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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
The Door’s Riders on the Storm was playing on the car radio and for
a few blessed seconds Jim
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.”
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.
“What if I gave them Salvatore Lombard?”
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.
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
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
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
Thursday, March 1, 2018
Saturday, February 10, 2018
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.
“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.
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
Friday, January 12, 2018
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!
Sunday, December 31, 2017
“I’ve just read the manuscript of Dave Zeltserman’s new novel, Blood Crimes. This is one of the few fresh takes on vampirism I’ve read in years. It’s as if Charles Bukowski sat down and said, OK, Bram Stoker, how about this?” Ed Gorman
“The prolific and wildly talented Dave Zeltserman serves up a fast, furious, frightening and (yes)funny orgy of bloodletting. Makes “Grindhouse” look like Little House on the Prairie.” Roger Smith
Read a short excerpt here.
Buy BLOOD CRIMES.
Friday, December 22, 2017
“The prolific and wildly talented Dave Zeltserman serves up a fast, furious, frightening and (yes)funny orgy of bloodletting. Makes “Grindhouse” look like Little House on the Prairie.” Roger Smith
BLOOD CRIMES is a genre-bending collision of horror, dark urban fantasy and crime that rides shot-gun with Jim and Carol as they carve a homicidal path cross-country. Jim is infected with the vampire virus. Carol isn’t. Yet. But they’re united in their hunt for society’s most dangerous predators for Jim’s dinner — so he can feed without harming the innocent. What they don’t know is that they’re not alone. There are others on their trail, and the climax of BLOOD CRIMES is a shocking jolt of pure mayhem and rock ‘n roll violence.
A short taste:After her first few weeks together with Jim, he bought her a lady’s handgun, a Smith & Wesson .38 caliber revolver. It was funny that it was considered a lady’s handgun since it still had enough firepower to stop a two hundred and fifty pound NFL linebacker in his tracks. It wasn’t pink, and it didn’t have little hearts decorating it, but Carol figured it was because the gun could fit in her purse and only weighed twenty ounces. Whenever she helped Jim lure a predator to feed on, he always insisted that she bring her gun along in case he lost track of her. She now had the gun laying on the bed and stared transfixed at it for what seemed like an eternity, all the while an evangelical preacher from the TV rambled on about how Jesus suffered each day for their sins and if the good people listening could only dig deep into their hearts, and even deeper into their wallets, the Lord’s pain could be eased. A hardness froze Carol’s face. Earlier she had cracked open the cylinder and dumped the bullets onto the bed sheet.
Almost from the beginning she’d been wanting Jim to infect her so they could go through this together. Wasn’t that what true love was all about—to share everything each other went through, the good and the bad? He refused to, though, saying that their life together always on the move was difficult enough; that at least if Carol were uninfected she’d be able to drive during the day and run the other errands they needed. She didn’t buy his explanation. They could move from city to city just as easily at night. She knew he was trying to protect her from what he was going through, but as far she was concerned, that wasn’t good enough. She wanted him to share his pain with her. If they were really each other’s soul mates, there shouldn’t be anything between them.
She picked up the revolver. For something that only weighed twenty ounces, it felt heavy in her hand. She slid a bullet into one of the chambers, then spun the cylinder.
If Jim came back and found her dying, he would have to infect her to save her life. No matter all the things that he’d said to the contrary, he would have to save her.
Carol, he’d tell her in that tired voice of his he’d fall into whenever they had this argument, you don’t know what you’re asking me. This is not something I could ever let you go through. Fuck, I can’t think of a worse curse to wish on anyone, let alone something that I would ever inflict on someone I loved with all my heart. Please, let it drop, it’s never going to happen.
Bullshit. If he really loved her as much as he claimed he did, how could he ever let her leave him?
She pushed the muzzle of the gun against her belly, felt the coldness of the steel. There were five chambers. Four empty, one with a .38 caliber bullet. A twenty percent chance. Her muscles tensed as she squeezed the trigger. An empty click, nothing else.
She almost vomited the shots of tequila and greasy burger and fries from before. Somehow she kept it all down.
If he really loved her he would save her. No matter what else, he would have to save her. If the situation were reversed, she wouldn’t think twice. She spun the cylinder again, hearing the metallic clicks. Again, she pushed the muzzle hard against her bare belly. The preacher was rambling on about how Christ loved all of them. She started laughing. It sounded like something that could’ve been coming out of a wounded animal.
Christ loved her, huh? What about Jim? Did he love her enough? Could he let her die?
Her face hardened with resolve. If he could then she didn’t want to fucking live.
Calmly, her hand steady, she squeezed the trigger. Another empty click. This time, though, everything in her stomach came rushing up, and she made a dash for the bathroom. It all came out quickly, easily. Minutes afterwards, her stomach empty and swollen, she gargled with mouthwash, then stood at the bathroom sink splashing cold water over her face. She avoided looking at her reflection in the mirror. She didn’t want to see what she looked like, but could imagine her eyes rimmed with red and her skin waxy and unnaturally pale. Headlights from outside flashed through the room, then died. Carol grabbed one of the threadbare towels from a rusted metal bar and wiped her face dry. She caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror, and broke out giggling at how drawn and tired she looked. She was out of the bathroom and still giggling when Jim opened the motel room door. Their eyes locked for a moment, then she stumbled forward and buried her face in his chest and held him as tight as she could and tried to hide that she was now sobbing.
He put an arm around her thin shoulders and ran a hand through her hair.
“Are you crying or laughing?” he asked in a soft whisper.
“A little of both. Oh fuck, I’m glad you’re back.”
Thursday, December 14, 2017
I was just the piano man. Nobody ever paid any attention to me. My job was to play while the customers gambled and whored and drank. I never said much, but I'd watch and I'd listen. That's what I was doing the night a man named Morgan bet his daughter on a poker hand.
Back in 2006 when Ed Gorman and I were putting out the Western noir issue of Hardluck Stories, Bill Crider gave us a gem of story titled Piano Man. Later, we published this and others in the anthology On Dangerous Ground: Stories of Western Noir, and Piano Man has since been published as an ebook, this time by Brash Books.
The piano man from the story's title is a nameless piano player at the Bad Dog Saloon circa 1880. He's someone who blends into the background, hardly ever noticed, and plays whatever music the saloon needs at that time--Rock of Ages for a man's funeral song when he thinks that man is about to be killed, Oh, Susannah to get the room in a more festive room, etc.
The piano man watches as Morgan bets and loses his daughter in a hand of poker to the crippled and ruthless saloon owner, a man named Taber. He feels bad for this girl--a blonde, angelic-faced fifteen year-old, and he imagines the horrors she must endure at the hands of Taber. He watches Morgan's pathetic attempts to return to the saloon several times in order to rescue his daughter, each attempt ending with Taber's bouncer brutally beating the man.
The piano man's room is directly above Taber's, and every night he has to hear Taber defiling this poor girl. Does he want to rescue this girl himself? Or is he secretly jealous that he's not the one doing these things to the girl?
An event occurs that gives the piano man a chance to step out of the shadows, and as with my favorite noir, it's his self-deception and off kilter rationalizations that ultimately doom him. This is a soulful, moody slice of noir that packs a wallop, and it was an honor to be able to publish this, just as it has been an honor to have known Bill for a good number of years. It's no secret that Bill has entered hospice care, and that news broke many hearts in the mystery community, mine included. Not only is Bill a hell of a writer, but he's one of the most decent and nicest people I've known, and he's been incredibly generous to me over the years, as I know he's been with many others. I consider Bill a good friend, and as difficult as his situation is, I know if there's one person who can handle it with dignity and grace it's Bill.