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

Friday, November 27, 2015

Another Pariah excerpt

Later that night the two of us were walking into Scolley’s, and from the shine on both of us people knew something was up. A grin stretched across Joe’s face as we approached the bar.

"What?” he asked.

“What do you mean what?”

“Kyle, don’t keep me in suspense. Spill it, lad.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Joe.”

He gave me a suspicious look. After he poured me a pint of Guinness and Nola a glass of white wine, I commented how I might’ve been contacted by a book publisher.

He raised an eyebrow at me. “No kidding?” he said.

I drained half my ale before looking back at him, my own smile growing as wide as his own. Nola let loose with a giggle next to me.

“A two-book deal,” I said. “A six hundred thousand dollar advance.”

Joe’s jaw dropped. Then I swear, tears of joy popped up in his eyes. He reached over the bar to hold my hand in both of his.

“That is wonderful news, Kyle,” he said. “With this you should be able to put the old days behind you and have a fresh start.” He turned to smile at Nola. “And what a beautiful young lass to start a new life with.”

Nola’s tiny fingers squeezed my hand tight on hearing that. I nodded to Joe and played along. Of course that wasn’t what it meant. Me, a new career as a writer? What a fucking joke. But if some dumbass publisher wanted to pay me that kind of money, let him. Six hundred thousand would get me started in my hunt for Red and what was left of it would be a nice stake in getting me back in the game. I had no plans to leave my old ways behind, at least not until I found a way to make up for the two mil I lost.

Bill Nealy was sitting at a corner table slouched over as he nursed a beer, his head so low to the table that his nose nearly dipped into his glass. I excused myself from Joe so I could give Nealy his car keys back. He nearly broke out blubbering as I handed them to him.

“Oh, Jesus, Kyle, bless you, you have no idea how much I appreciate this.” He wiped a hand across his eyes and bit down hard to keep his emotions in check. “I didn’t know how I was going to handle the lease payments if I was going to have to do something like that.”

I slipped him a hundred. Fuck, in the mood I was in, why not?

“Chrissakes, Bill,” I said. “Don’t you know when a guy’s joking with you? Anyway, you did me a solid loaning me your car like you did. I won’t forget it.”

Nealy looked like he wanted to kiss me full on my lips. I moved away before something embarrassing like that happened. When I rejoined Nola and Joe, word of my upcoming book deal had spread and folks within Scolley’s were coming over to offer their congratulations. During it all I noticed one guy sitting at a table across the way staring bullets at me. I’d never seen him before. He was in his late thirties, had kind of a stocky build, wire-rimmed glasses, dark messy hair and a thick stubble that showed he hadn’t shaved in days. I asked Joe about him and he shrugged, told me he was one of the gentrified newcomers who’d been coming to Scolley’s off and on for the last couple of months. I tried to ignore the guy and simply enjoy the moment but I kept feeling his angry stare on my back. I finally had enough and walked over to him.

“What the fuck’s your problem with me?” I asked him.

He seemed startled by that. He lowered his eyes and tried to act as if he hadn’t been openly glaring at me.

“Oh, no, nothing,” he mumbled uncomfortably. He shifted in his chair and brushed his hand through his hair, leaving it even messier than before. “Did I hear right? Did you really just get a two-book deal with a six-hundred thousand advance?”


“Do you mind if I ask who with?”

“Harleston Books.”

He nodded as if he knew about them.

“That’s a good publisher,” he said. “Do you mind if I ask what your book is about?”

“I don’t know. They haven’t told me yet what they want.”

He blinked at me several times. He must’ve thought I was joking. When he realized I wasn’t, he frowned severely, asked, “You haven’t written your first book yet?”

“Fuck no.”

“Then why did they make you this offer?”

“You don’t recognize me?”

He shook his head.

“Kyle Nevin,” I said. “I’m the guy the FBI tried to frame for that kidnapping in Boxboro.”

He stared at me blankly, then nearly doubled over laughing. Watching him laugh like that I could feel my throat tightening and the heat rising from my neck. I clenched my fists and moved closer to him.

“What’s so fucking funny?” I asked.

“Jesus, I’m sorry.” He wiped some tears from his eyes and tried to control himself but still broke out with a couple of snorts. “I’m not laughing at you. Just my own sad sorry situation. I have an MFA in creative writing and spent three years working on my first novel. After a year and a half of sweating I was able to find an agent who has since gotten my novel into a number of houses, including Harleston Books, where editors have wanted to acquire it only to be shot down by their marketing boards because I wasn’t a name, and they didn’t want to risk spending the money to promote a book by someone who wasn’t a name.”

“What does MFA stand for—Motherfucka?”

He laughed. “It could just as well stand for that. Makes as much sense as anything else.”

I gave him a hard eye before backing away.

“Here’s a suggestion,” I said. “Instead of bitching and moaning to strangers about your problems, why don’t you go out and make a fucking name for yourself. Rob a few banks. That will do it.”

He nodded and pushed himself to his feet, drunk enough that he wobbled a bit as he stood. As he studied his feet, his smile faded and his face turned darker and grimmer.

“Solid advice, but I think instead I’ll go home and fill the tub with hot water and slit my wrists,” he said.

I nodded, told him that would get his name in the papers also. I watched as he stumbled out of Scolley’s. Always has to be some fucker trying to rain on your parade. I rejoined Nola, Joe and the rest of my well-wishers and made a night of it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Review of At the End of a Dull Day by Massimo Carlotto

AT THE END OF A DULL DAY by Massimo Carlotto is the kind of tough, take-no-prisoners crime novel that had me falling in love with the genre back when I was a kid reading Spillane, Cain, and Hammett. The anti-hero of this novel, Giorgio Pellegrini, is not a nice man, to put it lightly. He’s at least as ruthless as my own Kyle Nevin, and he might even be more of a sociopath. Earlier in his life, Giorgio had been a criminal and a terrorist, now thanks to his benefactor, the Honorable Counselor Brianese, his record has been scrubbed clean and he owns a popular restaurant in the Veneto region of Italy where Brianese operates in the backroom taking bribes and conducting shady government business. Giorgio might be living a more respectable life now, but he keeps his fingers dirty, operating a small prostitution ring wth his old friend, ex-lover, and partner Nicoletta which he uses to supply Brianese and his political cronies. The way Giorgio disposes of these prostitutes every six months so that they can’t accumulate any secrets that can harm the Honorable Brianese is particularly cruel. But as I mentioned earlier, Giorgio is not a nice man. Even without learning about what he does to these prostitutes, all you have to do is see the way he dominates every aspect of his wife’s life to make her little more than a docile servant to understand that.

So life is good for Giorgio. He’s wealthy, respected, living for him a nice dull life. And then shit happens. Brianese decides to steal two million euros that Giorgio had entrusted with him to invest. When Giorgio leaves Brianese a message by breaking into the Honorable Counselor’s home and disfiguring the maid with brass knuckles, shit really happens. Instead of Brianese taking the intended message--that Giorgio isn’t someone to be messed around with—he now looks at Giorgio as a savage who needs to be removed. And that’s really where the beauty of this novel shows up—as despicable as Giorgio might be, with all the double-crosses that follow, which include being sold out to the mafia, you can’t help but root for Giorgio as he tries to claw his way back to the way things were before Brianese’s initial betrayal.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Excerpt from PARIAH

I started the car up and told her it was a long story not worth getting into. She kept pestering me, though, wanting to know why that old woman slapped me, and even more, why I let her. To shut her up I slid my right hand under her skirt while handling the steering wheel and a cigarette with my left. The streets were in bad shape and we hit quite a few potholes on the way to Atlantic Ave., and with each one Nola dug her nails hard into my hand. By the time we reached her address my own hand was bleeding while her skin had flushed a bright feverish pink. Her building was one of those new luxury ones that were popping up along Boston’s waterfront to take advantage of all the white-bread suburbanites loaded with money wanting to move back to the city. I pulled up next to a fire hydrant, shook loose the last cigarette from the pack and sat thinking.

“Let’s leave the car here,” she said, her voice a breathless whisper.

“You got any coke?”

“I don’t need any. You’ve got my head pounding as it is. Come on, let’s go inside.”

“You didn’t answer me. You got any either on you or inside?”

“No, I don’t do coke. Come on, let’s get you inside… me.” She giggled over her pun, then pulled on my arm but I didn’t budge. After thinking some more I told her to get out. That I was going to be heading back home alone. She looked at me as if I were speaking in some foreign language that she didn’t understand.

“Let me make this plainer for you,” I said. “Get the fuck out of my car.”

“What’s going on?”

“I decided I don’t want to fuck any hole that willingly accepted Tom Dunleavy’s two inches. Now get the fuck out while you still have some teeth in your mouth.”

Her jaw dropped as if she’d been slapped. Then with her eyes narrowing and her dark face mottling with anger, she commented how I must’ve turned queer while in prison. That I was sucking on cigarettes all night because of some oral fixation. Being generous, I pretended not to hear her and asked her to repeat what she said. She realized that she better not and fortunately left the car without saying another word. I watched her storm away, her small hands clenched tightly into fists. As I stared almost hypnotically at the shape her ass made bouncing under her tight miniskirt, I cursed myself for drinking as much as I had that night. In the old days before prison it wouldn’t have mattered, but back then I was in my early thirties, not forty-two like I was now. I also had some tolerance for alcohol. Now I felt nothing below the waist. Not even a stirring. The alcohol had left me dead down there. That was why I had pushed her away earlier when she tried reaching for my zipper. The same reason I had taken the side trip to Mary’s, hoping to talk her into putting a pot of coffee on. I badly wanted to sober up so I could give Nola what she was wanting. A few lines of coke might’ve done the trick, but without that there was no hope, and I couldn’t risk her spending the night flogging on a dead piece of flesh only so she could spread the word about it later at Scolley’s.

I closed my eyes for a moment picturing what could’ve been, then cursed myself one last time before performing an illegal U-turn and heading back to Danny’s.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Demons makes the cut!

I was happy to see The Boy Who Killed Demons, which was published earlier this year in the UK and came out recently in the US as a paperback, made TheBookBag's list of 10 best fantasy novels of 2015.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Get some Bad Thoughts!

I wrote Bad Thoughts in 1998 after Fast Lane, and it's a pretty wild mix of horror and crime. It was originally published by Five Star in 2007, and I have a kindle version of it on sale now for $0.99. Here's what some people have said about it:

"Dark, brutal, captivating -- this is one hell of a book, the kind of book that doesn't let go of you once you start it. Dave Zeltserman is clearly the real deal." Steve Hamilton, Edgar Award-winning author of THE LOCK ARTIST

"BAD THOUGHTS is a fast moving occult thriller, with taut dialgoue and smart, likeable characters. Darkness pervades the Bay State in the late 1990's and Detective Bill Shannon will be lucky to solve a standard missing person's case in one piece. In fact, as the story unfolds we see that death an dismemberment could be the least of Bill's worries. Pour yourself a fifth of Scotch, get an easy chair, grab a protective talisman and enjoy" Adrian McKinty, author of DEAD I WELL MAY BE and HIDDEN RIVER

"This is high octane noir, dazzling in it's sheer vivacity. I didn't like this book, I adored it" Ken Bruen, author of THE GUARDS

"BAD THOUGHTS is one of those books that has been under the radar all year, yet deserves to be discovered by a wider audience" Bruce Grossman, Bookgasm.com

"If you're looking for a hardboiled anybody-can-die-at-any-time book that's a change of pace from the usual, look no further." Bill Crider

"A compellingly clever wheels-within-wheels thriller. An ingenious plot, skillfully executed" Elliott Swanson, Booklist

"This fast-paced, gritty psychological tale balances the fine line between mystery and horror" Library Journal

"Bad Thoughts is an ambitious genre-bender combining the paranoia and existential dread of the best noir with a liberal dash of The Twilight Zone. Not to be missed." Poisoned Pen's Booknews

Monday, November 9, 2015

KILLER moving up!

It looks like KILLER is now #7 on this list of Germany's best books of 2015!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Baltimore Public Library on MONSTER

 Baltimore Public Library's review of Monster from 2012:

"Wanton debauchery, an all-consuming thirst for vengeance, satanic worship, madness, an undead predator-- any of these characteristics could be utilized to describe a monster. Readers encounter a plethora of individuals that qualify for this label in Dave Zeltserman’s new release Monster. In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the creature fashioned from different human body parts and brought to life by Victor Frankenstein is easily classified as the monster. Zeltserman’s novel is the story of the unfortunate and unwitting brain donor used in the mad doctor’s creation. Written in a style that mirrors Shelley’s original work, this is a dark and menacing tale about a tortured man trapped in the body of an abomination.

 Friedrich Hoffman is a young man convicted of killing his betrothed a week before their marriage. After suffering an agonizing and horrendous death on the wheel, he awakens on a slab in Frankenstein’s laboratory. His intelligence and memory are intact and he quickly comes to suspect his creator’s involvement in his beloved’s death as well as his own false conviction. The black magic employed in the creature’s reanimation leave Friedrich powerless to exact revenge on his enemy. Friedrich is not the only innocent victim to be ensnared in Frankenstein’s web. Something even more sinister and disturbing is planned in an abandoned castle in a remote mountainous region south of Geneva. Friedrich’s remaining humanity is called into question as he struggles with whether to intervene or be complacent with the sordid plans of Frankenstein and the evil Marquis de Sade.

 Monster is a gripping gothic horror tale, brilliantly told. Zeltserman is an accomplished author of mystery, horror and noir. He has earned the Shamus, Derringer and Ellery Queen's Readers' Choice awards and could very well be on track to another winner with Monster.