewhat difficult name, Zeltserman, with my other books, I liked the idea of a simple author name for these thrillers. Why Jacob for the first name? No idea. It just sounded right.

A little bit about these books. My protagonist, Morris Brick, will be a former LAPD homicide detective who has recently started his own investigative firm, Morris Brick Investigation (MBI). When Deranged begins, Morris is working as a consultant on a serial-killer film. Morris is smart, tough, resourceful, and dogged when he’s on a case. He is described physically as follows: ‘Well, he certainly wasn’t handsome, not with his big ears, thick, long nose, spindly legs and short, compact body. Maybe more comical looking than unattractive. In many ways Morris proved the old adage about a dog owner resembling his pet, since he looked quite a bit like his bull terrier, Parker.' Hollywood, the film industry, and the obsessive desire for fame and notoriety will be an undercurrent running through these books.

While Morris, the supporting cast, and Morris’s inimitable bull terrier, Parker, remain constant, I’ve written a very different type of crime thriller with each book in the series. The first, DERANGED, flips the readers expectations halfway through. CRAZED uses my favorite plot device—an interloper that messes everything up for everyone. MALICIOUS is constructed as a devious Rube Goldberg machine. CRUEL is written as a series of cascading mysteries. The final book in the series (so far) UNLEASHED is more psychological suspense and crime-oriented. While they’re very different from each other, I use the same structure for each of them, mixing in chapters from past and present, and by doing this I can dig deeper into the killer’s evolution and his motivations.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

My 5th Morris Brick crime thriler UNLEASHED out today!

Scream Magazine on UNLEASHED: "This was my first experience with a Stone novel, but it’s made me an instant fan. His writing style reminds me of Jim Thompson, Dashiell Hammett, and other veterans of hard-boiled detective and mystery stories. His style is no frills, tough, and gritty, and he’s not averse to breaking a few conventional rules and unleashing some unexpected surprises. As far as detective mysteries go, Unleashed is a winner that keeps you on your toes and guessing throughout."

My own opinion--this has some of my best writing and is one of my best crime thrillers.

Jeffery Deaver on UNLEASHED: “A roller coaster ride between covers! A skillful blend of psychological and investigative thriller writing, Unleashed brings back the great Morris Brick and his crew, who have to stop a horrific series of murders in L.A. Rarely is an author so skilled at portraying such unremitting evil and the poignant, human side of his characters in a single tale.”

UNLEASHED has been unleashed today. I hope folks give it a read.

Thursday, February 21, 2019


Mystery author Clea Simon calls The Tenth Wish "Fun and Fanciful." That certainly couldn't be said about any of my horror and crime novels. But this book is something from me. I look at it as a charming and, at times, thrilling mix of contemporary fantasy and adventure built around a love story. And while this is very different than anything else I've written, it's also not in a way. While it's several ticks lighter than my Julius Katz stories (except for the times in veers into very dark territory) it has a similar humor as my Julius Katz works, and the interplay between Emily and the genie will remind my readers (at least a little bit) of Julius and Archie. And there's more than a little bit of Archie in the genie. And while I think "fun and fanciful" is a good way to describe The Tenth Wish, it has characters in it who'd be right at home in my darkest noir.

The Tenth Wish is available today as either a kindle ebook or paperback. Yes. It's different.  It's "fun and fanciful" (actually Clea said about it: "Fun and fanciful, The Tenth Wish finds love and magic in this bitter old world.") But I think readers who've enjoyed my other books, even my darkest noir, will like this one also.