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

Friday, September 28, 2012

A MONSTER sighting in Baltimore

"Monster is a gripping gothic horror tale, brilliantly told."

I'd like to thank Jeanne over Baltimore County Public Library's blog, Between the Covers, for her review of MONSTER.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Monster in today's LA TIMES

MONSTER is reviewed in today's Sunday Los Angeles Times with Carlos Fuentes' Vlad (revisiting Frankenstein and Dracula).

More impressively, Zeltserman's plot maps almost perfectly onto the plot of Shelley's novel — the key word being "almost." In its departures, the novel provides more than its cover price in entertainment. Vampyres (Zeltserman's spelling) abound, as do Satanic cults and the Marquis de Sade, preparing to enact the 120 Days of Sodom in a remote mountain castle. You don't get much more gothic bang for your buck.

The prologue and first chapter are available here.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

MONSTER -- Prologue + Chapter 1

Next Event: Sept. 21st 7pm Harvard Coop in Cambridge,  MA


For far too many years Victor Frankenstein’s outrageous fabrication has stood unchallenged. I can not blame Captain Walton for his role in this, for he was most likely an honorable man who was duped by Frankenstein’s egregious lies; lies told for no other reason than to save the reputation and name of a sinister and black-hearted man, a man who had willingly spent his life in the service of the devil. Nor can I blame Mary Shelley for further putting these lies to paper once they had found their way to her. The truth, though, is that Frankenstein was hardly the tragic figure that he so skillfully presented himself as to Captain Walton, nor did he create his abomination out of a youthful, but misguided obsession. Instead, he was a man of a most depraved nature and spirit; his true intention being to create his own hell on earth. I know all of this because I, Friedrich Hoffmann of Ingolstadt, am the very same abomination that Frankenstein brought forth into the world.

Although the events that I put forth in this journal took place over two hundred years ago, they are still quite vivid in my mind. Victor Frankenstein’s villainous acts were numerous, as were his unfortunate victims, among whose ranks I can chiefly be included. I hope that I can now put his lies to rest and that the world will finally understand the true story, as horrible as it is.

As I write this, I can only pray that Frankenstein’s twisted soul is rotting in whatever crevice within hell it has surely sunk into.

--Friedrich Hoffmann

Chapter 1

First my feet were broken.

Then my ankles.

After that it was my shins. The cudgel’s next targets were my knees, shattering them as well.

I screamed, of course. I screamed with the first blow and I screamed with each additional one. How could any man being broken on the wheel not? Over my screams I heard the crowd that had been so exuberantly jeering for my blood silence themselves as if on command. For a moment it was only my screaming that filled the air. The moment did not last.

“Confess, Friedrich Hoffmann. Confess while you are still able to!”

The priest was once again demanding my confession. He had been the one to silence the crowd and momentarily stay the executioner’s hand.

Using every ounce of strength I had I stopped my screaming so that I could answer him.

“Am I to confess to a crime of which I am innocent?” I asked him through my ragged breathing. “Especially a crime as wicked as the one of which I am being accused? Would that not be a greater sin?”

I forced myself to meet the priest’s cold eyes. Eyes that held not a drop of pity.

“You will die without absolution if you do not confess,” he warned me in his thunderous voice. “Your unredemptive soul to be condemned to hell. Confess now!”

I looked away from him and did not answer. I could hear a grunt escape from the executioner’s lips and then my thigh bones were shattered. With that blow the roar of the crowd swallowed me up.

Madness would have been a welcome release, but somehow it never came. Even after the executioner had broken my hips and moved on to my upper body, the madness stubbornly refused to rescue me.

Deep within my heart I prayed.

My beloved Johanna, you must believe that I am innocent of what they claim. Death does not worry me, only the fear that these false accusations will keep me from you.

The blows from the cudgel had stopped. The priest kneeled by me so that his awful face was near mine, his lips moving in a cruel manner. I was beyond hearing his words. Instead I was swallowed up within a cacophony of sounds. The roar of the crowd, the priest’s words, my own screaming, all blending together into a deafening roar. Soon the priest disappeared and the executioner took his place. Just as all noises had blended together, so to did all my pain blend together. I wasn’t even aware that the executioner had sliced open my arms so that my mangled bones could be braided to the spokes of the wheel. It wasn’t until the wheel was lifted and I was suspended by my broken arms that I understood that this had happened, but the pain no longer mattered. I was beyond that.

I continued to pray.

Please, Johanna, I beg of you, be there waiting for me. This death will be a blessing if only I can look once more into your soft, lovely eyes…

The angry, hateful faces of the crowd dissolved into a gray blur. My eyes drifted upwards and I caught the flight of several black crows circling patiently overhead as they waited.

Johanna, always, I promise, always.
First the noises enveloping me disappeared. Then the pain. I found myself at peace and watched as the crows faded into blackness.

I know I died then. Nothing else would have been possible. So where was I? Purgatory? It had to be that. How could it be anything other than that? I couldn’t move. I couldn’t feel. I couldn’t see. Utter despair filled my being. If I were in purgatory how would I ever see my beloved Johanna again? But then as if to calm my fears a golden haze appeared before me and within it an image took shape. A face. My vision was too blurry for me to make out its details, but I knew it was a face. Of God? Who else could it be? As quickly as the despair had earlier come, so too now the joy and rapture that lifted me.

Words were spoken. The voice, though, was too soft for me to understand, and the words blurred together as if they were a hum intoned from far away.

And then I was in darkness again. Time crept intolerably slowly after that. It was agony as I waited to know what had happened to me. Worse even than what the executioner’s skillful cudgel had been able to inflict. Was that truly the face of God I’d seen before? And if it was, would I be reunited with my Johanna, or was I to spend eternity in purgatory, or worse!

My agony was suspended when once again a golden light filled my vision, and once again I was able to make out a face within its hazy glow, this time its features more distinct. The face appeared angelic, and my heart soared. And once more a voice spoke to me. While severely muffled, as if the speaker were under water, I could make out the words.

“How are we now, my magnificent creation? Still unable to move? Not to worry. That will pass as you grow stronger. You can see me, can you? Oh how I wish you could answer me!”

Although his words confused me, his angelic countenance soothed my fears. If I were indeed in purgatory, I would not be there for long. Darkness came quickly again, but this time I did not despair, although the loneliness I suffered had a heaviness to it that made me feel as if I were drowning. I concentrated to break this loneliness by picturing my Johanna. Her soft hazel eyes, the rosiness of her cheeks, her golden flowing hair, the way her face would light up when she smiled at me. I tried to remember the way her hand fitted so perfectly in mine as we would walk along the woods outside of town, and the warmth against my lips when I would steal a kiss from her cheek.

Something strange happened while I pictured my Johanna. I once again saw the same yellowish glow from before, but this time it was because I realized I had developed the strength to open my eyes. I let my eyes close and once again I was descended into darkness. I forced my eyes open and once more saw the same yellowish glow.

I had believed the angelic face that earlier had appeared and the darkness that followed were caused by heavenly forces, but I realized that instead my eyelids earlier had been forcibly opened. That was why I saw that face peering into mine. It was only a man who had pushed my eyelids open, not God giving me a vision.

As this knowledge became irrefutable within my mind, a horrible dread seized me. I had survived the executioner’s wheel. I wasn’t in purgatory, but instead still of this world. My body presumably lay wherever my host had brought me. Of course my body must be completely broken. But how was that possible? The executioner had shattered my bones, and yet I felt nothing. I knew the reason for this. My spine must have been broken as well as my limbs. I could open my eyes, but otherwise I was in a state of paralysis. But still, it made no sense. It was not possible to survive the injuries that the executioner had inflicted on me. I was a chemist, a man of science, and I understood that as well as anyone. And yet I was alive.

The golden glow that I had believed was the breath of God was in fact sunlight filtering in through a window. I struggled to keep my eyes open, and when the room later fell into darkness, I knew it was because night had arrived.

My host returned again that night. From the faint flickers of light that showed, I surmised that he had lighted candles and had placed them around me. My senses were growing stronger for although the odor was faint to me, I could smell something foul and wretched. Possibly it was a salve that my host had placed over my wounds. As a chemist I was familiar with many compounds and I tried to detect what this one could have been made from, but the odor came from substances I was unfamiliar with. While I tried to solve this vexing puzzle, I heard my host chanting. His voice was too low for me to understand his words or even the language being used, but the rhythmic chanting felt as if it were something thick and oppressive that weighed heavily on me. There was something unholy about it, something unnatural.

When the chanting ended and the candles were snuffed out and my host had departed, I understood the truth. That I was in the dwelling of a sorcerer.


"This is juicy material for Franken-fans, and Zeltserman is just faithful enough to the original that his many fresh contributions feel entirely normal. Well, abnormal, to be accurate, but deliciously so." Daniel Kraus, Booklist *Starred review*

"This reworking of Frankenstein is chilling and captivating!...A tale of justice, true love, and ultimate forgiveness, this gruesome novel is perfect for fans of Stephen King and similar horror stories." ForeWord Magazine, *Pick of the Week*

"a rich and fun response to Shelley's classic" Publisher's Weekly

"Magnificently horrific... a surprisingly profound reimagining of the Mary Shelley horror classic Frankenstein,... The obvious recommendation here is for horror fans and readers who loved Frankenstein but I would suggest Zeltserman’s Monster to literary and mainstream fiction readers as well. It’s an homage to Shelley’s classic, yes, but it’s also a powerful parable about having the courage to be ourselves" Paul Goat Allen, Barnes & Noble

"Dave Zeltserman’s Monster is an ingenious interpretation of Shelley’s tale...[his] highly readable style harmonizes beautifully with its 19th century European setting. Monster is a must-read for anyone who enjoys horror stories, and shivers when Boris Karloff’s pale fingers twitch back into life." Historical Novels Review

"Zeltserman follows Shelley’s roadmap just enough to infuse the proceedings with a degree of familiarity, yet his point of view and unique deviations from the original story make every page a joy to read.... MONSTER is a book that horror fans and literature aficionados can read with equal gusto." BookReporter

"MONSTER is Gothic horror that pulls no punches — a brutal ride through a hellish tale... likely one of the best books of 2012" Bruce Grossman, Bookgasm

"I flat out loved it... A graphic, brutal story with heart and soul"  Crimespree Magazine

"Zeltserman keeps the action moving relentlessly forward with minimal padding, either in terms of plot or prose. The action is tight and there’s no shade of purple in his style, but there’s plenty going on thematically." WBUR radio

"A masterpiece of originality, beauty, ugliness, eloquence, wisdom and power. And it's one hell of a page-turner as well." Ed Gorman

“This imaginative "revisionist" novel by thriller writer Zeltsersman is narrated by the man who woke up on Victor Frankenstein's lab table and found himself transformed into the monster.” Newsday

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Trade paperback of A KILLER'S ESSENCE out today!

The trade paperback of A KILLER'S ESSENCE is being released today. The film version for this is currently being developed by Braven Films, with Frida Torresblanco, who produced Pan's Labyrinth producing this . Here's what some folks said about this book when it came out last year as a hardcover:

"a memorable winner... 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." Boston Globe

"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

“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 is garnering quite a reputation for innovation in crime fiction, and his latest book shows why. Beginning with all the customary trappings of a world-weary cop yarn, the novel smoothly transitions into Zeltserman’s subtle, edgy brand of horror. Homicide detective Stan Green thinks his one lead to the identity of a serial killer just went south when Zachary Lynch, the only eyewitness, claims he only sees people’s souls, not their faces. As Green gradually learns more than he really wants to know about Lynch and the bizarre ability he claims to possess, the novel becomes a character-rich study of conflict between preconception and perception. Mix in a serial killer making his debut, and the tension just keeps coming. Zeltserman’s new work retains the honed-razor psychological insight of his award-winning The Caretaker of Lorne Field (2010). A scary, keep-you-guessing thriller not to be missed."  Elliott Swanson, Booklist

"In riveting narrative, Zeltserman illustrates what happens to a wounded man whose psychic powers outstrip his ability to cope. Think you’d like the power to see inside the dark hearts of others? Think again. How would it feel if, on the way to the office, we saw demons on the sidewalk, harpies on the subway? This is strong stuff, and the author is expert at sharing Zach’s horror, as well Green’s empathic reaction to it." Mystery Scene

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Stylish Recommendation for MONSTER

Style Magazine gives MONSTER a nice recommendation in their Then & Now section, saying:

Monster is a retelling of Frankenstein – from the monster’s point of view. Zeltserman, an award-winning up-and-comer in the horror world, remains faithful to the framework of the original Mary Shelley classic, but colors between the lines with shades of revenge and desperation that make for a gripping retelling of a classic favorite.

I'd also like to thank James Simpson, who I'm guessing is my biggest fan in Australia, for his review on Book Coasters, which he sums up with the following: "A must read novel for fans of the classic horror tale or anyone who is just after a really good read."

Finally, Publisher's Weekly might've been late with a review for MONSTER, but they put out a good one as a web-exclusive where they called MONSTER "a rich and fun response to Shelley's classic"