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

Tuesday, March 27, 2018


To Morris Brick: I’m just beginning—R. G. Berg, Serial Killer Extraordinaire.

That’s the taunting note left pinned to the grisly remains of a well-known Hollywood actress. In MALICIOUS, the third thriller in the series, former LAPD detective and famed serial killer hunter, Morris Brick, is drawn into chasing the SPM killer (you’ll have to read the book to find out what SPM stands for—but trust me, the killer is not at all happy about this name. In fact, he’s deeply insulted by it!)

Morris and the rest of his team will learn that the SPM killer has constructed an elaborate Rube Goldberg death machine, and that this victim is only the first domino in the machine to fall. If the rest of the dominos are allowed to fall hundreds of thousands of people in Los Angeles will die.

Since the concept of the Rube Goldberg machine inspired  me to write MALIOUS, let me provide a little background about it. Reuben (Rube) Goldberg (1883-1970) was a Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist known for his zany contraption machines; such as an ingenious automatic mouth-wiper for soup eaters. In this cartoon, the action of a man lifting a soup spoon to his mouth causes a cracker to be thrown into the air, which then causes a parrot to jump off its pedestal to snatch this airborne cracker, which causes a further sequence of events, all leading to a napkin swinging down and wiping the man’s mouth. Anyone who has ever played the old game Mouse Trap or has watched a Wallace & Gromit cartoon has seen a Rube Goldberg Machine in action! You can find videos of more of these machines on YouTube. Here’s one that would’ve made Rube Goldberg proud!

One of the things I enjoy about writing Morris Brick thrillers is that while there’s a certain familiarity with each of them—they all have tough-as-nails Morris Brick and the same supporting cast, including his clownish, loveable, and loyal bull terrier, Parker, his smart and supportive wife, Natalie, his beautiful and steely-eyed daughter, Rachel, and the odd assortment of employees at Morris Brick Investigations (MBI)—they’re still very different from each other. In the first in the series, DERANGED, the book upends the reader’s expectation halfway through, completely altering what the reader thought was true. In the second, CRAZED, an interloper crashes the party and changes everything for both the killer and Morris. In writing MALICIOUS, I needed to construct a plot that was every bit as intricate as the Rube Goldberg death machine the SPM killer has so carefully built. In the fourth book, CRUEL (Sept. 2018), Morris must first unravel two older mysteries before he can track down the killer. And the fifth, UNLEASHED (March 2019), is a twisted psychological thriller. In all these books the killers have very different motivations, and Morris and his team face unique challenges in each of them.

So that begs the obvious question: what is a Rube Goldberg death machine? In the SPM killer’s mind, it is artwork of such majestic grandeur that it will leave the world gasping in awe. Any sane person would think it’s a living nightmare that could only be imagined by a lunatic. To discover for yourself what it is, again, you’ll have to read the book!

Publishing day for MALICIOUS

Monday, March 12, 2018

First paragraphs

Sometimes the first paragraph in a book is a short sentence, sometimes it's a longer paragraph. I've put together here all my first paragraphs.


Labor Day weekend is always a good time to pick up students hitchhiking, but that wasn’t why I pulled into the rest stop on the Massachusetts Turnpike. While I had fourteen empty burlap sacks in the back of the van that needed to be filled before heading back home, along with more than
enough rope and gags to take care of things, I didn’t expect to be picking up any of them here. While there’s always the chance of finding a hitchhiker at a place like this, it’s a small one and I was expecting that most of the stragglers I’d be getting would be in cities off the Turnpike. Hartford, Bridgeport, and if need be, New Haven. For this trip I hoped to get mostly students. They were generally healthier and leaner than the usual types – the prostitutes, drifters, homeless, and other such stragglers that I’d often have to collect. Students also tended to carry more books, clothes, and money on them than those others, all of which was good to bring back to the homestead. If I ended up needing those others to fill up the back of the van, I would. But I was hoping for mostly students.

CRUEL written as Jacob Stone 

The rat grew frantic in its efforts to escape the trap, its front claws a blur as they scratched against the wire mesh. This one was older than the juveniles already collected, and showed the scars of a lifetime spent skulking through Los Angeles alleyways and sewers. Half of one ear had been torn off, its grayish-black fur matted, and a dozen wounds scabbed over. While the rat was larger than the others, it was still emaciated enough to be able to squeeze through a hole the size of a quarter. Rats like this one were crucial for what was coming.


A wet, stickiness covers my right hand. I don’t want to look down at it, not yet anyway, and I squeeze my eyes closed instead. As I stand there in the shadows I try to remember how not too long ago I had a life. Fuck, I actually had work, a wife, a home, friends, even a future. And now look at me. My mind wanders as I find myself wondering how I arrived at this point. These thoughts are fleeting.

MALICIOUS written as Jacob Stone

The killer sat naked in front of the mirror and put in the cosmetic contact lenses to change his eyes
from brown to blue. Nine months ago, he’d shaved his head, and since then used a razor each week to keep up his bald appearance. He now carefully attached a hairpiece to his scalp that made him look as if he had neatly trimmed sandy brown hair. It was an expensive hairpiece, and the killer was pleased with the way it altered his appearance. After taking a moment to admire the hairpiece, he glued on a matching goatee. Earlier that morning he had shaved off his eyebrows, and he now glued on fake ones that were the same color as the hairpiece and goatee. He had other fake eyebrows that matched his natural hair color. Later when he removed his disguise, he would use those until his eyebrows grew back.


Dan Willis watched through a pair of binoculars as his target left his house through a side door to collect the morning newspaper. The target was one Brian Schoefield. Age thirty-seven, average height, and carrying an extra sixty pounds that made him appear soft with fat sausage-like arms and legs. He wore a bathrobe and slippers, both worn and tattered, and Willis could make out that Schoefield also wore a stained tee shirt under his robe. Probably boxers, too, but that was only a guess on Willis’s part. Overall, Schoefield had a pasty look about him.

CRAZED written as Jacob Stone
Griffin Bolling broke out laughing, partly from outrage, but mostly from the lunacy of what he was reading.


My name’s Henry Dudlow. I’m fifteen and a half, and I’m cursed. Or damned. Take your pick.

DERANGED written as Jacob Stone

As usual, Henry Pollard made sure that he was so gentle that he could’ve been cleaning dust off a dragonfly’s wing as he sponged the soap suds from his wife’s ruined body. He tried not to think about how much Sheila had physically deteriorated, but at times he’d let his guard down and his thoughts would absently drift to the subject, and it would stun him. The accident happened five years ago, back when his wife was only thirty-three. A robust woman brimming with strength and good health, and at five feet six inches and one hundred and forty-five pounds, she certainly wasn’t overweight, more buxom and full-figured. To Henry, she had been breathtakingly beautiful.


For far too many years Victor Frankenstein’s outrageous fabrication has stood unchallenged. I cannot 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 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. And, despite my hardest efforts, I have not been able to leave it.


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.

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.


Jack Durkin let out a groan as his wife, Lydia, dropped a bowl of corn flakes in front of him.


“What do I want from you? Simple. Find out who’s planning to kill me.”


The bar was mostly empty, which was typical for a Wednesday at two in the afternoon. Dan Wilson had the bartender pour him a Guinness Draft and a Harpoon IPA, and brought the beers back to a table in the corner where his companion, Shrinivas Kumar, sat waiting.


“What if I gave them Salvatore Lombard?”


To Ed.: I was more than a bit rushed in writing this, as I’m sure you can tell from both what follows and all the newspaper accounts that must’ve come out since. All I had time for was one quick read through and scribbling a few notes. Feel free to use them as you wish. – K. N.


This was going to be our last game of checkers. Usually we played in my cell; this last game, though, we were playing in Morris’ office. Over the last seven years we had played tens of thousands of games. Every fourth or fifth game I’d win, the rest I’d let him beat me.


The fingers on his right hand—the ones that had been broken and mangled when he was thirteen—were being squeezed hard, forcing him to move through the cold and darkness. He tried to fight it, tried to see who it was behind him, but the grip on his fingers tightened, heightening the pain. He gave up and let himself be pushed forward


Bill Shannon ran hard from his apartment to the juice and coffee shop on the eastern end of Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall where he was going to meet Eli Rosen. He did this partly to keep from being any later than the extra ten minutes Eli had given him, and partly as a challenge to see whether he could run a half mile in under three minutes. When he arrived at Juiced Up he leaned forward, resting his hands on his knees while trying to get his breathing under control. A quick look at his watch showed that he had made it in just over three minutes. His eyes wandered down his wrist to the stubs where his ring and middle fingers used to be. Five and a half years ago they were ripped from his hand. This was the first time since then that he had gone out in public with his damaged right hand exposed. He
straightened up and entered the shop.


If I was lucky Debra Singer was still in Denver, and if she was, East Colfax would be a good bet. East Colfax was always a good bet for runaway teenagers.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018


More about my 3rd Morris Brick thriller MALICIOUS

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Urban Book Club -- Friday 7 pm EST

I'll be hosting the Urban Book Club Friday night (tomorrow)  at 7 pm EST. So send your questions via their app!