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Preview: Small Crimes

Small Crimes

Dark Crime Fiction from Dave Zeltserman

Updated: 2018-02-10T09:50:13.430-08:00


Another CRAZED excerpt


Regina Pence let out a shriek. Tim Pence broke out laughing. “You’re such a scaredy-cat.” “Shush. This is scary!” Pence smiled. He had his arm around Regina’s shoulders as they sat together in their living room, watching an early release of the serial-killer movie The Carver. One of the advantages of working for the studio was he was able to see movies six months before they were released. The movie showed the killer sneaking into his next victim’s house, but the camera abandoned him to focus on a young woman reading a book, and then they played the cheap trick of having her look up and gasp as she saw a face in the window at the same moment heightened music blasted. Of course, the face was her own reflection, but the trick got Regina sucking in her breath and drawing her body closer to Pence’s. His hand was hanging loosely over her shoulder, and his thumb flicked against the diamond necklace he’d given her while they were having dessert and coffee at Renaldo’s. She had loved it—as well she should’ve, given that it had set him back twenty grand. But as far as he was concerned, it was money well spent. For the first time in many months he felt as if they’d turned the corner. He was actually believing that Regina would truly be able to forgive him, and that they’d be able to move forward. As Pence watched the movie, he found himself absently thinking how fetching the blond actress was, and wondering whether he could get her name from the producer. He caught himself thinking this and forced the thought out of his mind. What the heck was wrong with him? To be thinking something like that after spending all these months winning back Regina’s trust? Still, she did look awfully appealing. Especially the way she was dressed in only a tight T-shirt and very short shorts. Jarring music blasted as the actress looked up again, and this time she was staring directly into the killer’s face. Regina clutched Pence’s arm tightly, and she squeezed her eyes shut so she wouldn’t see the knife slashing the actress’s face. Each time the actress screamed, Regina tightened her clutch on his arm. After ten seconds or so the screaming came to an abrupt end, and for several more seconds the sounds from the movie were of a knife slashing into flesh, coordinated with a blasting, screeching noise. After that ended, Regina asked if the killer was done. “For now,” Pence said. She opened her eyes and moved even closer to him. Another loud screeching noise blasted as the killer caught his reflection in the window. Regina tilted her head to one side as if she were listening to something far away. “Did you hear that?” she asked. “Hear what?” “I thought I heard something in the kitchen.” Pence also tilted his head as if he were straining to hear noises within the house. “You’re right,” he said. All at once he dug his fingers into Regina’s side, tickling her. “It’s the mad carver,” he announced, laughing. “Stop it! Stop it! I’m serious!” It took Pence half a minute before he could stop laughing. He wiped several tears from his eyes. With an exaggerated sigh, he said, “If you’re going to be such a scaredy-cat, I’ll go check the kitchen. Keep the movie running. I’ll be right back.” Pence got up off the sofa. Regina bit her lip as she watched the Carver call the police to report his latest killing. She screamed as a pair of hands reached over the sofa and grabbed her by the shoulders. Her husband broke out laughing. “Sorry,” he said. “I just couldn’t resist.” She was furious with him, but she also couldn’t help laughing from the trick he’d played. “I ought to spank you later for that,” she said sternly. “Please do.” She twisted herself on the sofa so she could watch her husband leave the room. Only after that did she turn back to watch the movie. After the Carver had called the police to tell them about his latest killing, he took out a notepad that showed the name and address for his next victim. Even though Regina kept telling herself this was only a mo[...]

CRAZED on sale for $0.99!


My second Morris Brick thriller written under my Jacob Stone pseudonym CRAZED is on sale now for $0.99! Read it now so you'll be ready for MALICIOUS being published this March!

JULIUS KATZ AND ARCHIE on sale for $0.99


The Julius Katz detective stories have been a favorite among mystery fans since first appearing on the pages of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine in 2009, winning a Shamus, Derringer, and two Ellery Queen Readers Choice awards. JULIUS KATZ introduced readers to Boston's most brilliant, eccentric, and possibly laziest detective, as well as his sidekick, Archie, a tiny marvel of computer technology with the heart and soul of a hard-boiled PI.

In Julius Katz and Archie's first full-length mystery, the stakes have never been higher when a famous Boston mystery writer, Kenneth Kingston, tells Julius he wants to find out who's planning to kill him. The problem is almost everyone in Kingston's life has good reason to want to kill him, and this case soon plunges Julius and Archie deep into the world of murder and publishing.

On sale now for $0.99!

BLOOD CRIMES for $0.99


I've got my ultra-noir crime/horror novel BLOOD CRIMES on sale for $0.99 until Jan. 4th.

“I’ve just read the manuscript of Dave Zeltserman’s new novel, Blood Crimes. This is one of the few fresh takes on vampirism I’ve read in years. It’s as if Charles Bukowski sat down and said, OK, Bram Stoker, how about this?” Ed Gorman

“The prolific and wildly talented Dave Zeltserman serves up a fast, furious, frightening and (yes)funny orgy of bloodletting. Makes “Grindhouse” look like Little House on the Prairie.” Roger Smith

Read a short excerpt here.


A taste of Blood Crimes


“I’ve just read the manuscript of Dave Zeltserman’s new novel, Blood Crimes. This is one of the few fresh takes on vampirism I’ve read in years. It’s as if Charles Bukowski sat down and said, OK, Bram Stoker, how about this?” Ed Gorman“The prolific and wildly talented Dave Zeltserman serves up a fast, furious, frightening and (yes)funny orgy of bloodletting. Makes “Grindhouse” look like Little House on the Prairie.” Roger Smith BLOOD CRIMES is a genre-bending collision of horror, dark urban fantasy and crime that rides shot-gun with Jim and Carol as they carve a homicidal path cross-country. Jim is infected with the vampire virus. Carol isn’t. Yet. But they’re united in their hunt for society’s most dangerous predators for Jim’s dinner — so he can feed without harming the innocent. What they don’t know is that they’re not alone. There are others on their trail, and the climax of BLOOD CRIMES is a shocking jolt of pure mayhem and rock ‘n roll violence.A short taste:After her first few weeks together with Jim, he bought her a lady’s handgun, a Smith & Wesson .38 caliber revolver. It was funny that it was considered a lady’s handgun since it still had enough firepower to stop a two hundred and fifty pound NFL linebacker in his tracks. It wasn’t pink, and it didn’t have little hearts decorating it, but Carol figured it was because the gun could fit in her purse and only weighed twenty ounces. Whenever she helped Jim lure a predator to feed on, he always insisted that she bring her gun along in case he lost track of her. She now had the gun laying on the bed and stared transfixed at it for what seemed like an eternity, all the while an evangelical preacher from the TV rambled on about how Jesus suffered each day for their sins and if the good people listening could only dig deep into their hearts, and even deeper into their wallets, the Lord’s pain could be eased. A hardness froze Carol’s face. Earlier she had cracked open the cylinder and dumped the bullets onto the bed sheet.Almost from the beginning she’d been wanting Jim to infect her so they could go through this together. Wasn’t that what true love was all about—to share everything each other went through, the good and the bad? He refused to, though, saying that their life together always on the move was difficult enough; that at least if Carol were uninfected she’d be able to drive during the day and run the other errands they needed. She didn’t buy his explanation. They could move from city to city just as easily at night. She knew he was trying to protect her from what he was going through, but as far she was concerned, that wasn’t good enough. She wanted him to share his pain with her. If they were really each other’s soul mates, there shouldn’t be anything between them.She picked up the revolver. For something that only weighed twenty ounces, it felt heavy in her hand. She slid a bullet into one of the chambers, then spun the cylinder.If Jim came back and found her dying, he would have to infect her to save her life. No matter all the things that he’d said to the contrary, he would have to save her.Carol, he’d tell her in that tired voice of his he’d fall into whenever they had this argument, you don’t know what you’re asking me. This is not something I could ever let you go through. Fuck, I can’t think of a worse curse to wish on anyone, let alone something that I would ever inflict on someone I loved with all my heart. Please, let it drop, it’s never going to happen.Bullshit. If he really loved her as much as he claimed he did, how could he ever let her leave him?She pushed the muzzle of the gun against her belly, felt the coldness of the steel. There were five chambers. Four empty, one with a .38 caliber bullet. A twenty percent chance. Her muscles tensed as she squeezed the trigger. An empty click, nothing else.Oh, fuc[...]

Piano Man by Bill Crider


I was just the piano man. Nobody ever paid any attention to me. My job was to play while the customers gambled and whored and drank. I never said much, but I'd watch and I'd listen. That's what I was doing the night a man named Morgan bet his daughter on a poker hand.

Back in 2006 when Ed Gorman and I were putting out the Western noir issue of Hardluck Stories, Bill Crider gave us a gem of story titled Piano Man. Later, we published this and others in the  anthology On Dangerous Ground: Stories of Western Noir, and Piano Man has since been published as an ebook, this time by Brash Books.

The piano man from the story's title is a nameless piano player at the Bad Dog Saloon circa 1880. He's someone who blends into the background, hardly ever noticed, and plays whatever music the saloon needs at that time--Rock of Ages for a man's funeral song when he thinks that man is about to be killed, Oh, Susannah to get the room in a more festive room, etc.

The piano man watches as Morgan bets and loses his daughter in a hand of poker to the crippled and ruthless saloon owner, a man named Taber. He feels bad for this girl--a blonde, angelic-faced fifteen year-old, and he imagines the horrors she must endure at the hands of Taber. He watches Morgan's pathetic attempts to return to the saloon several times in order to rescue his daughter, each attempt ending with Taber's bouncer brutally beating the man.

The piano man's room is directly above Taber's, and every night he has to hear Taber defiling this poor girl. Does he want to rescue this girl himself? Or is he secretly jealous that he's not the one doing these things to the girl?

An event occurs that gives the piano man a chance to step out of the shadows, and as with my favorite noir, it's his self-deception and off kilter rationalizations that ultimately doom him. This is a soulful, moody slice of noir that packs a wallop, and it was an honor to be able to publish this, just as it has been an honor to have known Bill for a good number of years. It's no secret that Bill has entered hospice care, and that news broke many hearts in the mystery community, mine included. Not only is Bill a hell of a writer, but he's one of the most decent and nicest people I've known, and he's been incredibly generous to me over the years, as I know he's been with many others. I consider Bill a good friend, and as difficult as his situation is, I know if there's one person who can handle it with dignity and grace it's Bill.

Chapter One: Murder Club


Murder Club is a crime noir novel that will be published in Germany with the title Everything Ends Here. I thought I'd give people a taste of this one and I've put the first chapter up on my website here.

CRAZED Excerpt


He brought the steak knife and fork he had used to the bathroom so he could wash them—again, he didn’t want to leave any DNA or fingerprints behind. When he was done he brought them over to Claire, and sat down on the bed next to her. Her face had become wet with tears, and she pleaded with him with her eyes. He knew what she’d be begging him to do if he hadn’t gagged her. Take my money, but please don’t hurt me. Pathetic in a way, because of course he was also going to be taking her money afterwards.“The coin came up heads,” he explained to her. “If it had been tails, you’d be alive tomorrow.”She tried once more to scream, but only a low muffled noise escaped her gag, certainly nothing anyone in the hallway or a neighboring room would’ve been able to hear. As he watched her, he could see the terror within her becoming something palpable. It wasn’t just because she was afraid of what he was going to do to her, but because she could see that the beast that had been dormant for so many months had finally arisen within him.For a long moment Griffin sat still and admired the long, willowy canvas that he had to work with. When her terror made her try screaming again, he didn’t bother to hush her, and instead went to work, using the fork and steak knife on her. The beast could be patient and meticulous, though, and as he had promised, he took his time. After all, even though the beast had been let loose, keeping his promise was still the gentlemanly thing to do.[...]

Cover reveal: German edition of Murder Club


 The brilliant cover for the German edition of Murder Club, with the title 'Everything Ends Here'. This is easily my best crime noir novel, and hopefully if/after Outsourced gets made (which is looking highly likely--more later on that) this will find a US publisher. I showed this book (the English version, not the German translation!) to my fellow crime writer and traveler into dark realms, Roger Smith, Roger's thoughts: "A great book. Dark and insidious. Gets the nerves on edge." I also showed it to an editor at Little Brown, who told me it was the best crime novel he's read in 5 years, and was excited about buying it until he talked to his boss. In the meantime, anyone who wants to read this--learn German!

Small Crimes picked again as a top crime novel in Germany


When Small Crimes was published in 2008, it received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly ("deserves comparison with the best of James Ellroy"), was picked by the Washington Post as one of the best books of the year, and topped NPR's list of best mystery and crime novels of the year. In Italy, it was voted 3rd in their 2010 Bloody Mary award for best crime novel, and now that it has been published in Germany, it was selected by their crime fictions as one of the best 10 crimes in Germany for November and December. If you haven't read Small Crimes yet, isn't it about time you do? Or you can always see the recent Netflix movie based on the book that stars everybody's top 2 Lannisters (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau).



That author's name on the cover, Jacob Stone? It's a pseudonym. I'm writing these. When I started this thriller series for Kensington, they wanted a different name for marketing purposes to differentiate this series from my other books. But these thrillers have the same twisty plots and darkness as my crime novels, with some of the humor from my Julius Katz stories. And I have to think my bull terrier Parker is as endearing a character as Archie from those Julius Katz stories. Originally I was going to make what became my third Morris Brick thriller, MALICIOUS, my follow-up to DERANGED, which is why DERANGED has the epilog that it does. But after the conclusion of DERANGED, which finds Sheila Proops not only alive but free, I decided I needed to bring her back, and so CRAZED was born.The serial killer in CRAZED, Griffin Bolling, is quite a piece of work, to the say the least. At the beginning of the book, he decides he’s going to make Sheila one of his victims, and travels from Seattle to Los Angeles, leaving a trail of corpses in his path. When he finally meets up with Sheila, plans change, and I think readers will find his partnership with Sheila chilling. Added to the mix is a desperate wannabe filmmaker, Allen Perlmutter, and when Perlmutter stumbles upon what Sheila and Griffin are up to, he starts spying on them, thinking he’ll be able to get enough material to make a blockbuster movie, and that fame and fortune will soon follow. Perlmutter and his rationalizations is what I believe makes this thriller really sing.Of course, Morris Brick is back, as is his charming wife, Natalie, their daughter Rachel, and the rest of the MBI (Morris Brick Investigations) team. So is the actor Philip Stonehedge, and Morris’s stubborn-as-hell bull terrier, ParkerBill Crider on CRAZED:  “Great stuff if you like serial killer thrillers with a difference and highly recommended.”[...]

Small Crimes in Germany!


Germany's crime fiction critics picked Small Crimes as the 6th best crime novel in Germany for November.



A couple of recent lists recommending The Caretaker of Lorne Field


It was nice to see The Caretaker of Lorne Field join Paul Tremblay's sick+twisted+very excellent A Head Full of Ghosts on this list from BookRiot. Those darn Aukowies also showed up on on this Book picks for Halloween.

Play casting agent and win a free copy of MALICIOUS!


Read CRAZED, have some fun playing casting agent, and win a free ebook copy of the 3rd Morris Brick crime thriller MALICIOUS! But that's not all! One lucky winner (if he or she wishes) will also be immortalized in a future Julius Katz mystery story that will be published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by having a suspect named after you.

Send me your dream movie cast for the following characters in CRAZED, and I'll send the best 5 a free ebook for the upcoming MALICIOUS when it's available: Morris Brick, Natalie Brick, Philip Stonehedge,Sheila Proops, Griffin Bolling, and Allen Perlmutter. If you want to include actors to play other characters in the book, feel free!

All entries must be received by Oct. 22.

Small Crimes to Crazed


I sold my 3rd novel Small Crimes to Serpent’s Tail in 2006. Back then we had a different publishing and book world. Hell, ebooks didn’t exist, self-publishing was a dirty word, and it was chain stores putting pressure on independent bookstores, not Amazon. When I was first starting out, I was writing crime noir, then later horror and books that were a mix of horror and crime. All standalones. During this strange journey, I’ve been reviewed in major newspapers, both in the US and abroad. I’ve seen my books translated into six languages, and one of them made into a movie. Now in 2017, I’ve just seen my second Morris Brick thriller and 13th traditionally-published novel, CRAZED, be released. There’s not much chance I would’ve been able to write this series when I was first starting out. As long as you’re trying, you can’t help but grow as a writer, and that’s a big part of the reason. My publisher requires these Morris Brick thrillers to be at least 90k words long, which means I need to be able to outline plots where I know how long the book will be while not adding any fat or filler. The books need to be fast, and the complex puzzles I’m constructing need to tightly fit together regardless of the word length. That’s a skill that takes time to learn. Also, I understand the business side much better than when I started. If you’re writing a series, you need to play by a certain set of rules. It doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, or you’re not proud of the books—because I’m damn proud of these Morris Brick thrillers—it just means you’re more aware of writing within the genre’s boundaries.13 books published, dozens of short stories, at least three more Morris Brick thrillers coming, three books self-published, one more noir novel that’s so far only coming out in Germany, and things are looking good for two more movies. It’s certainly been interesting so far. I’ll see how much longer I can keep this ride going.[...]

Making a 'Crazed' Cocktail


To celebrate the publishing day for my second Morris Brick thriller (and 13th traditionally published novel) I'd like to offer up a recipe for a 'Crazed' cocktail: one lunatic wheel chair-bound serial killer who escaped prosecution for her previous crimes, one serial killer hell-bent on gaining notoriety, one desperate wannabe filmmaker who'll do anything to achieve his big break, one investigation firm headed by an ex-LAPD celebrity detective who will doggedly pursue his quarry, and one bacon-loving bull terrier. Sprinkle in some vicious Ukrainian mobsters, con men, and a few other unsavory sorts for seasoning. Mix until highly combustible, then pour.

Read Shamus-nominated story ARCHIE ON LOAN


My first Julius Katz mystery story titled simply JULIUS KATZ was published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine in 2009 and later won the 2010 Shamus Award. Now with ARCHIE ON LOAN, my 10th Julius Katz mystery, I've received my second Shamus nomination! Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine has made this story available free on their new and improved website, and it can be found here.

Win a copy of CRAZED


 The good folks at Kensington Books are giving away 100 copies of my second Morris Brick thriller CRAZED. This is one that I'm particularly fond of and might have my favorite character from all my novels. Not the killer, but a desperate and wannabe filmmaker named Perlmutter. While thus crime thriller is a different genre than my crime noir novels, I'd also put this one up against SMALL CRIMES. The book will be published Sept. 5th, so if you win this will give you a chance to read it sooner.

PI sidekicks


Sherlock had his Watson, Nero Wolfe his Archie Goodwin, Julius Katz his own version of Archie, Morris Brick's sidekick? A bull terrier named Parker.

A complete Julius Katz case history


I've updated my website to bring the Julius Katz case history up-to-date.

Julius Katz news


I'm happy to report that my Julius Katz mystery story 'Archie on Loan' which appeared last year in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine's 75th anniversary issue was nominated for a Shamus Award.

This year's nominees:

"Keller's Fedora" by Lawrence Block (e-publication)
"A Battlefield Reunion" by Brendan DuBois (June 2016, AHMM)
"Stairway From Heaven" by Ake Edwardson (Stockholm Noir)
"A Dangerous Cat" by Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins (Feb/May 2016, The Strand)
"Archie On Loan" by Dave Zeltserman (Sept/Oct 2016, EQMM)

When you look at the competition I'm up against, this is a case where in all honesty I can say it's an honor just to be nominated!

And that's not it for Julius Katz news--the latest Julius Katz mystery 'Julius Katz and the Terminated Agent' is available now in the July/August issue of Ellery Queen.

The Origin of Manny Vassey


Manny Vassey, my dying mobster from SMALL CRIMES, first appeared in one of my very early short stories TRIPLE CROSS, and instead of being from my fictional Bradley, Vermont, this version of Manny is from Chicago. Here's a short excerpt that shows Manny's first appearance in Triple Cross:They tied me to the table, securing the wire through the steel rings. They then left me alone. Shortly after that, a wide heavyset man entered the room. He was wearing a purple running suit and about five pounds of gold chains, and had a broad smile stretched across his face. His complexion reminded me of chipped glass. The other two men joined him. One of them was carrying a large metal case. I heard the heavyset man addressed as Manny Vassey.  The idea of Junior's playroom from SMALL CRIMES also first surfaced in this story. For some reason I liked Manny enough to include him in two more of my early stories: NEXT TIME and NOTHING BUT JERKS. Years later when I wrote SMALL CRIMES, I brought Manny back--really two versions of him--a sick and dying version, and the way he was from these early stories, except I made this version his son, Junior. In a way, I now had two Manny's for the price of one!And if you've seen the movie, and you're wondering what happens in Junior's playroom, here's an excerpt from the book that will give you an idea: Dan stopped to push a hand through his hair and scratch the back of his head. When he looked back at me, he gave me a faint, almost apologetic smile. “Let me tell you about this special room he built,” he continued. “This college kid up in Burlington was supposedly manufacturing and distributing crystal meth without Junior’s blessing. A few months ago this kid disappears without a trace, and then a rumor starts circulating about Junior’s special room and how Junior had this college kid brought there and tied to the butcher’s table. According to the rumor, Junior chopped the kid up with a meat cleaver and burned the body parts in the furnace. I had to investigate it. Even though I knew it could end up biting me in the ass with Manny, I had to look into it. So I got a search warrant and sure enough I found a soundproof room with nothing in it but a butcher’s table and a furnace. Forensics went over it with a fine tooth comb but Junior must have scrubbed it clean.” [...]

Seeing my book made into a movie


When I wrote SMALL CRIMES back in 2003 I had no expectation of seeing it made into a movie. Back then I'd had two short stories published in magazines, I'd written two other books (FAST LANE and BAD THOUGHTS) that I hadn't yet been able sell, and all I was hoping for was to write a book that could be published.

When SMALL CRIMES was filmed last summer, my wife and I spent a day at the set. This was when they were filming at Joe's parent's home with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Robert Forster, and Jacki Weaver, and when we got there we were put in a girl's bedroom on the second floor while they were blocking out the first scene of the day, which is when Joe stormed up to his parent's bedroom. So we were sitting around talking to one of the producers, and all of a sudden we heard all this foot stomping and yelling, and I was feeling goosebumps hearing my book come alive. Rumble Films, the crew, all the actors couldn't have been nicer. Probably my best day as an author. This beat out getting a call from John Williams at Serpent's Tail that they wanted to publish SMALL CRIMES, probably even beating out NPR picking SMALL CRIMES as one of their top 5 crime & mystery novels of 2008.

So what was it like when I finally got to watch the movie? I'd been prepared for the changes between the movie and the book--I'd read the script, and knew up front what had been changed. There always has to be changes for a number of reasons, including movie length, budgetary concerns, director's vision. But even with all the changes and the last third of the book gone, the movie still feels very much like my book, and the film's Joe Denton feels very much like my Joe Denton. As good as all the actors were (Robert Forster, Jacki Weaver, Robert Cole were all pitch perfect, and Molly Parker gave an amazingly nuanced performance as Charlotte Boyd), Nikolaj's performance was brilliant. He played Joe as someone desperately trying (and failing) to con those around him that he just wants to be a better person, but at times cracks show through, revealing the true Joe. In all sincerity, I think this is a smart, brilliantly acted film, and Evan Katz and Macon Blair did a masterful job merging their vision with mine so that both exist simultaneously.

So what was it like to see my book made into a movie? A thrill. No other way to describe it.

Small Crimes gets a mention on the Tonight Show!


Monday night Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister on Game of Thrones, Joe Denton in Small Crimes) showed up on the tonight show to talk about the movie based on my book, and the book gets a mention! Watch it here.

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