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

Friday, September 30, 2011

Boston Globe's revew for A Killer's Essence

Here's the Boston Globe's review for A Killer's Essence that ran on Sept. 1st.

In ‘A Killer’s Essence,’ a writer at top of his game
September 01, 2011|By Ed Siegel

A KILLER’S ESSENCE By Dave Zeltserman

Overlook, 240 pp., $23.95

Dave Zeltserman has had to put himself in the shoes of any number of disreputable types in his estimable noir novels - hit men, out-of-control cops, old coots who think they’re saving the world by weeding a field. Now, in “A Killer’s Essence,’’ comes the ultimate in empathizing with the dark side. Zeltserman, who lives and dies with the Red Sox, creates a protagonist who - the horror - is a Yankees fan.
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Zeltserman, though, proves no masochist, setting the story in 2004. Should you need a reminder, that’s the year the Red Sox came back from a 3-0 deficit against New York to win the pennant and then to take the World Series, reversing the 86-year-old Curse of the Bambino. Why is this important in a murder mystery? Because Brooklyn detective Stan Green is something of a mess. He is approaching his 40s; his wife has divorced him and taken the two kids off to Rhode Island; his boss busts his chops at every opportunity; his new girlfriend is a bimbo named Bambi; his partner is laid up in a hospital; and his son is so angry at him that, under the tutelage of his stepfather, he has become a Red Sox fan. The eventual demise of his beloved Yankees is one more nail in his psychological coffin.

But while it’s fun for formerly long-suffering Red Sox fans to relive the glory days, the 2004 playoffs are the sideshow. The main event is Green’s attempt to unravel three murders in which the bodies have been grotesquely mutilated. Few writers are Zeltserman’s equal in setting up the chessboard with obsessive perps and depressive cops. And it isn’t always easy in the world of noir fiction to tell the difference between the two.

A major arbiter in this tale should be Zachary Lynch, who witnessed one of the murders. The problem is that Lynch suffers from lesions in the brain from a previous trauma, and he sees nothing but horrific hallucinations when looking at certain people.

Just Green’s luck. But if you’re thinking this development is too far-fetched, it turns out to be a superb, perhaps metaphysical metaphor for the evil and sadness in the world. The chapter in which Lynch details his affliction, and tells Green why he sees holes instead of eyes when he looks at the detective, is one of the finest pieces of writing Zeltserman has penned.

And that’s saying something because Zeltserman’s lean but muscular style, so evident in “Killer’’ and “The Caretaker of Lorne Field,’’ is just as sharply honed here. His ability to juggle Green’s story and Lynch’s, develop a riveting murder mystery, and even mix in some Brighton Beach ex-KGB sleazeballs, all in less than 250 pages, is a pretty neat page-turning trick.

Actually, I wish he had taken a little more time to weave in more from the playoff series - or is that just the Red Sox fan in me talking? A couple of other cavils: Green should have been more aware of the danger he was putting his family in by taking on the Russian mob, and - I’m not giving anything away - the penultimate suspect would have made a more satisfying murderer.

Perhaps this is all like complaining that the Red Sox were almost swept by the Yankees in 2004. Ultimately they were a memorable winner. So is “A Killer’s Essence.’’

Ed Siegel, a longtime former theater and television critic for the Globe, can be reached at esiegel122@comcast.net.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

More on the film deal for A Killer's Essence

From today's Publisher's Marketplace:

"Dave Zeltserman's A KILLER'S ESSENCE, a homicide detective looking into a remarkably violent murder finds his only witness is a neurologically disabled recluse able to see into the souls of others -- and as more murders occur, the witness proves terrifyingly perceptive, to Martina Broner and Frida Torresblanco at Braven Films"

Film deals are always a crap shoot, but with how passionate Frida and the rest of Braven Films are about my book, I feel pretty good that a film version of A Killer's Essence will be made. Back in May my wife and I met with Frida for several hours in NY to talk about this, and the deal might've taken a little longer than I might've hoped to come together, but it's done now and I'm looking forward to seeing how this progresses, and I'd like to thank my agent, Chip MacGregor at MacGregor Literary for seeing this through. A little bit about Frida, before starting Braven Films, she produced many terrific movies, including Pan's Labyrinth, and I feel confident she's going to make something special with A Killer's Essence.

About the vagaries of film deals--two months I thought I'd be announcing a film deal for The Caretaker of Lorne Field. We had a deal agreed to, but then it slipped away at the last second. But I still have one of the hottest new directors wanting to make it, and a producer working to get a deal put together, so there's still a chance that it will happen.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

First sighting of A Killer's Essence

I was in Brookline today and spotted a stack of A Killer's Essence at the Brookline Booksmith, which is really a great bookstore, one of the best I've been to. I'm still waiting for my author copies, so this was my first chance to see the book and it looks great.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Killer's Essence -- Chapter 1 (also available for Nook and Kindle)

Here's the first chapter of A Killer's Essence. It's a short one, but I've also got Nook and Kindle versions for anyone preferring that--just send me email letting me know whether you'd prefer a Nook or Kindle file.


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.

This one afternoon it was just Mike and me. We had just spent a half hour in Bob’s Drugstore thumbing through the comic books until the owner got fed up with us and told us to buy something or leave. Mike spent a dime on a Skybar candy bar. He broke off the caramel piece for me and we left anyway. While we were walking past the fish market a man came out and offered us five bucks to clean up the backroom. Mike wanted that five bucks, but something about the man made me grab onto Mike’s arm and pull him back while shouting “No!” repeatedly as if I were demon possessed. Mike looked at me as if I was nuts, and I thought he was going to punch me, but that wouldn’t have stopped me from what I was doing. A couple of older men from the neighborhood wandered over to see what the commotion was about, and the man from the fish market started to look nervous. He told us to forget it and he went back into his store.

“What’d you do that for, Stan?” Mike demanded, his narrow face taut and angry. “Five bucks! You know what we could’ve bought for five bucks? Are you stupid?”

At this point I was crying. I couldn’t explain to him why I did what I did. I couldn’t say it out loud. I couldn’t have him think I was even nuttier than he already thought I was. Anyway, all I wanted was for us to get away from there, so I kept pulling on his arm, using every ounce of strength I had to drag us away from that store. One of the neighborhood men gave me a concerned look and told Mike that he should take his little brother home. Mike looked pissed, but he did what the man asked him to. All the way home he kept asking what was wrong with me.

Later at dinner Mike told our folks what had happened and how I cost us five bucks. Pop asked why I did what I did, but I couldn’t explain it to him. He shook his head, disappointed-like, and gave me a lecture about the value of money, but left it at that.

The next night while we were eating dinner, Mr. Lombardi from down the hall knocked on our door. Chucky Wilson, who was a year older than Mike, hadn’t come home yet from school and he wanted to know if either Mike or I had seen him or knew anything. We didn’t. He looked tired as he apologized for interrupting our dinner. Pop asked him if they needed any more help looking for Chucky. Mr. Lombardi thought about it, but shook his head and told Pop to finish his dinner and if they still hadn’t found Chucky in another hour he’d let Pop know. After Mr. Lombardi left I told Pop that Chucky was with that man from the fish market.


“That man from the fish market must’ve promised Chucky five bucks also. That’s where Chucky is!”

“Stan, quit talking nonsense,” Mom said.

“I’m not! I’ll bet anything that’s where Chucky is!”

“Stop it now!” Pop ordered. “Christ, I don’t know how you get these ideas.”

None of us had much of an appetite after that, Mike and me mostly pushing our food around our plates and Pop staring off into space. After a while of that he got up and left the table and then the apartment. He didn’t bother saying anything to Mom about where he was going. She looked like she was fighting hard to keep from crying.

It turned out that Pop collected other men from the neighborhood and they visited the fish market. They broke into the store and found the man who had offered Mike and me five bucks. He was in the back room chopping up what was left of Chucky. I didn’t learn that part until recently, but that’s what they found. It was days after that when Pop asked me how I knew where Chucky would be. I couldn’t explain it to him, so I shrugged and told him I just knew.

For years I had convinced myself that none of that happened. That it was a dream I once had, or maybe a story I heard, or something from a movie or TV show that I saw as a kid. After meeting Zachary Lynch, I started remembering more about that day back when I was a seven year-old kid and thinking that maybe it wasn’t just a dream. I found the old newspaper stories about that man in the fish market and what he did to Chucky Wilson, and then dug out the police reports. My Pop had died when I was twenty and Mom is in no shape these days to remember anything, but I talked with Mike and he confirmed what happened. All those years we never talked about it, both of us pretending it never happened.

“What did you see that day, Stan?” he asked.

I shook my head and told him I didn’t know, and from the look on his face he seemed relieved to hear that. The fact is I did see something. When that man came out of the fish market wearing his stained apron over a pair of dirty khakis and even dirtier tee shirt, for a moment I didn’t see a man but something ghoulish, something from out of a nightmare. It only lasted a second, if that, and then he turned back into a balding and scrawny middle-aged man, but for that moment I saw something else.

Later, after talking with Mike, I sat quietly and remembered everything I could about that day and wrote it all down. After all those years I finally accepted what I saw. I still have never told anyone about this other than Zachary Lynch, and he’s the only person I know who would possibly understand.

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Killer's Essence in stock + film option sold

A Killer's Essence is now in stock at Amazon and BN.com and should be in bookstores soon. A film option has also been sold and I'll be writing more about that soon.

"a memorable winner" Boston Globe

“Detective Green is a believable character, down on his luck with little going for him but his job. Nonetheless, he meanders through life, precariously balancing all its myriad and conflicting facets, and coming out on top in this chilling page-turner attuned to the most discerning of avid crime lovers. Well written and well paced. Recommended.” New York Journal of Books

"Zeltserman’s signature creepiness is available here and there, but what really drives this novel is the engaging portrait of an honest, hardworking cop who, on the job and off, gives the best he’s got, knowing how rarely it will be enough." Kirkus Reviews

"A scary, keep-you-guessing thriller not to be missed." Elliott Swanson, Booklist

"This mix of police procedural, noir, spec lit, and domestic character study is entertaining and expertly plotted. Set against the backdrop of the 2004 ALCS, and the collapse of the Yankees against the Red Sox, New York City police detective Stan Greene investigates a brutal series of random murders while juggling (and dropping) the pieces of his personal life. Oh, and there’s a witness, a veritable shut-in who might be able to help despite his neurological damage and his demonic hallucinations. Like all of Dave’s novels, A KILLER’S ESSENCE is tightly plotted storytelling featuring realistically flawed and memorable characters." Paul Tremblay

Friday, September 16, 2011

Julius Katz's funeral

Yesterday afternoon I went to Julius's grave site funeral. It was a private affair and attended by about 200 Julius's close friends, including several dozen famous chefs who flew in from all over the world, with his only family being his younger sister, Julie, who I'll talk about later. It rained during most of the service, at times coming down in an angry downpour, which somehow seemed fitting. Lily Rosten wasn't there. From what I heard she collapsed on being given the news of Julius's death and has been hospitalized. After the services, Julius's favorite restaurant Le Che Cru, hosted what was meant to be a celebration for Julius's life for this gathering, and all these famous chefs went back to the kitchen to try to outdo each other. I'm sure the food was spectacular, but it was hard to notice since I had no appetite, but the wine was good, and I enjoyed listening to stories about Julius's childhood and other stories from later in his life. I wish Lily could've been there.

Julius in the past had told me about his sister, Julie. She's 32--ten years younger than Julius, and kind of "troubleshooter for difficult problems", and while Julius "dabbled" (5th degree black belt in Shaolin Kung Fu dabbling??) in martial arts as a way to keep fit, Julie takes it much more seriously and studied intensely in Japan for six years. He didn't tell me how stunningly beautiful she is, but even with her in mourning, she was beyond breathtaking. Julie and I talked privately later. She wanted any notes that Julius and Archie might've provided me, which I gave her, and she promised that she was going to track down whoever did this to Julius and see that justice is done, although I don't she meant seeing this person arrested. She seemed genuinely surprised when I told her the true nature of Archie--I guess like everyone else she thought Archie was a flesh and blood person and I was turning their true life cases into some sort of meta fiction, and she also promised to find Archie. Somehow I think Archie would be okay with her. I also had her read the last case I wrote up for Julius--the Quayle case which I titled "Archie Solves the Case", because I really don't know what to do with it given what has happened. Julie had maintained a stoic front through the service and afterwards, but as she read this case she broke down both laughing and crying, and wants me to publish it as a final tribute to Julius. I'm still not sure.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Reports out of Boston are that Julius Katz is dead

It's being reported this morning by the Boston Police that the body taken from Julius's townhouse has been identified by DNA testing as Julius leaving no question that Julius is dead. I've also learned that the blast originated in Julius's wine cellar, and it is believed that 8 pounds of C-4 were used. While the brick townhouse building is still standing, what I've heard is that the inside has been completely incinerated.

There's going to be a private funeral for Julius this Thursday. Julius's sister, Julie, called me earlier this morning and asked if I'd attend and I told her I would.

I'm still getting no answer when I try calling Archie. I talked to several scientists over the weekend, and according to them with Archie's titanium shell, he should've survived this blast. All I can hope is that Julius had gotten sufficiently annoyed enough at Archie to have turned him off before the blast, and that Archie will remain turned off and never have to realize what has happened. In many ways Archie is a pure innocent, and I don't think he'd be able to handle this well. My worst fear is that he's ended up in the hands of Desmond Grushnier and is being reprogrammed by Grushnier.

When I finished transcribing the Kingston case with Archie's and Julius's help, and wrote it as the true-crime book, Julius Katz and Archie, I had NY publishers all telling me the same thing--that Julius was an anachronism, that today's readers don't care about charming traditional mysteries or brilliant, eccentric detectives. At first I didn't believe this, but I'm now thinking they might be right and that's there's no place in today's world for someone like Julius.

I'll post more after the funeral.

Friday, September 9, 2011

A Killer's Essence over at B&N's Ransom Notes

Jedidiah Ayres compares A Killer's Essence to Turner & Hooch (in a good way) over at B&N's Ransom Notes.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

More on the explosion at Julius Katz's townhouse

I was able to talk with a grief-stricken Lily Rosten for several minutes this morning, and here's what I've found out:

A massive explosion occurred at five PM Tuesday at Julius's townhouse, with the police believing the explosion originated in Julius's wine cellar. I know from my work with Julius that he usually visits his wine cellar at five each evening to select a bottle, which he'll bring out to his patio.

A body has been removed from the townhouse. The body has been burnt beyond recognition, and a DNA test will be performed to see if it's Julius. The police have told Lily they expect to have the result by early next week.

There's nothing about Archie. I've tried calling him several times without any answer. I don't want to speculate any further, at least not until the police announce the results of their DNA test.

I'll report more here as news comes in.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Disturbing news about Julius Katz and Archie

Today I was going to wrap up my series about where the ideas for my books come from by writing about my 15th book, Julius Katz and Archie, but some very disturbing news is coming out of Boston about Julius. Hell, it's easy enough, I'll do in anyway, then get to the breaking news. Readers outside of Boston think that I'm doing some sort of pastiche on Nero Wolfe or Sherlock Holmes, and that a detective as brilliant and as accomplished as Julius couldn't be real. Readers here in Boston know Julius is real, but because of the way I write Archie, they think I'm writing some sort of meta fiction--taking a real person (Archie) and writing them as a tiny advanced piece of computer technology, and doing all this while writing about a real murder they've read about with this fictional device. Well, I'm not doing any of that. I'm simply taking all of Archie's journals and recordings, and cutting them down to either story or novel size. Basically I'm simply editing what Archie has already produced, with a little smoothing of the language here and there.

Now for the disturbing news. Reports are coming out of Boston that there's been an explosion at Julius's townhouse. I've tried calling Archie and have gotten no answer, and by itself that's very distressing. In the past Archie has always answered my calls immediately. I don't have a good feeling about this. Last week I was talking with Archie about the Anton Dupierre murder case Julius is embroiled in, and he was hinting that things were turning treacherous. I've put in calls to the police and Lily Rosten, and when I get more information I'll report about it back here.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Thrill of A Killer's Essence

In the current issue of The Big Thrill, they're running an interview with me mixed in with a review of A Killer's Essence.

Friday, September 2, 2011

NYJB on A Killer's Essence: "a chilling page-turner"

“Detective Green is a believable character, down on his luck with little going for him but his job. Nonetheless, he meanders through life, precariously balancing all its myriad and conflicting facets, and coming out on top in this chilling page-turner attuned to the most discerning of avid crime lovers. Well written and well paced. Recommended.”

You can read the New York Journal of Books complete review here.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Boston Globe: "A writer on top of his game"

And that’s saying something because Zeltserman’s lean but muscular style, so evident in “Killer’’ and “The Caretaker of Lorne Field,’’ is just as sharply honed here. His ability to juggle Green’s story and Lynch’s, develop a riveting murder mystery, and even mix in some Brighton Beach ex-KGB sleazeballs, all in less than 250 pages, is a pretty neat page-turning trick.

I'd like to thank the Boston Globe for their terrific review for A Killer's Essence. You can read the entire review here.

Next Wednesday I'll be wrapping up my series of where my book ideas come from with my 15th and so far final book, Julius Katz and Archie.