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

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Another early Halloween treat

As another early Halloween treat, here's Closing Time, a fun mix of horror, crime and noir. It's a short one, only about 3000 words, and features a special guest appearance. Closing Time is being reprinted in 21 Tales.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Ghengi Photographed!!

Ghengi, the hungry little monster from Pink Wiggly Things has been photographed hiding in this pile of plums. Damn clever little monster!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pink Wiggly Things

As an early Halloween treat, I offer this short amusing tale featuring a very hungry little monster.

Pink Wiggly Things


Dave Zeltserman

A rumbling inside made Ghengi nibble halfheartedly on the cotton fiber. It didn't help much to ease his hunger, but it was all he had and he knew it could be days before he had anything else. Ghengi looked at what was left. Thin strands of cotton connected to that foul rubber padding. The cotton would be gone soon, probably before dark.

Ghengi prayed that an insect would haplessly crawl within striking distance. Insects were good. If Ghengi tried hard enough he could imagine they were really pink wiggly things. Of course, they weren't pink wiggly things. They were in fact only a poor imitation. But Ghengi knew they were as close as he could come – as close as he could let himself come – to those wonderous epicurean delights.

With a start, Ghengi realized he was salivating; he had been imagining the taste of a pink wiggly thing. That was dangerous. If he dwelled too much on it, he would weaken. He wouldn't be able to resist them the next time they came to brazenly challenge him. And as ultimately satisfying as they were, the aftermath was so utterly damnable.

It was always the same, and Ghengi knew it would always be the same. There would be the noise and bright lights and sticks and heavy leather trying to crush poor Ghengi. And sometimes there would be that spray followed by a fetid, sour smell that would make his eyes start spinning and make him bump into things. The only escape from these terrors would be the outside.

The thought of the outside made him shudder. Cold. Damp. All those creatures with sharp teeth and claws trying to tear him apart. Although, he smiled, none had teeth sharper than his own.

Ghengi stretched his mouth as far as it could be stretched. His body was only the size of a small plum, but his mouth opened to its capacity could encompass a large melon. Inside his mouth were rows and rows of teeth. No bigger than diamond flakes, but sharper than razors. With his mouth opened, they glistened and sparkled.

Ghengi strengthened his resolve about the pink wiggly things. He wasn't going to think about them. Let them taunt him! The price was just too dear. He would have to be satisfied with the occasional insect, the dustballs, and the other crud that came his way. He sniffed at the cotton and tore a strand from it, avoiding the rubber padding.


"Will you leave me alone and take the dog out!"

Miriam's back was turned to Donald and, as she spoke, he silently mouthed her words, violently contorting his lips to the point where the edges of his mouth ached. He had long ceased deriving any pleasure from mimicking Miriam, but he had to do it. Just, as he knew, his wife had to extend her middle finger at him when he wasn't facing her. Sometimes he'd catch her at it, and she'd quickly move her hand back towards her head as if she were straightening her hair. The times when she would unexpectedly turn around, he'd contort his face as if he were about to sneeze.

"I'm not trying to bother you," he whimpered. He knew he was whimpering. It bothered him, but he couldn't keep from doing it. Anyway, it annoyed Miriam. "I can't find my slipper. Where is it?"

"How am I supposed to know?"

Miriam turned around and Donald froze, framing his face into an expected sneeze.

"Gesundheit," she said, her upper lip stiffening.

Donald sniffed a couple of times. "I can't find my slipper. That damn dog of yours keeps taking my stuff and destroying it."

"If you put your things away he wouldn't do it!"

"Look," Donald could feel his face flushing, "the past three months I've had six pairs of socks, a pair of shoes, a pair of pants, and two undershirts ruined by him. If he destroys anything else, that's it!"

He turned and walked towards the staircase. He could sense Miriam's right arm stretching out, the middle finger extended to its fullest. "Take Einstein out!" she demanded coldly.

Donald spun around, catching his wife straightening her hair. "You take him out," he said. "I'm going upstairs."


The noises upset Ghengi. There were many of those noises here, Ghengi thought, but at least they weren't the intolerable kind. Since he arrived he had only had to suffer through the intolerable noise a few times, and it never lasted more than a minute. Of all the things Ghengi despised, the intolerable noise was the most awful. The squeaking and squealing, the pounding and shaking as if his world were about to collapse on him. Thinking of it made him dizzy. He was thankful that he found this place. This one had far less of the intolerable noise than any of the other places Ghengi had nested in.

He knew he couldn't give in to the pink wiggly things. If he did he would have to leave. He would be forced outside. And it could take months before he was able to find another nest.

Those wonderful pink wiggly things. He wished he hadn't thought of them before. They were haunting him now, torturing him. It had been so long since he had tasted one, and the desire was growing, dangerously mixing with his insatiable hunger.

He looked at what was left of the cotton. At best, it would dull his hunger, but it wouldn't stop it. It always seemed to be this way; where after a while nothing could truly satisfy the hunger but a pink wiggly thing.

Ghengi swallowed another strand of cotton. It was tasteless to him. He ran his mouth over what was left of the slipper, hoping to find one of those translucent slivers. He had found one before and it had driven him into ecstasy, reminding him of those wonderful pink wiggly things. No such luck this time.

He went over it again. In his desperation he even endured the foulness of the rubber padding. There was nothing to find.

A dull thumping noise approached Ghengi. He knew it came from one of those monstrous creatures; a Guardian, the ones who brought about the terrors. They were the protectors of the pink wiggly things.

Ghengi could sense it was close. He started to see its awful face, and in an instant compressed himself against the wall. Under the shadows of his home, Ghengi knew he'd be safe. The creature would think he was only an imperfection in the plaster.

Ghengi sniffed. The pink wiggly things were near. The Guardians always foreshadowed their arrival, and he could now smell them. He pulled himself from the wall and saw that he was right. They had come. Five of them. They always came in groups of five. Wiggling towards him. Tempting him. Oh, they were so bold! Ghengi noted that these ones were thicker and plumper than other pink wiggly things he had encountered. Or maybe it was the hunger playing cruel tricks on his eyes.

They weren't worth the terrors. Ghengi repeated that to himself. Or at least one pink wiggly thing wasn't… but five? If Ghengi moved fast enough he could possibly snatch all five of them. He had never thought of that before. Maybe, just maybe…

A harsh, scratching noise froze him. It was followed by a soft thud. From beyond the pink wiggly things, a small sphere rolled towards him. It smelled of dog saliva and leather. Well, it wasn't a pink wiggly thing, but it also wouldn't bring out the wrath of the Guardians. Ghengi snapped back to his senses. He blinded himself to the pink wiggly things that were tempting himself so and instead let the sphere roll into his mouth, and then he started gagging, the sphere dropping from him.

A trick! A despicable, vile trick! It wasn't leather, but nasty rubber made to smell like leather. Foul, most foul taste! Pain immobilized him, and at the same time the hunger within him grew into something unbearable. He had to get that vile taste out of his mouth, and just as importantly, he needed to satisfy his hunger. Desperately, he looked around and saw that the pink wiggly things were gone. And to add insult to injury they had stolen what was left of the slipper. If Ghengi had tearducts he would've cried.


Donald studied his shredded slipper, then nodded grimly at Einstein, who sat in the doorway, tongue hanging out, panting.

“Proud of yourself, are you? Another nineteen dollars and ninety-nine cents, plus tax, down the toilet."

Einstein barked.

Donald looked at the dog and then at the open window. The bedroom was on the second floor. "You want to play ball, is that it?" he asked. The dog barked again. "If I throw the ball out the window, you'd be stupid enough to chase after it, wouldn't you?"

Einstein wagged his tail.

"You would, wouldn't you." Donald nodded. He got up and walked over to the dog. He scratched it behind the ear. "You are that stupid. You'd be only too happy to jump out the window and break your neck." His hand moved from behind the ear to the dog's thin neck. He felt the bone.

"Okay, then." Donald half-smiled. "Let's play ball. Go get your ball, stupid."

The dog didn't move. A long strand of drool fell from his mouth. Donald studied him.

"You want me to get it, huh? It's okay for you to drag my things under the bed and rip them apart, but you won't go under there for your ball, is that it?"

Einstein gave a thin whine.

Donald compressed his lips into a tight smile. He moved back to the bed and lowered himself onto his knees. "Okay, Stupid, I'll get your ball and then we'll play." He pressed his head against the bed and reached underneath it, feeling for the dog's rubber ball. Out of the corner of his eye he caught sight of Einstein studying him, and it startled him. The dog had a weird look on his face, a look that Donald had never seen on a dog before.

Of course, it was only a look of amusement. After all, look who was calling who stupid. If Einstein had any pink wiggly things, he certainly wouldn't put them anywhere near a hungry Ghengi.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

'21 Tales' available today

The trade paperback version of my short story collection, '21 Tales' is being released today.

'inventively depraved' -- New York Magazine

'Dave Zeltserman is one of the crime genre's most accomplished, radical, and innovative talents. His command of style and personal dark vision of the world are framed in the short form to reach out and shake the reader by the throat. I only wish that 21 Tales had been 51 Tales or 101 Tales. We need more of his edgy stories to rattle the field."'–Tom Piccirilli, author of Shadow Season

'Zeltserman’s twisty-tailed gems drag you deep into pulpland, bitch slap you dizzy, and leave you begging for more.'-Roger Smith

'Deadpan and more ruthless than ever, Zeltserman pulls off one clever shocker after another in classic pulp style. Not for the faint-hearted!-Vicki Hendricks

'In a relatively short period of time Dave Zeltserman has established himself as the most relevant author of dark crime fiction working today. As usual, Dave doesn't pull any punches, and his 21 TALES is inventive, nasty, pulpy fun.'-Paul Tremblay

'Dave Zeltserman's stories demonstrate that he's as masterful with the short story as he is with the novel--the same stunning level of craft and the same lacerating vision. This is an important collection.' -Ed Gorman

'Dave Zeltserman’s 21 Stories has enough twists and turns and plot reversals to give O’Henry whiplash. Readers should expect the unexpected. Zeltserman delivers some dark and disturbing fun in these stories.'-Lynn Kostoff

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Thanks Bill!

"do yourself a favor and find out for yourself by reading this gripping, intense novel."

I'd like to thank Bill Crider for his review yesterday of The Caretaker of Lorne Field.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Thanks PWA

It was an honor to have my novella, Julius Katz, nominated by the Private Eye Writers of America for best short story given the amazingly talented authors I was nominated with, especially Brendon DuBois who is one of my favorite mystery short story writers, and I'm floored this morning to find that Julius Katz won the Shamus Award last night.

For those wishing to read Julius Katz, you have 6 ways:

You can download a free PDF from Scribd

Purchase a Kindle download for $2.99 from Amazon

Purchase a Nook download for $2.99 from B&N

Purchase for $1.99 from Smashwords

Read it in the upcoming anthology, By Hook or By Crook and 30 More of the Best Crime & Mystery Stories of the Year

Find the Sept/Oct 2009 Double issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine where the story was originally published.

Monday, October 11, 2010

"This might be one of the best books of the year"

Bruce Grossman's review of The Caretaker of Lorne Field is up now on Bookgasm, which for my money is the best review site out there for crime and horror books.

More news. My publisher has recently made Kindle and Nook eBook downloads available for The Caretaker of Lorne Field.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Early Halloween event in Salem next Thursday

Oct. 14th, Paul Tremblay, Christopher Golden, Amber Benson and myself will be signing books and reading original scary Halloween stories at Cornerstone Books in Salem starting at 7 pm, and yes, it's the same Amber Benson who played Tara in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The story I'll be reading is titled "Pink Wiggly Things". Should be a fun night and I hope folks in the area show up (and showing up is the only way you'll find out what 'pink wiggly things' are)!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Somehow this slipped by

Not sure when this Booklist review came out for Killer, but I just found it.

Leonard March is a contract killer and a survivor. Zeltserman develops his protagonist skillfully, building a complex picture of a highly intelligent man forced to examine, test, and confront the boundaries of his self-defined morality. While most of the story is set in the present, following March’s release from a 14-year prison term, it also fluidly moves around in time as March describes the events that have shaped his life within the world of organized crime. He takes pride in his deadly competence and his range of highly specialized skills. Zeltserman’s choice of first-person narrative, chilling but often laced with noir humor, works perfectly, leaving it for the reader to decide if March the man is evil or a soldier doing a job. --Elliott Swanson

Thursday, October 7, 2010

"dark and exciting as all hell"

"This is one of those novels, like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, that should be shoved in the hands of young readers to show them that books can be complex thematically while also thrilling at the same time."

The above (slightly edited) quote is from the NerdOfNoir's review of The Caretaker of Lorne Field over at Spinetingler Magazine. The Nerd is one of my favorite reviewers--and not because he tends to like my novels, but because the guy gets at the heart of the matter better than just about anyone out there. When I read his reviews I know I'm getting real insight as to what the book's about. And his profanity-laced reviews can be a blast to read. This one in particular made me smile since he has 15 more uses of profanities in his review than I had in the whole book! Thanks Nerd!

Monday, October 4, 2010

New York Magazine: "inventively depraved"

Here's the cool front and back covers for the upcoming trade paperback version of '21 Tales', which will be coming out Oct. 20th through New Pulp Press (click on the image to enlarge).

And here's where NY Magazine fits '21 Tales' into their weekly matrix.


Friday, October 1, 2010

15 reasons to read The Caretaker of Lorne Field

With Halloween approaching, here are 15 reasons why you should be reading The Caretaker of Lorne Field with the whole family:

1) delicious horror-ish novel--Newsday

2) Superb mix of humor and horror--Publishers Weekly, starred review

3) superbly crafted horror story--Booklist

4) Harrowing. Zeltserman colors it black with the best of them--Kirkus Reviews

5) a very darkly funny dark fantasy--Locus Magazine

6) a nail-biter--Library Journal

7) truly demented noir-horror monsterpiece--Chauncey Mabe

8) The Caretaker of Lorne Field is a wonderfully weird, gritty, and pitch-dark legend, perfect for New England. Weaved in the compulsively readable narrative is a heavy dose of our current society's meanness, unease, and ambiguity: kind of a nightmare-noir zeitgeist. The thing of it is, the reader is never safe in Dave Zeltserman's hands. I love that. You should too.--Paul Tremblay

9) If Stephen King had a true Noir calling and Peter Straub added contemporary horror... and Dean Koontz threw in his fine depiction of ordinary life on the edge of the unknown... then bring the specter of James M. Cain to write the narrative, you'd come close to describing the whole effect of this stunning slice for the zeitgeist wondrous novel and the writing is... pure dark bliss.--Ken Bruen

10) THE CARETAKER OF LORNE FIELD is one of the most original and compelling books I have read in sometime. It's a horror story, yes. But it is also the stuff of fairy tales, legends, myths. I could not have loved it more.--Patti Abbott

11) The Caretaker of Lorne Field is a magnificent novel, with truly believable characters and suspense that keeps building to an explosive climax. There it is, plain and simple.--Seymour Shubin, Edgar Award finalist, author of Anyone's My Name

12) THE CARETAKER OF LORNE FIELD succeeds as a horror novel, a psychological thriller and a haunting parable, even in some ways that Zeltserman may not have intended. There are dark levels to this work, some of which are immediately evident and others of which reveal themselves only upon later reflection. I don’t know if the book will come to be regarded as a classic, either now or at some point in the future, but it deserves to be.--BookReporter.com

13) In a word--superb--Steven Riddle, A Momentary Taste of Being

14) Book of the Day -- RedRoom.com

15) This is just the kind of book that someday will be on high-school reading lists, and this is the kind of thought-provoking book that will then be challenged by both parents and church leaders, possibly even banned in some ultra-fundamentalist communities. But every reader, and particularly fans of Stephen King, should take a peek into this odd, sad fable. What you find there will forever be a secret between just you and Jack Durkin. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.--Naomi Johnson, Drowning Machine