09-29-2008 09:52 AM
I'm excited to have the opportunity to introduce you to a crime writer whose name you may not know yet, but that I expect you'll be hearing a lot more about over the coming years: Dave Zeltserman. His new book, which is coming out in October, is SMALL CRIMES, and here's what Publishers Weekly had to say about it in a starred review:
Zeltserman's breakthrough third crime novel deserves comparison with the
best of James Ellroy. Joe Denton, a corrupt cop, has just been paroled from
the county jail in Bradley, Mass., after serving seven years for his
drug-fueled assault on D.A. Phil Coakley, whose face was horribly disfigured
in the attack. Denton's parents, with whom he's staying temporarily, are
uncomfortable having him back in their lives. Likewise, Denton's former
colleagues on the force are uneasy. Gang boss Manny Vassey, who's ill with
terminal cancer, threatens to cut a deal with Coakley that would expose the
tangled webs of graft and violence that have governed Bradley. When the
local sheriff demands that Denton take out either Vassey or Coakley to
preserve the town's dirty secrets, Denton's hopes for a return to some
version of normality are dashed. Zeltserman (Fast Lane) pulls no punches,
even as he makes Denton's manipulations, evasions and self-deceptions
The book blog Bookgasm had this to say: "In the world of crime, it really doesn’t get much darker than Dave Zeltserman’s SMALL CRIMES...This is an extremely black tale that grips readers by the throat and doesn’t let go until their last breath has been spent. In other words, it’s a surefire contender for book of the year."
Zeltserman's earlier books, FAST LANE and BAD THOUGHTS, also won raves from critics, as did the popular crime fiction Web site he ran and edited for several years, HARDLUCK STORIES. I'm delighted to report that Dave has agreed to visit the BN.com Crime Book Club this month and talk with us about his books, the field of hardboiled crime fiction in general, being called the next James Ellroy, and more -- anything that's on your mind.
With that introduction out of the way, please join me in welcoming Dave (who should be able to post a reply shortly, just as soon as we get his account set up properly!).
Learn more about Songs of Innocence.
09-29-2008 11:08 AM
Thanks so much, Charles! Small Crimes is my 3rd crime novel, and the first of three "man just out of prison" noir thrillers that Serpent's Tail will be publishing with Pariah (Jan. 2009 UK) and Killer (Jan. 2010) to follow. In Small Crimes, the man out of prison is Joe Denton, a disgraced ex-cop who was sent away for stabbing the DA 13 times in the face and horribly disfiguring the man when he was caught trying to destroy evidence for a corruption case being built against him. Now out of prison Joe wants to go through life without causing anymore damage. The problem is it's just not going to be that easy for Joe. Too many old ghosts, too many grudges for it to be that simple.
I would love to talk with people here about Small Crimes, my previous books, upcoming ones, anything hardboiled/noir related, or anything regarding writing or publishing. Everything's fair game!
09-29-2008 11:10 AM
Welcome, Dave! And thanks to Charles for setting this up.
How do you come up with your plots, Dave? Do you base them on true events?
09-29-2008 11:46 AM
Thanks, Paul, I'm glad to be here.
Usually some random thought or true event will lead me to start thinking about a sequence of what-ifs. With my first book, Fast Lane, it was listening to a PI on a radio talk show talking about a girl who had hired him to find her biological parents, how badly things out when that happened, and then my twisting that into something far more ominous. With Small Crimes it was a mix of reading an article about a spectacularly corrupt Sheriff's office in Denver in the 60s, and a separate article about a small town cop in Massachusetts who had committed a similar crime to my Joe Denton, only served a small number of years in a county jail before being paroled, and was receiving a pension afterwards. That got me building a widespread police corruption scenario to explain how he got away with being treated so lightly and how bad things could go afterwards. Pariah was a combination of reading stories about Whitey Bulger and the South Boston Mob for years, being fascinated by it, wanting to write a book about it, then being pissed off enough by seeing a number of these scumbags getting big book deals to tell-all for me to finally do it. Killer came about because I wanted a two-book deal when I sold Pariah, so I threw out an idea based on a news story at the time about a Boston-area mafia hitman who had killed 20 people, was able to serve 12 years when he was arrested for some unrelated charge, and with the promise of providing evidence against Bulger, was able to get immunity for his other crimes. It wasn't until he got the deal that he confessed to his murders. Once Serpent's Tail bought this I had to come up with a plot--and I had no idea what direction I wanted to take this, but ended up writing what I look at as "existential noir". The book's been accepted, and I think it's one of my better ones.
09-29-2008 12:05 PM
I have a similar fascination with Bulger and have read quite a few books about him and his cohorts. I'm also baffled how a guy like this can go uncaught for this many years. Somebody has to be feeding him information and money, right? What did you think of the Departed by the way? Do think it's loose depiction of Bulger was credible?
And while I'm at it, what are some of your favorite authors and books?
09-29-2008 12:42 PM
I’m a Scorcese fan. Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Taxi Driver and Mean Streets are some of my favorite films, and I liked The Departed as a movie, ranking it around Casino, but it really didn’t depict Bulger. The real Bulger was (is??) a piece of work. If he found out someone in the neighborhood came into some money, he’d warn them about a contract on them that he’s heard about, but for a price he’d smooth things out. One of the most fascinating angles to the real story is his brother, Billy, being state senate president. There were stories that Billy would use his power to squash state police investigations into Whitey, and Whitey would lean on other state pols to support Billy.
Some of my favorite crime authors are Hammett, James M. Cain, Rex Stout, Charles Willeford, Jim Thompson, Dan Marlowe, Mickey Spillane, Jonathan Latimer, Lawrence Block, Donald Westlake/Richard Stark, Seymour Shubin, Vicki Hendricks, Derek Raymond.
My favorite crime novels would start with Hammett—all of his books are at the top, with The Maltese Falcon and Red Harvest leading the way, Jim Thompson’s Savage Night, Hell of a Woman, and Swell-Looking Babe, Latimer’s Solomon’s Vineyard, Cain’s Double Indemnity, Marlowe’s The Name of the Game is Death, Willeford’s The Woman Chaser and Cockfighter (and Grimhaven…), Shubin’s Anyone’s My Name.
Recent reads that I liked a lot are Reasonable Doubts by Gianrico Carofiglio, Cottonwood by Scott Phillips, Robbie’s Wife by Russell Hill, and Dead City (’73) by Shane Stevens.
10-01-2008 10:01 AM
I thought I'd mention a couple a couple of recent weblinks for Small Crimes.
With the book being released first in the UK, I had a bunch of London papers reviewing Small Crimes, but just received my first US newspaper review over at Lansing State Journal. You can read the review here.
Also, I had some fun with Marshal Zeringue coming up with my dream cast for Small Crimes for his site "My Book, the Movie."
A few months back I ran a series of "notes from the trenches" on my blog about the long and often frustrating journey I'd taken to getting published and the lessons I learned along the way, and I received good feedback from some new authors who are going through now I what I went through about how my notes helped them. Are there new authors here who are also fighting to get their first books published? If there's interest I'll organize my notes here.
10-03-2008 08:20 AM
10-03-2008 03:28 PM
Paul, thanks for getting the excerpt added to the book page, and for mentioning it here. I hope people enjoy it!
I realized I really hadn't said much about myself, and thought I'd tell people a little about my background. I grew up in the Boston area, and outside of 5 years when I was in Boulder, Colorado for college have lived around Boston my whole life. I'm a big Pats and Sox fan, and am still morning Brady's knee injury, along with the Super Bowl appearance that injury is going to cost the Pats. My college degrees are in math and computer science, and have spent over 20 years working as a software developer. And yes, I also wrote the network management/computer science books that show up on the list for my name.
I always read a lot, and was always drawn to writing, but I was also one of those guys who did well on my math SAT and not so well on my English, so until I started working on Fast Lane in the early 90s writing always seemed more as a lark than anything real. At some point while writing Fast Lane I realized it was more than a lark. I did end up selling the first serious story I ever wrote (serious as in the first story I wrote for publication) A Long Time to Die to New Mystery Magazine. From thereit was all downhill until 2003 (11 years after writing the book) when I sold Fast Lane first to an Italian publisher, Meridiano Zero, then to a small but earnest US publisher, Point Blank Press. After that I sold a bunch of short stories, and things have been getting much better of late, I know have 6 books either published or scheduled for publishing: Fast Lane, Bad Thoughts, Small Crimes, Pariah, Bad Karma, Killer, and am hopeful that I'll be getting a couple of more deals in the very near future--at least I have editors fighting in-house to get these deals done.
10-04-2008 01:38 PM
A couple of years ago I wrote this (very) short story for a crime fiction flash story site. What I wanted to do was write something under 250 words that was a real story, something with an actual plot, as well as a beginning, middle and ending, and that carried some resonance. The story I ended up writing could just as easily be rewritten as a 5000 word short story or as an 80,000 word novel. Anyway, as a quick way to introduce my writing to people here, below is my 247 word crime story:
I can’t get Danny Smith off my mind…
He was a good-looking kid. Well-mannered, soft-spoken, just an overall good kid. Only twenty-four years old. Six months ago he hired me to find his birth parents. You see, he was adopted, had great parents, but he wanted to know his roots. There was something familiar looking about him, made me think I had seen him before. The reason for that was his birth dad turned out to be Sam Lombardo, top guy in the Boston Mob. It didn’t take me too long to find that out. It turns out Lombardo had a one-night fling with a dancer, never knew he had this other son. When I told him about Danny, he told me what he would do to me if this kid ever bothered him.
That was six months ago.
Two weeks ago I heard Lombardo was on his death bed, dying of congestive heart failure, and word was he was going down fast. His goons brought me to to see him. Lombardo wanted to know about Danny. I thought he just wanted to make peace with his son before he died.
A week ago Danny’s parents called me. They were frantic. Danny had disappeared. They had no idea where he was.
Three days ago I heard through the grapevine that Lombardo had found a heart donor. A good match, too. Transplant looks like its going to be a success.
I can’t get Danny Smith off my mind…
10-06-2008 08:47 AM - edited 10-24-2008 08:45 AM
Now that's a chilling short, short story. Thanks for posting this, Dave! Here's my attempt (206 words). Any one else care to contribute a short, short?
The bullet struck my left ankle, collapsing my leg, and leaving me face down on the deck. I reached back for the tiller but the boom had already swung to port, forcing the bow into the wind.
I could hear the twin screws of the Donzi’s engines drawing near. I pushed up, grabbing the lee gunwale, and spotted Bill Powers at the helm. He held what looked like a Winchester 30-30. Power’s wife, Catherine and I had been high-school sweethearts. 15 years later and we still hadn’t graduated.
I could hear Bill yell something over the deep drone of the 454’s, but I couldn’t make out what it was. He brought the rifle up to his shoulder, bent his legs to steady himself against the boat’s buck, and fired. The bullet plunked into what sounded like the starboard hull.
Bill’s boat swung parallel to mine and caught the northerly breeze. We rolled up a white-capped swell and dipped swiftly down its ebb causing Bill to loose his balance. He let his left hand off the Winchester and grabbed for the stern. Catherine emerged from the cabin, her nose bloodied and eyes swelling shut. She pushed Bill ass over head into the drink.
10-06-2008 09:38 AM
Paul, nice story--and yes, satisfies the requirements of having a beginning, middle and ending, and with emotional resonance.
Everyone, I'm heading off to the White Mountains for a few days with my wife, but will be back by Friday to answer any questions.
10-10-2008 09:10 AM
I'm back from the NH and although it feels as if the world is coming to an end--at least as far as the stock market wiping out the last 10 years of gains (so far...), I'm ready for any and all questions--so fire away.
I'll share a bit of the types of disappointments you go through as a writer. Last Friday a production company with a big hit from last year contacted my agent about the film rights for Small Crimes. When it came time for an offer, what they asked for was a free exclusive option. Cheap bastards! We declined.
10-10-2008 12:53 PM
Thanks, Paul. When a studio or producer wants to develop a book into a movie, they'll buy an option---usually good for a year, and then if the project gets picked up they'll then pay a more substantial amount for the film rights. In this case the production company wanted the exclusive rights to develop Small Crimes and try to sell it to a studio, but they didn't want to pay for the option to do it. I actually went through this for a couple of years with an unsold novel. There's a chance when you do this things work out, but there's also a chance the producer is just filling out a portfolio of projects that they're going to be shopping around and want to use your book as window dressing to help sell other projects they're more serious about. Anyway, in this case the production company put out American Gangster last year, they should be swimming in cash from that (even with the current stock market conditions!), and if they were serious about this they should've paid for the option. I've got some other people that are trying to get something done with this, so I'll see what happens.
For anyone interested, the latest review for Small Crimes:
10-12-2008 12:41 PM
That still has to be exciting and fufilling to have that kind of interest in your work. Small Crimes sounds like a really good book, and I will be buying it. Sounds like the kind of stuff I like. By the way, you're probably aware of this, but everyone else may not be. There's a review of Small Crimes on one of my favorite new sites: thuglit.com. They highly recommend it.
10-12-2008 01:34 PM
Thanks for pointing out the thuglit review, and yeah, I love the site also--they're putting out some of the best short crime fiction anywhere. Out of the Gutter's doing some really good stuff too. It's kind of interesting but with Thuglit's review and others, as well as emails I've been getting, there's a full range of how people are taking my (anti-)hero, Joe Denton, from detestable to sympathetic, and everything in between. Fortunately, whether people hate him or not, the responses I'm getting regardless are enthusiastic. While Small Crimes is a lot different than these, because of the pacing, tone and violence of the book, if you like 'The Name of the Game is Death' by Dan Marlowe, 'Caught Stealing' by Charlie Huston, 'Savage Night' by Jim Thompson, I think there's a good chance you're going to like Small Crimes
10-14-2008 12:10 PM
The US book launch party for Small Crimes is going to be held Oct. 21st at Redbones in Somerville, MA from 5:30-7. For anyone unfamiliar with Redbones it has probably the best barbecued food in the Boston area, and free appetizers will be on hand. I hope people in the area will be able to make it, and I'll look forward to seeing you all there.
More information about Redbones and the event can be found here:
10-15-2008 02:51 PM
If anyone wants to suffer through my heavy Boston accent, you can hear me read a VERY violent story up on Seth Harwood's terrific CrimeWav.com at:
Charles Ardai, Jason Starr, Christina Faust, and others are also featured on this site, as they all read selected hardboiled/noir crime stories.