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

Friday, August 28, 2009

More Bad Thoughts

Bad Thoughts has been out almost 2 years, but it's nice to see reviews like this still popping up for it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Booklist on Pariah

Kyle Nevin has just finished eight years in federal prison for bank robbery, and he knows that his one-time mentor, Red Mahoney, the South Boston crime boss, betrayed him to the feds. Kyle goes back to Southie, hell-bent on finding the fugitive Mahoney and killing him very slowly. But Southie has changed; his former criminal associates, even his little brother, Danny, have gone straight. Everyone is still terrified of Kyle, but few now see him as a hero or a local celebrity. Undeterred, Kyle drags his brother into his quest for revenge, and the body count quickly rises. As in Small Crimes (2008), Zeltserman’s fine debut, his protagonist is psychopathic, and obsession, hubris, and rage are the things that animate him. The often violent story is told quite matter-of-factly, and that serves to harden the edge of this dark novel. Zeltserman also patterns Mahoney on real-life Boston crime czar Whitey Bulger, who remains number 2 on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list, right behind Osama Bin Laden. For readers looking for edgy crime fiction, Pariah fills the bill.
— Thomas Gaughan

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Rafe McGregor looks at my "Bad" books

I'd like to thank Rafe McGregor for keeping an open mind though all the grim weirdness of Bad Thoughts, and his reviews of both Bad Karma and Bad Thoughts.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Maureen Corrigan's Top Summer Reading Picks

Maureen Corrigan, book critic for Fresh Air with Terry Gross, earlier this summer made her top summer reading picks for ProgressiveBookClub.com, and I was thrilled to see the company I was included in:

The Way Home by George Pelecanos

If you don’t know of him, Pelecanos has been writing crime novels for years about the “other” Washington (i.e., not Capitol Hill or Northwest DC) He’s socially and racially conscious and a terrific writer. Also wrote for The Wire. The working class “hero” of this novel works for his family’s remodeling company.

Small Crimes by Dave Zeltserman

I really really loved this noir that came out last year. A police officer newly released from prison tries to put his life back together in a small town in upstate NY and only proves himself to be one of fortune’s fools. Pure, updated James M.Cain.

The Moe Prager mysteries of Reed Farrell Coleman

My find of the year. Coleman is superb but relatively unknown. Hailed by Michael Connelly and most of the Big Guys in Hard Boiled Detective fiction. His Moe Prager series is terrific (Jewish ex cop detective) and one of them, Redemption Street, is my favorite because it’s set in the crumbling Catskill resort area. A perfect summer setting! [Listen to Maureen Corrigan’s

The Adamsberg series of Fred Vargas

Terrific, psychologically dense police procedurals set in Paris. Reminiscent of the classic Per Wahloo/Maj Sojwall police procedural series. This series stars Inspector Adamsburg and a recurring cast of police detectives and considers all the big questions about the nature of evil. Vargas is one of the biggest names in crime fiction in Europe but, again, not widely known here except to real crime fiction fans. (And, yes, she’s a she.)

Death of a Nationalist by Rebecca Pawel

Came out in 2003 and is set in the Spanish Civil War but its political story loops around in unexpected ways. Pawel spun a series out of it but this was her debut book (she was a young Spanish teacher at the time) and it’s really smart and politically inflected.

The Hours Before Dawn by Celia Fremlin

This one is probably not in print (1958 is the date on my first edition) but I’d love to make a pitch for it. It’s the first mystery that I know of in which a woman who’s recently given birth and is sleep deprived as a result sees things she shouldn’t see in the small hours of the evening. Proto-feminist in its politics.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Booklist review for Bad Karma

Advanced Review – Uncorrected Proof Issue: September 1, 2009
Bad Karma. Zeltserman, Dave (Author) Oct 2009. 322 p. Five Star, hardcover, $25.95. (9781594147944).

Detective Bill Shannon, introduced in Bad Thoughts (2007), is back, and a welcome return it is. Relocated from Boston to Boulder, Shannon has fled the Boston PD for a low-stress lifestyle, picking up a little work on the side as a private eye. But despite his efforts to find psychic and psychological peace of mind after his horrific encounter with Herbert Winters, the demonic serial killer from the earlier novel, Shannon discovers that putting distance between himself and the old evils doesn’t help him escape the new evils. Zeltserman weaves together elements of both mystery and horror genres, as Shannon again finds himself confronting the darkness that roams the boundary beyond one’s physical senses. It’s as though Zeltserman has aimed a 12-gauge sawed-off at smarmy New Age sensitivities and fired off both barrels. Irony abounds, as Shannon unmasks deviant gurus, evil yoga studios, Russian gangsters, and guys who use their baseball implements in socially unacceptable ways. If you liked the first novel in this series, you’ll love this one. — Elliott Swanson

Monday, August 3, 2009

'Man Out of Prison' noir trilogy

Three dangerous men released from prison.

The three distinct noir journeys which follow.

That’s the premise for my ‘man just out of prison’ noir trilogy which Serpent’s Tail is publishing. The first of these, Small Crimes, was published in 2008 and ended up being named by both NPR (National Public Radio) and The Washington Post as one of the top crime novels of the year. In Small Crimes, my anti-hero, Joe Denton, is a disgraced ex-cop who is being paroled after eight years for violently disfiguring the County DA who was building a police corruption case against Joe. When Joe was on the force, he was a bent cop, a degenerate gambler, and a coke user. Now that he’s out and back in his fictional hometown of Bradley, Vermont, Joe finds nobody much wants him around anymore, not his parents, his ex-colleagues, or his ex-wife. Joe wants redemption for his past crimes, but the problem is there are too many old ghosts and too much anger for that happen. The damage that Joe and his release ends up causing the town is staggering.

The inspiration for Small Crimes came from two newspaper articles I read. The first was about a cop who committed a similar crime as Joe’s, and like Joe, was able to serve out an amazingly short sentence in a County Jail. This cop also started collecting his pension shortly after being released! The second article was about a corrupt Sheriff’s office in Denver in the 60s where they were robbing stores blind, even going as far as carrying safes out of stores to open later. Merging both these stories together, I started playing what-if games and built a scenario in my mind of how a cop could be treated as lightly as Joe for such a heinous crime within an utterly corrupt small town atmosphere. And so Small Crimes was born.

The second book in my series, Pariah, was published in 2009, and is written on two levels—one level being a fierce crime story, the other a darkly satirical look at the New York publishing industry and all their follies. Like a lot of people in Boston, I was fascinated for years by the Whitey Bulger/Billy Bulger story, and read everything I could on it. Here you have the most feared mobster in Boston, with his brother being the State Senate President. Stories would come out about how Whitey would lean on other pols to keep his brother in power, and Billy would squash state police investigations into Whitey, going as far as ruining the careers of state police who would try to bring Whitey in.

After Whitey goes on the lam it then comes out that he was an informant for the FBI, that he corrupted several FBI agents, including his childhood friend, John Connolly. Connolly would tip him off if anyone went to the FBI to give up Whitey, and Whitey would use the FBI to get rid of his competition, and he'd also give up his own people to help Connolly and these other corrupt FBI agents advance their careers.

I knew there was a great crime novel in all of this, and I was mulling over what angle to go at, when several things happened--first was a Harvard student who had a reported 500K 2-book deal with Little Brown being vilified when it came out that she plagiarized other chick lit books in writing hers. The other thing was a bunch of tell-all books hitting the shelves early March 2006, by South Boston mobsters (Brutal by Kevin Weeks, Rat Bastard by John “red” Shea). I now saw my angle, as well as getting excited about the idea of a "man just out of prison" trilogy, with Small Crimes being the first, Pariah the second. I wanted Pariah to start the same as Small Crimes--a man just getting out of prison, but have this man (Kyle Nevin) be the polar opposite of Joe Denton, my main character in Small Crimes. While Joe, for all his weakness and self-delusion, is still someone who wants to go through life without causing anymore damage, Kyle is a force of nature and utterly ruthless and remorseless, someone who leaves death and destruction wherever he goes. I wrote Pariah early in 2006, and finished the book months before the OJ Simpson "If I did it" book story came out--which was all a bizarre coincidence--I thought the behavior of my fictional publisher in Pariah was beyond the pall and would be too extreme for any actual publisher, but I was proven wrong. In writing this book I wanted to work in as much history of Whitey and the South Boston mob as I could, and I also wanted to write what could be considered a great crime novel--even with the satirical elements, I wanted to write this straight up, and not for laughs.

Killer, which is being published in January 2010, rounds out this trilogy. Killer was inspired very loosely on the idea that Boston mob hitman, John Martorano, could murder 20 people, then end up striking a deal for a 12 year prison sentence in exchange for becoming a government witness agains Whitey Bulger and the South Boston Mob. With Martorano, he is now out of prison and back in Boston where he’s living among the shadows of his victims.

My anti-hero in Killer is Leonard March. Like the real-life Martorano, March was also a hitman for the mob, in his case performing 18 hits. When he’s picked up on a racketeering charge, he strikes a deal for 14 years in exchange for testifying against the mob and immunity for all his past crimes. It’s only when the deal is struck that the authorities learn about his murders.

Just as Joe Denton and Kyle Nevin have there quests on leaving prison, so does March. His is a search for self-discovery. The chapters of Killer alternate between past and present, with the past chapters showing Leonard as a cold-blooded killer, while in the present chapters he’s an older man trying to understand himself. Since his release from prison he’s working as a janitor and living in a low-rent dirty apartment. Any former glory is gone, as well as any fear he might have once have struck in the hearts of the Boston underworld. He has been reduced to a toothless wolf left howling futilely at the moon. March wants to believe that his past job was just a job, that things could have been different for him. That he could have been a good husband and father. In many ways, Killer is a meditation on the mind of a killer, and in the end when Leonard’s past collides with his present the mystery of how these two sides of March can be reconciled is at last answered.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Where Tom Piccirilli interviews me about Pariah

Thriller/horror writer Tom Piccirilli interrogates me over at The Big Adios.

And while you're there check out some of Tom's other interrogations with top crime writers like Ed Gorman, Charlie Huston, Megan Abbott, Lawrence Block, and many others.