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

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

More Vampire Crimes

I've added Vampire Crimes to both the Kindle and Nook stores, but it's going to take at least a day before they show up there. In the meantime over the next couple of weeks I'm going to put the first 3 chapters up on my blog, but they're long chapter chapters so I'm going to be breaking them up into pieces. I have no doubt that anyone who has read and liked Small Crimes, Pariah, Killer or Outsourced is going to love this book. Originally I wrote this to be part of a 5-book series, and I'm going to need your help. If you read Vampire Crimes and like it, make some noise about it. Add a review to Amazon, B&N, www.kindleboards.com, and anywhere else you can talk it up. If enough readers find this book, I'll be able to write more Vampire Crime novels, but I'm DEFINITELY going to need your help in spreading the word.


Here's the first part of Chapter 1:

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.

How long had it been since he heard that song, or even The Doors, for that matter? Years. Probably the last time was before he got infected. Since hooking up with Carol the two of them would usually have on a 90s alternative rock station—that was the kind of music she liked; her favorite groups Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth, and if she couldn’t find one of those stations, she’d either tune in a hip hop station or plug in one of her Kurt Cobain CDs, sometimes Green Day. It didn’t much matter to him. He put her through enough as it was, and if she could find some comfort and peace of mind from her music he was all for it.

With his eyes still closed, the line about a killer on the road brought a sick smile to his lips. Was his own brain squirming like a toad? It sure as hell felt like it. It had been a rough day so far. He had stretched things out and had gone too long between feedings, and now it hurt so bad he could barely sit still. The bright sunlight didn’t help; it made him feel like he was on fire, even with his dark shades and baseball cap pulled down to his eyes. He tugged at the cap, trying to pull it down still further, and sunk lower in his seat, drenched in sweat. It surprised him that he still had any fluids left in his body. He sensed Carol looking at him. He knew she was worried about him and had put on a classic rock ’n roll oldies station to try to keep his mind off of his illness—even though she claimed it was because all they had in Cleveland were classic rock stations, blaming it on their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But they weren’t even in Cleveland yet, still traveling east on Interstate 90, about forty miles outside the city.

Groaning inwardly, he opened his eyes a crack and shifted his gaze towards Carol and noticed her knuckles squeezed white as she gripped the wheel. He was always amazed at how small and delicate her hands were. His gaze moved upwards. She looked so deep in thought, her concern about his condition wrecking her face. He tried smiling at her. She moved one of her hands to grip his and gave him a squeeze.

“I never should’ve let you wait this long,” she said.

“I’ll be okay.”

It hurt just talking, his voice soft and hollow and rattling emptily in his throat; the sound of a saw pulled loosely over metal.

She shook her head, the skin tight around her mouth, her jaw pushed forward.

“I shouldn’t have let you do this,” she said. “Look at you. You’re so sick you can barely sit up.”

He cleared his throat, and again told her that he’d be fine.

“You’re going to feed tonight,” she said. “I’m not letting you push this out another day.”

There was nothing but strength and determination in her voice. He didn’t argue with her. He knew it wasn’t safe to wait any longer. Already he could feel himself slipping into this crazed state of consciousness, part hallucinations and part animal fury. It would only last for a few seconds, but he had a sense it was going to get worse if he didn’t feed soon, and God knows who he might feed on if he lost control altogether.

Carol let go of his hand to get a better grip on the wheel. It constantly amazed him that she loved him as much as she did. How could someone as wonderful as her love a monster like him? There was no mistaking that that’s what he was, at least what he had become since his infection. Before the infection he was a good-looking guy; six-foot, 190 pounds, dark complexion, muscular, a hardness about him from his time in the Army, along with a constant five-o’clock shadow. The infection dramatically changed his physical appearance. Zero body fat and his muscles lengthening and becoming tough and sinewy. It also lightened his complexion, his hair now white, and his skin becoming smooth with no beard or mustache to worry about. His weight had dropped significantly also, now at 140, and his body becoming lean, cat-like; even his head had changed shape, becoming angular, kind of like the elves in the Lord of the Rings movie. His teeth didn’t change, though, he didn’t develop fangs, but he was still a monster—what else would you call a creature that looked mostly human but needed to subsist on human blood?

The Doors Riders on the Storm ended, and the next song up was The Stones Sympathy For The Devil. The timing of that made him laugh weakly, his insides hurting like hell as his body shook. Sympathy for the devil, huh? How about any sympathy for him, not that he deserved any, at least not with what he has had to do to survive. If he hadn’t met Carol, he probably would’ve found a way to end his life—not that it would’ve been easy with what the virus had done to him, leaving his muscles and tendons as hard as steel and his skin close to bulletproof, and causing this weird kind of super immunity where his vital organs would regenerate on injury.

Before meeting Carol he had thought long and hard about what he would have to do to kill himself if it ended up that way. Explosives, maybe, but then again they could just blow off his limbs and leave him still alive. A guillotine with a sharp enough blade might do the trick; or if he cut himself open and pulled out his heart and made sure no tissue was left behind to regenerate into a new one. Those had seemed like his best bets. Later, days before meeting Carol, he learned first-hand that shoving a hand grenade down a vampire’s throat did the job just fine, but that was something discovered on the spur of the moment. Since Carol, he had put those thoughts out of his head and accepted that he would spend his life traveling aimlessly from city to city feeding when he had to. Nothing else was possible anymore. He cared too deeply for Carol to leave her, especially knowing what it would do to her.

A few final wheezes of laughter shook him, then with his teeth clattering he hugged himself tightly trying to shrink his body from any exposure to the sun. Thin lines showed along the edges of Carol’s mouth as her concern for him deepened. She reached over and caressed his neck.

“I hate seeing you like this,” she said.

“I know. But I’ll be okay.”

“I don’t think you’re going to be able to wait until tonight.”

“I’ll be able to.”

She paused for a moment, her eyes growing dim as she stared off into the distance.

“You can feed off of me,” she said, her voice barely above the engine whine of their ’88 Chevy Nova.

“Please, don’t bring this up again.”

She bit her lip, tried to smile.

“I want you to,” she said. “We should go through this together.”

“It’s not going to happen. So stop it, please.”

Jim’s hand shook as he reached over to turn the volume higher on the car radio and at the same time end the discussion. Carol’s cheeks puffed up, obviously frustrated, but she took the hint and dropped the subject. The station played a set of Leonard Cohen songs, and after Hallelujah ended, Carol turned off the radio. They rode in silence for a few minutes before she mentioned that she liked those songs and asked who the artist was. Jim told her the name of the musician.

“We’ll have to find some of his CDs,” she said. “Very cool voice. Even though it sounds like he’s got something stuck in his throat. And those lyrics, wow. It sent a chill down my spine.”

“Yeah, I’ve been a fan for a long time. Him and Dylan are the two best songwriters of the last forty years. It’s good to see the old dude get rediscovered.”

Carol made a face. She wasn’t a fan of Bob Dylan, which always mystified him. He couldn’t imagine anyone not being a fan. They drove in silence for another few minutes, the lines along Carol’s mouth deepening as her eyes shifted sideways and she caught a glimpse of him. Jim could only imagine what he looked like sitting there pale and shivering, his clothing soaked through with perspiration.

“Will you be okay if I stop someplace to eat?”


“I wouldn’t be asking except I think I might pass out if I don’t get some food.” She gave him a sad smile. “Unlike you I can’t put off eating for twelve days.”

“Well, it’s not as if I ever really eat anyways…”

“You know what I mean.”

“I know what you mean,” Jim said. They’d been on the road six hours since having left Springfield, Illinois at the crack of dawn. Carol didn’t understand why they had to drive to Cleveland, why he couldn’t feed there, but Jim wasn’t having any luck finding what he was looking for in Springfield. Chicago, while closer, was out. He had already fed there too many times as it was, and had to be careful about drawing suspicion to what he was doing. Cleveland would have what he needed. “First place we see we stop at. You need a break, lady,” Jim added.

She nodded, smiling thinly. A few miles down the road they spotted a roadside diner and she pulled into the parking lot. Jim was shaking badly as he hobbled from the car to the diner’s entrance, his vision blurred, his feet unsteady. Carol moved quickly to his side so he could lean against her. Outside of a blonde heavyset cashier chewing gum and a middle-aged waitress with a Led Zeppelin logo tattooed on her neck, there were maybe ten other people scattered along the counter and in booths. All eyes turned to Carol and Jim as they walked in. The cashier stared at them and popped her gum.

“Miss, is your boyfriend sick?” she asked.

“It’s nothing contagious,” Carol muttered, annoyed.

“I don’t know about that, Honey.” The cashier hesitated as she looked Jim over more carefully. “To me he looks like he’s got something pretty bad. Maybe it would be best if he don’t come in here. It wouldn’t be fair bringing him into a public restaurant, not with all the other folks we’ve got eating here now. Honey, they shouldn’t have to worry about catching what he’s got.”

“I’m standing right here,” Jim said in a soft whisper. “It’s not as if I can’t hear everything you’re saying.”

The cashier continued to ignore him while offering Carol a false sympathetic smile.

“Why don’t you have him wait in your car while you order some takeout. How would that be, Honey?”

Carol’s face darkened. “I think instead we’ll just sit at that booth over there away from everyone. How would that be, Honey?”

She led Jim as she took a step forward. The cashier moved quickly to block them. The waitress moved also and looked like she was ready for a brawl, her hands planted firmly on her hips to show off large forearms. A couple of truck drivers at the counter stood up and also took an uneasy step towards them.

“Miss, why don’t you just make this easy for everyone. You don’t want the police being called, do you?”

Jim could sense the violence growing in Carol. Her hands were clenched at her side, thin veins revealing themselves along her neck. In another few seconds she’d be flying at this woman who outweighed her by a good eighty pounds. That was the thing with Carol, she was as fiercely protective and loyal as they came. Even though she was five foot one and maybe ninety-five pounds when soaking wet, she’d go at them like a hellcat. Using what little strength he had left, he pulled her away and forced her through the entrance door and outside.

“Don’t,” he pleaded.

“Fuck them. Who the fuck are they to tell you you can’t go in there?”

“Babe, it’s not worth it. I’m going back to the car. You go in there and get something to eat, okay?”

She was too furious to talk at first. Sputtering, she forced out, “How about I just throw a brick through their front window!”


“Or better yet, how about you slaughtering all those fucking assholes in there! While you’re doing that I could cook myself something on their grill, and we could both be eating together.”


“Why not?”

“Come on. Be serious. I’m not going to do that.”

She was steaming, her dark eyes hot and angry. “That fat cow bitch. She’d deserve to have you rip her throat out. She probably thinks you have AIDS. The bitch.”

Jim smiled thinly. “Maybe she thinks I have the bubonic plague. It doesn’t matter. You go back in there and get yourself something to eat. I’ll wait.”

“Fuck them. We’ll find another place.”

She stumbled, dizzy, her eyes losing focus. This time Jim helped her steady herself. Hesitantly, she brought a hand up to her temple.

Jim gave her a patient smile. “Any place we go is going to be the same. You need to eat. I’ll be fine.”

Carol looked like she wanted to argue, but she also looked hungry and very pale. She suffered from hypoglycemia and her stumbling and dizziness were a clear sign she needed food badly. Jim thought he could hear her heart palpitating. She didn’t have time to start searching for another place to eat—there was no arguing that, so she relented, first walking him back to the car to make sure he made it okay, then heading back to the diner. Jim closed his eyes. Lowering his forehead into his hands, he felt the cold clamminess of his skin. Even though it seemed to him like he was burning up, his skin was so damn cold to the touch—like he was a month-old corpse. His skin always felt that way. He wondered how Carol stood it.

(Chapter 1 of Vampire Crimes to be continued)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Vampire Crimes: History & Help!

Vampire Crimes has a long history dating back to 1997. Back then I had written Fast Lane and Bad Thoughts and was working with my first agent in the hopes of selling both of these books. This guy gave me a biker vampire screenplay to novelize which I didn't care for, but it got me thinking of some ideas for a very gritty & noirish vampire series, kind of a Mickey Spillane merged with David Goodis with very strong horror elements, and I set about writing my own screenplay for something that I thought would be good and would be something I'd want to novelize. What I came up with was a bit like Sin City with vampires, although I hadn't heard of Sin City back then. This agent didn't like that I did this, and we parted ways, and I put this script aside with the thought of doing something with it someday.

Flash forward to 2006. I'd just finished writing Pariah & the Caretaker of Lorne Field, and my Vampire Crimes script had been on my mind for years and I was itching to do something with it, so this became my next project. The book came out better than I had anticipated, easily the most noir, grittiest (and most violent) book that I'd written, and maybe one of my better written books also. My agent at that time had her hands full trying to sell Pariah, Outsourced & Caretaker, so she didn't want to take this one on also, so I put it aside. I did have my core readers look at it and got a strong reaction from them, although a couple of them found the horror elements very upsetting and disturbing. I also had a fellow Rara Avian (a yahoo group of noir & hardboiled aficionados) who was also a big Charlie Huston 'Almost Dead' fan read it, and he was very excited by this book. I had avoided Huston's vampire series since I had this book in mind for a long time and I didn't want to subconsciously steal from him. The way this Rara Avian described the difference between the two books is that Huston's book is a horror novel with a hardboiled PI while mine is a gritty crime noir novel with vampires.

Flash forward to 2009. I have a new agent now, I send him Vampire Crimes after he sells Essence, and he's excited by it. He thinks it's great and should be an easy sale. He sends it out, and a bunch of young editors are also excited by it, but none of them are able to get approval--either there's a competing vampire novel by a more senior editor, or there's fear that book is too noir and too much of a horror novel. Plus things are starting to go south with the publishing industry and it's getting tougher to sell anything. So Vampire Crimes doesn't sell.

So here we are now. I have no doubt that fans of my other crime novels are going to love Vampire Crimes, as well as fans of Sin City, and and really anyone who likes tough & gritty & violent crime and horror novels, and so I'm going to put it out myself as a Kindle and Nook download, and it should be available later this week.

Here's where I need some help. Like a lot of writers, I love writing fiction, but I'm not comfortable writing a synopsis or marketing copy. Below is my attempt at marketing copy for Vampire Crimes. I need help/suggestions with this. Would this copy get you to want to read the book? Any suggestions on what should be changed? Any and all help with this will be greatly appreciated!

Proposed copy:

Ultra violent & ultra noir. These are not your Mother's or daughter’s vampires!

Jim is infected. Carol, is not. Together they travel the country hunting down only the worst degenerate predators. After all, Jim has to feed.

Meanwhile Jim's ex Serena and her posse of Eurotrash vampires spend their days snorting heroin and their nights at Manahattan’s trendiest nightclubs. Serena is still seething. Hell hath no furry like a woman scorned? Try a scorned bloodsucker!

Metcalf, author Dave Zeltserman’s scariest psychopathic creation to date, runs a vampire compound in the LA desert and rules it with an iron fist. Metcalf seeks a cure for the vampire virus. Not because he cares about humanity. Metcalf is sick of drinking blood. He wants to eat a cooked steak and down a case of cold beer.

Of course these three groups are fated to meet. When they do, a vengeful biker gang is thrown into the mix. The climax that follows is pure rock ‘n roll violence, Sin City-style mayhem.

I've just read the manuscript of Dave Zeltserman's new novel, Vampire 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

Sunday, November 28, 2010

My turn over at Top Suspense Blog + Pic's Picks

Today it's my turn to submit to the same questioning as all our other Top Suspense Group authors have already done.

Author Tom Piccirilli (The Cold Spot, Shadow Season) gives his thoughts on a few recent and upcoming releases, including my Outsourced, and Paul Tremblay's short story collection, In The Mean Time, which I absolutely love. Few writers do unease and disquiet as well in the short form as Paul does in this wonderful collection.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Coming soon: Vampire Crimes

Coming soon as an e-book original for the Kindle & Nook: Vampire Crimes

Ultra violent & ultra noir, think Sin City with Vampires to give you an idea what this one's about.

Not your daughter's or sister's vampire novel!

In the next week or so I'll be publishing the first 3 chapters here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Top Suspense introduces Vicki Hendricks

I've been a fan of Vicki's since reading her amazing Miami Purity (#15 on my list of 20 essential noirs)

Check out Vicki's interview on the Top Suspense Group blog.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

More Outsourced, Caretaker & Top Suspense Group

Booklist will be reviewing Outsourced Dec. 15th, and it's a good one, calling Outsourced 'A small gem of crime fiction'.

The trend continues of folks really digging The Caretaker of Lorne Field. Ron Clinton reviews Caretaker over at Spinetingler Magazine, saying among other things:

The Caretaker of Lorne Field has a wonderful mix of the tragic obsolescence of “Death of a Salesman’s” Willie Loman, the fantastical vision of Serling’s Twilight Zone, and the rural, gothic vibe of a Manly Wade Wellman tale. But along with this unique mishmash of themes and subtle undercurrents of humor and religiosity, it has a pulsing emotional core that immediately draws the reader in.

You can read Ron's review here.

Over at the Top Suspense Group Blog we introduce and interview the intrepid Bill Crider. More introductions and interviews will be running this week. Check it out here!.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Top Suspense, Outsourced, Caretaker & 21 Tales

We now have a Top Suspense Group blog at topsuspense.blogspot.com. The way the group is going to use the blog will evolve over time. Over the next week we'll be posting short interviews with each author, and after that we're going to experiment with writing a crime story in a round robin fashion with no planning, no coordination & no safety nets! And maybe prizes!

Outsourced won't be out in the US until Feb 1st. So far it's been reviewed nicely in the UK in the London Times, Financial Times & Morning Star, and in Australia's largest paper, The Australian, and it just received it's first US review on the website x2theL:

Outsourced is not only a good read, but also a sobering one that makes you wonder about the nature of the human being: if driven to the edge, would an average law-abiding citizen commit a crime in order to survive? And once having done that, can that same person face the consequences with a clear head? The answers are not easy, and Zeltserman repeatedly turns to the reader, who in the end has to answer them on his own.

You can read the whole review here.

The trend continues with librarians digging and reviewing The Caretaker of Lorne Field. Here's a new review. I think it's great that a group of folks who love books seem to really be digging Caretaker.

Jedidiah Ayres, a guy who really knows and loves his dark crime fiction, is talking up 21 Tales here. Thanks Jed!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Top Suspense, eBooks + news

METODIKA in Lithuania will be publishing Outsourced. Foreign rights for Outsourced so far: UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, and now Lithuania.

Top Suspense Group & eBooks

Early this summer Ed Gorman, Harry Shannon and I were talking about how authors can survive this fastly arriving & changing eBook world. With print books, authors have a chance of building a readership over time by being reviewed in newspapers and magazines, winning awards, booksellers handselling your books, and eventually word of mouth. Once Amazon opened up their Kindle store to self-published books these dynamics changed. The reality is that this move is adding 10s of thousands of poorly written eBooks to the Kindle store, and in effect making the Kindle store similar to the slush piles that publishers used to have. There are going to be some very good self-published books in the mix, probably more than ever given how publishers are increasingly moving towards a celebrity/bestseller only mentality, but these are going to be buried under 1000s of poorly written ones. And the sad fact is that the self-published authors writing these good books aren't necessarily going to have the skills or temperament to social network effectively. The way I see this heading is that readers are going to get burned by a lot of bad self-published books, and going to move towards the safety of only the most recognizable names--and that the Amazon kindle store will very soon (if not already) look a lot like the book section at Walmart--the most commercial books will be pushed hard while all other books will be buried. Ed & Harry saw things the same way, and the solution we came up with was to form a collaborative with a mix of talented authors where we'd help promote each others eBooks, and more than that, brand our Top Suspense Group as a trusted place for readers to find high quality genre (mystery, crime, thriller, horror, westerns) ebooks. Outside of the website, we'll be doing other things as part of this collaborative + branding. We'll be introducing a blog soon, and one of the first things we'll be posting on it will be a crime story where we'll each be taking turns writing sections (and with no planning or coordination). Advertising will also be an important part to help create this brand. And over the next few months we'll be expanding the group--we kept the group at a more manageable size of six to start because getting any group of authors to agree on anything is a bit like herding cats. I think over the next year many more collaborative author groups like Top Suspense Group will be formed since this is what's going to be needed in this new eBook world, and these collaborative groups will be made up of both pro writers and talented new self-published writers who find each other.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Australian on Outsourced plus more

The Australian reviews a bunch of crime novels today, including Lehane's Moonlight Mile and my own Outsourced. Here's what they have to say about Outsourced:

DAVE Zeltserman is one of the new, highly original voices in crime fiction, his writing spare, disciplined and concrete. His plots are as original as anyone writing hard-boiled fiction with an attractive noir edge, and always grimly entertaining. Like his characters. Outsourced, already being turned into a movie, follows an all-too-human bunch of outsourced software engineers who have no job prospects and no long-term insurance but do possess a plan. They are going to use their computing skills to rob a bank, and Zeltserman delivers a finely paced, witty and stylish take on the heist caper novel. More than most authors churning out mysteries, Zeltserman is fully steeped in the conventions of crime fiction. He remains absolutely his own hard man.

A couple of more reviews of Caretaker have shown up on the blogosphere continuing the trend of folks really digging this book.

from Yvonne the Librarian:

This book is a great character study. You work alongside the Caretaker as he slaves through the pain of his aging body, the ridicule of all those he knows, and the burden of believing, knowing, that the fate of the entire world is on your shoulders. It’s a great story of tradition clashing with the modern world. Sometimes traditions exist for a reason…sometimes they are just traditions without a real reason at all…

Read Yvonne's review here

And Andre Harden also has his say.

Monday, November 1, 2010

3 Books, 4 new reviews

Four new reviews have popped up for The Caretaker of Lorne Field, 21 Tales and Small Crimes.

The eerie and frightening aspects of the novel are woven tightly into the human drama never taking center stage over the trials and tribulations of Jack Durkin. Landing somewhere at the intersection of social commentary, horror, and family drama The Caretaker of Lorne Field is a wholly enjoyable novel that is difficult to put down. If you’re looking for new and interesting fiction to read that is a bit off the beaten path I highly recommend the uniformly excellent The Caretaker of Lorne Field.

Read Mike Ferrante's thoughtful review of The Caretaker of Lorne Field on his King of the Nerd's website.

From George Kelley's review: If you put Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” and any Stephen King novel in a blender, the result would be something like The Caretaker of Lorne Field.

Read the entire review here.

Beth Kanell at Kingdom Books sums up her review of 21 Tales: So if you dare to dip into the creepy, the horrible, the bizarre, and the all too recognizable detritus of urban life, grab a copy of 21 TALES. But don't say I didn't warn you.

Author Rob Kitchin examines Small Crimes on his The View from the Blue House blog:

Small Crimes is a cracker of a story. Zeltserman writes with a honed intensity that fully immerses the reader in the claustrophobic world of small town America. He vividly portrays the complex social relations of a former cop being released back into his local community – the resentments, the shame, the cold shouldering and petty confrontations, the web of lies and deceits.

You can read Rob's entire review here.