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

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Julius Katz and Archie, Pariah, Whitey Bulger

Yet another reviewer who finds Julius Katz and Archie amazingly fun and entertaining:

Julius Katz and Archie is a wonderfully fun, classic sleuth mystery story that will appeal to a wide audience range. I highly recommend this as the perfect way to relax and indulge in a bit of summer fun!

Read Cafe of Dreams review here.

Interesting that Whitey Bulger claims that while he was a fugitive he came back to Boston a couple of times fully armed to take care of business. With Bulger's capture, I thought I'd reprint the Washington Post's review of Pariah (a book that's the polar opposite of Julius Katz and Archie) by Maureen Corrigan

What a sick puppy of a writer Dave Zeltserman is! I didn't think a suspense story could get any more dark and twisted than Zeltserman's pulp masterpiece of last year, "Small Crimes." In that nasty little immorality tale, a crooked ex-cop bent on redemption gets released from prison and finds out that nobody -- not his ex-wife, not his young daughters, not even his elderly parents -- wants him back. The kicker is that they're right. By the end of "Small Crimes," I was wrung out thanks to the ingeniousness of Zeltserman's nonstop plot twists and the stark meanness of his universe. Now comes "Pariah," a doozy of a doom-laden crime story that not only makes merry with the justice system, but also satirizes those bottom feeders in the publishing industry who would sign Osama bin Laden to a six-figure contract for his memoirs, if only they could figure out which cave to send their lawyers into. If there's any other young writer out there who does crime noir better than Zeltserman, I don't even want to know. As it is, I can barely handle reading him without altogether losing whatever faith I've got left in humanity.

The antihero of this latest excursion into the underside is Kyle Nevin, a former heavyweight in the South Boston Irish mob. Eight years earlier, Kyle was set up by his former boss, Red Mahoney, to be murdered during a big bank heist; but fate smiled on Kyle, and another guy took the fatal bullet instead. Now, just released from eight years in the slammer, Kyle is out for revenge, sniffing out Mahoney the way a half-starved bloodhound would catch the scent of an underdone Big Mac. As is required in any work of crime noir worth its grit, we readers see the world through Kyle's bloodshot eyes. And here lies Zeltserman's particular brilliance: As a murderous sociopath, Kyle, like his predecessors in the Zeltserman lineup, is so boisterous in his self-justifications (for everything from breaking the little finger of a litterbug to kidnapping a sickly child to burning alive a close relative in his bed) that a reader can't help but laugh at the fervent illogic of it all. Here, for instance, Kyle describes the way he and his reluctant younger brother, Danny, steal a laptop from an unsuspecting "mark" who has just left an upscale Boston coffeehouse:

"I grabbed for the laptop and as the mark realized what was going on and tried to pull back, Danny was out of the car and clocking him on the side of the head with the brick. . . . The reality of the situation, the guy was no more than a hundred and sixty pounds soaking wet, and a slap on the side of the head with an open palm would've done the trick, but I was glad to see Danny use the brick. Not that I cared whether or not some effeminate mochachino-swilling yuppie had his head bashed in, but that type of violence was what I needed to bring the old Danny back."

In Kyle's perspective, the robbery serves as a terrific therapeutic exercise for Danny. And the really sick thing is that the scene is so brazenly buoyant that the reader gets carried along with the moment, too. Hooray! The Nevin Brothers are back! Bad luck for the yuppie who was just at the wrong place at the wrong time, but a good break for Danny and Kyle, who commit the assault in broad daylight on a Boston street, without any witnesses around.

The thing about luck, though, is that it always changes. After that aforementioned kidnapping goes haywire, Kyle dodges another jail term with the help of a principled defense attorney who can barely stand to breathe in his tainted presence. Then, he's offered a fabulous book deal to write a true-crime "fictional novel" of how the kidnapping might have gone down. (Zeltserman is obviously exacting some comic revenge on members of the publishing profession who, like their mobster counterparts, are always trolling for "the big one" and training their beady eyes on the bottom line.) Kyle is set up with a book packager who's supposed to help him bang out the novel in two months. Oprah, the bestsellers lists, European book tours and Hollywood await. Trouble is, Kyle's luck turns. He comes down with a nasty case of writer's block. That's just the very beginning of a long, loopy downward slide into the abyss.

I'd say Zeltserman can't top "Pariah" for its sheer diabolical inventiveness, but he probably will. And given that the corrupting vision of his work is so powerful, I ought to know better than to read the next novel he writes. But I probably will anyway.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Whitey Bulger and Pariah

I have to admit I was (for lack of a better word that I can use in a public forum) amused at seeing the rash of South Boston mobster tell-all books that were published in 2006. At the time I had just sold a crime novel, Small Crimes, to the London publisher, Serpent’s Tail, but I’d also been struggling for years to sell one of my books to NY. Although it might have been a bit galling to see the large New York publishers sidling up to these convicted criminals and handing them book deals, I could understand the fascination with all things Whitey Bulger. After all, I shared that same fascination, and I had for years both before and after Whitey became a fugitive, read everything I could about him in the Boston Globe, and listened to all the stories and rumors about him on talk radio. This was a real-life gangster story almost too bizarre for Hollywood—Boston’s most feared gangster being brothers with the State Senate President. And then there would be stories about Whitey’s criminal activities, his extortion methods and murders, and even things like him getting a hold of a winning lottery ticket. And you’d hear stories secondhand from people who had contact with him that were likewise chilling. Once Whitey became a fugitive, it really got interesting as we all found out about Whitey being an informant for the FBI. And not just any informant, but one who corrupted his FBI handlers so he could use them to squash his competition, and worse, get tipped off so he could kill those wanting to testify against him.

So it ‘s easy to see why we were all so fascinated by Whitey and the stories and rumors circulating about him. Seeing those tell-all books in 2006 ended up providing the motivation I needed to write Pariah. In most of my crime novels I dig into the criminal mind and try to understand the psychology of why they do what they do, and at the same time explore the darker impulses we all feel. With Pariah there’s a lot of that, but I also drew upon all the stories and rumors I had read and heard over the years to write a fictional story that would feel like it was imbued with a real sense of history of how Whitey Bulger and his underlings operated. In the novel I have a Whitey Bulger-like character named Red Mahoney, but the focus is on Mahoney’s right hand man, Kyle Nevin, who was betrayed by Mahoney, and now out of prison wants revenge on his fugitive ex-boss, as well as reestablishing himself as a man to be feared. And while it’s a brutal and fierce crime novel, it’s equally a satire on the New York publishing industry and our celebrity-obsessed culture, a culture that’s all too willing to make a criminal into a celebrity if the money’s right.

I was surprised when I saw the story late last Wednesday night about Whitey Bulger being captured in Santa Monica. I’d read about him scattering funds throughout Europe, and I assumed he would live out his days anonymously there or in Southeast Asia never to be heard of again. It just seemed that Bulger was too smart, too clever, and just too lucky to ever get caught. Early reports have Whitey living in a rent controlled apartment in Santa Monica for the last fifteen years instead of in Europe as we all thought, so he fooled us all. But I guess his luck finally ran out, and with his capture a chapter in Boston’s history has closed. Maybe there will be another chapter to add if Bulger confesses to the FBI, or writes yet one more South Boston mobster tell-all book.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Whitey Bulger and Pop Culture

The Boston Globe is running this following slide show of Whitey Bulger inspired movies and books, but somehow they forgot about Pariah, which they reviewed in 2010. Below is Ed Siegel's review for Pariah which ran in the Globe:

Story of a Southie thug rises above crime noir in ‘Pariah’

Kyle Nevin’s not the kind of guy you would want to cross. He’d as soon beat your face into a pulp for looking at him the wrong way as he would cadge a drink off you. Unless you’re a good-looking woman, of course, in which case he’d have other plans.

Nevin, a former big-time South Boston mobster, is the central character in Needham writer Dave Zeltserman’s darkly enjoyable new novel, “Pariah,’’ which appears to be based, at least in part, on the story of Whitey Bulger.

The Whitey character here, however, is not Nevin but Red Mahoney, who ran Southie before ratting out Nevin and the rest of his mob to the FBI and taking off for Europe. Nevin’s now out of jail and out for Red’s blood, but not before reviving ties with his brother, Danny, who’s trying to go straight, and with Nola, a yuppie nymphomaniac who goes trolling for bad boys at a Southie bar.

Sound clichĂ©d? At times it is, but Zeltserman’s talents as a noir writer rise above the genre’s conventions, even if he stumbles over them here and there. First and foremost, “Pariah’’ is a page-turner, even more so than his earlier novel, “Small Crimes.’’

Nevin is one of the more unlikable main characters you’ll come across, someone who’s reminiscent of Jim Thompson’s ugly protagonists. But as with Lou Ford in Thompson’s “The Killer Inside Me,’’ Nevin draws you into his web of sex and violence by his sheer, self-confident sociopathology.

Not that he lives without a code of conduct. How do you deal with a restaurateur who won’t cover his garbage, thereby drawing rats to the alleyway in back of Danny’s Brighton apartment? “By snapping the guy’s finger and smacking him in the face with a car door. In this world that’s how you get someone’s attention.’’

Watching Kyle get steamed about Danny going over to the other side - he now prefers sushi to red meat - is one of the more interesting parts of the novel. That and Kyle’s wooing him back to life among the carnivores. Part of the allure of that relationship is that readers tend to identify with Danny, so we understand that the life Kyle holds out will probably be no good for Danny - or us - but we also appreciate how powerfully seductive is Kyle’s offer to take a walk on the wild side.

But let’s face. It’s not really Kyle but Zeltserman who’s doing the seducing with his clear, crisp prose; his fearless portrait of amorality; and his smart plotting. That doesn’t always prevent him from letting the story wriggle away at times. Things go too bad too quickly in the middle of the book, and Zeltserman is a little too coy in having it both ways as far as Kyle’s role in a couple of deaths. The Southie jargon often sounds inauthentic and other aspects of the story feel more like an exercise in noir instead of an exploration of contemporary life.

There’s more than enough compensation, though, in Zeltserman’s smooth, lively writing and his witty satire of the publishing industry in the second half of the book. We won’t give anything away, but chances are that by the end you’ll be thinking of James Frey, O.J. Simpson, and John Henry Abbott, along with Jim Thompson and Whitey Bulger.

Or forget about those guys and just think about Dave Zeltserman, and what a fine addition to the local literary scene he’s become.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Another rave review for Julius Katz and Archie

Julius Katz and Archie is an excellent, fun, and entertaining read. I thought I’d read it in at least four sittings, but it turned out to be two…and that’s only because I couldn’t keep my eyes open after the first 111 pages. I had to finish the last 19 pages as soon as I woke up the next day to find out whodunnit. It’s very engaging and appropriate for any age.

Read Lisa Haselton's review here.

Note. 'Julius Katz and Archie' is roughly 75,000 words, and Lisa was given a review copy in PDF form, where 130 pages is about the same as 280 pages if it were a print book.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The latest word on Julius katz and Archie

Read the latest review for Julius Katz and Archie at Life in Review.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Now that Whitey's been captured....

Now that Whitey Bulger has been captured, wouldn't this be a perfect time to read Pariah if you haven't done so already?

"I didn't think a suspense story could get any more dark and twisted than Zeltserman's pulp masterpiece…Small Crimes…Now comes Pariah, a doozy of a doom-laden crime story that not only makes merry with the justice system, but also satirizes those bottom feeders in the publishing industry who would sign Osama bin Laden to a six-figure contract for his memoirs, if only they could figure out which cave to send their lawyers into. If there's any other young writer out there who does crime noir better than Zeltserman, I don't even want to know. As it is, I can barely handle reading him without altogether losing whatever faith I've got left in humanity." Maureen Corrigan, Washington Post Best Books of 2009

"Darkly enjoyable... clear, crisp prose; his fearless portrait of amorality; and his smart plotting... what a fine addition to the local literary scene he’s become." Boston Globe

"Take Dave Zeltserman’s Pariah, an entry in what I think of as the Whitey Bulger sweepstakes. Fictions based on the fugitive Boston Irish mobster to date include George V. Higgins’ 2000 novel At the End of the Day and the Oscar-winning Martin Scorsese film The Departed. Zeltserman, writing in the pitch-black comic tradition of Jim Thompson or Charles Willeford, deserves to stand in such exalted company." Chauncey Mabe, Palm Beach Arts Paper

"PARIAH is my pick for crime novel of the year. Tough, relentless, and packed with blunt force trauma, the book uses a Whitey Bulger-inspired premise as the framework for a disturbing and darkly satirical study of a psychopath." Hard Feelings

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

In this month's Ellery Queen

This month Ellery Queen publishes my short story, Some People Deserve to Die, which is probably my favorite of my short fiction. This is how Ellery Queen describes the story on their website:

If you're looking for something contemporary and edgy, we've got that too: Dave Zeltserman is becoming one of the modern masters of the noir story and in his tale for us this month, "Some People Deserve to Die," he combines tough prose with an ironic twist, as the investigation of the murder of an immigrant from India uncovers some unsavory family matters.

I think most writers have favorites among their works. For me with my short fiction, there are certain elements about different stories that I'm proud of. With 'More Than a Scam' it's a certain time and emotional shift that I pull off, with 'Closing Time' it's using this jovial tone to mask a very dark story underneath, with 'Julius Katz' and 'Archie's Been Framed' it's the way both stories flow and ultimately work, with 'Money Run' it's the quadruple cross that my hero ultimately pulls off on himself, with my upcoming story in Ellery Queen, 'A Hostage Situation', it's the way I pull the rug out from just about every reader, and with 'Some People Deserve to Die' it's the tone and a slight twist at the end.

I also have my favorites among my novels, but I'll keep that to myself other than saying my upcoming crime thriller, 'A Killer's Essence', is among my favorites, and along with Killer and 'Julius Katz and Archie', one of my 3 best crime novels, with all three of them being very different from each other. Killer being a contemporary noir thriller, 'A Killer's Essence' a crime thriller with a paranormal element (and where I get to have a lot of fun at the NY Yankees expense), and 'Julius Katz and Archie' a charming and humor-filled traditional mystery with probably the most unusual detective sidekick in the history of the genre.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

This review made me smile

I had to smile when I stumbled upon this review from the Mystery Librarian for Pariah, especially her first line:

Pariah by Dave Zeltserman is one of those few novels that leave me reeling and speechless at the end of it!

Others in the past had written similarly about Pariah. The Bookbag in their review wrote "It happens rarely, but sometimes you get to the end of a book and what has gone before leaves you speechless." The Washington Post called me a sick puppy because of Pariah, but also picked Pariah as one of the best books of 2009. And so on.

I'll always be thankful to Serpent's Tail for publishing Pariah. In today's climate there's no way any other publisher would've ever taken on a crime novel this dark and subversive.

Monday, June 20, 2011

"one of the best characters out there in mystery and suspense"

Another superb Julius Katz and Archie mystery! Their are clues revealed through-out for the reader to try and figure out who the killer is, with Archie leading the way. But Julius always does something "off-screen" to trip Archie up. The plot it tight and sound, having this reader guessing the whole way while being thoroughy entertained! Archie is one of the best characters out there in mystery and suspense. Very cleverly written -- I can't wait for the next one!

I'd like to thank Wendy over at the Minding Spot for her review of Julius Katz and Archie.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

New look for Dying Memories

I love this new look for Dying Memories, and to celebrate this new cover I'll be giving free copies out to the first 5 people who ask for one, just let me know whether you want a kindle or nook version.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Kingdom Books--Tomorrow

I'm making my 3rd trip to one of my favorite bookstores tomorrow--Kingdom Books in Waterford, VT. I'll be there from 11-12:30 reading and signing Outsourced, as well as talking about other books. And if anyone's interested in ordering a signed copy of any of my books, these are the people to call!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Reviews and Interviews

Over the last week a whole bunch of reviews of my books and interviews with me have shown up on the web.

First, the reviews and interviews from Man Eating Bookworm:

Me and Archie chatting
An interview with me
Julius Katz and Archie review
Killer review
Outsourced review

Hydraulic Blog Splitter review for Outsourced

Somebody Dies review for The Caretaker of Lorne Field

Translation of the French newspaper, Libération's, review of Small Crimes.

Kicking off new interview series with Ian Rowan at More News From Nowhere

Talking with Allan Guthie over at Criminal-E

Interview at The Examiner

Review for On Dangerous Ground over at Randall Johnson's blog (not the baseball pitcher!)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Julius Katz and Archie Day!

Today is the official release date for Julius Katz and Archie, and here's my online press release.

The Man Eating Bookworm's review for Julius Katz and Archie

Paul Brazill's review

Joe Barone's review.