A Killer’s Essence by Dave Zeltserman

By L. Dean Murphy

New York City homicide detective Stan Green has seen better days. As his family life threatens to disintegrate and his work partner is seriously injured, he is assigned to the most shocking case of his career—a strange and remarkably violent murder. Stan must look into the crime alone. He finds just one witness, a neurologically disabled recluse who sees images of the perpetrator and others as demonic hallucinations. As more murders occur, and he drifts further from his family, Stan’s suspicion and rage escalate. Soon he realizes that the murders fall into the pattern of a serial killer—and starts to believe that his witness is not at all insane, but terrifyingly perceptive.

Dave Zeltserman added: “Stan Green is a good guy and dedicated detective. He’s also someone whose personal life is spinning out of control. His wife left him two years earlier, and he doesn’t understand why. He’s growing increasingly estranged from his children, and doesn’t know how to fix this. He presently lives with a gorgeous but undependable younger woman, and he doesn’t quite know why he’s with her. Add to that severe problems for both his mom and brother and a contentious boss, and there’s a lot of rage and confusion in Stan’s life. Both Stan and Zachary are drowning in their own ways, and they form a close bond to help each other stay afloat. Ostensibly a crime thriller, A Killer’s Essence is also about many other things, including the chaos and confusion that can paralyze us in our lives.”

The Washington Post, for its Best Books of 2009 list, said that Zeltserman’s Pariah is “A doozy of a doom-laden crime story.” National Public Radio said of Small Crimes for its Top 5 Crime and Mystery Novels of 2008, “There’s a new name to add to the pantheon of the sons and daughters of Cain: Dave Zeltserman.”

A Killer’s Essence is a five-star psychological crime thriller liberally seasoned with Chef Zeltserman’s zesty secret sauce of subtle horror, jalapeño-hot suspense and intense intrigue, and has more twists than newfangled light bulbs. Stephen King fans will find the Hitchcock-like suspense and soft-core horror to be a spine-tingling thriller. It is one of my Top Ten Picks for 2011.

When asked what inspired the plot, Zeltserman said, “I liked the idea of a character who sees people as they spiritually are instead of how they physically appear. After deciding that the protagonist can’t be this person, I came up with the Stan Green character and tied him to this essence-seeing character, Zachary, and from there worked out the story.”

Character development makes this a psychological crime thriller. Zeltserman explains: “As a long-suffering Red Sox fan, 2004 was a pivotal moment in my life, especially the Sox beating the Yankees in the American League Championship Series. I chose to place most of the book during that Sox/Yankees series, and showing the Red Sox winning from the POV of a diehard Yankees fan. In a way this helps to show the chaos and confusion building up in Stan’s life as the Yankees always beating the Sox had been an accepted axiom for Stan. Granted, this aspect makes A Killer’s Essence more of a horror novel for Yankee fans. I also tie the ALCS into another way that Stan ends up disappointing his son.”

Zeltserman has “been writing off and on for many years. But before I started getting more serious with my writing I read a lot of pulp, horror, thriller, and science fiction. Now I read mostly crime fiction. Authors who had the largest impact in my interest in writing are Hammett, Thompson, Ross Macdonald and Rex Stout, although I had that interest probably long before I read them—I was writing short stories since the age of ten.

“Authors who are now at the top of their league, I believe, are Walter Mosley, Elmore Leonard, Lawrence Block, John le Carré. I’d like to also mention Donald Westlake, who while he tragically died recently, was probably the best at crime fiction that we’ve seen in the last fifty years.”

The author of a dozen books advises aspiring writers. “Everything has changed dramatically with eBook publishing, so this advice is only related to improving your craft and not on the business or promotional side of things, and that is to read hundreds of the best books of the genre you choose. More than read them, absorb them.”

Zeltserman let The Big Thrill readers in on what has helped him most with his writing career. “The single biggest thing was getting film interest for Outsourced, back in 2005. At the time I was getting nothing but rejections for books that I felt strongly should’ve sold—Small Crimes and Outsourced. Having Steve Fisher at APA believe in Outsourced and work to get a film deal probably kept me from throwing in the towel.”

Writers live for recognition. Zeltserman said, “Probably the most rewarding was what Maureen Corrigan wrote for NPR when she picked Small Crimes as one of the best crime and mystery novels of 2008. The book had gotten rejected by many publishers before Serpent’s Tail bought it, so to see her pick Small Crimes really meant a lot to me.”

Many crime-thriller authors delve into endless forensics research. Zeltserman has an interesting outlook. “Most of my books require only a few days of research (thank you Internet!). For example, my ePub thriller, Dying Memories, deals heavily with nanotechnology. With the Internet, I was able to get all the research done that I needed in about four hours. I do have Monster coming out next year, which required more than six months of research, but that’s unusual for me.”

Zeltserman concluded with thrilling news. “With some luck several of my books will soon be movies. Outsourced should go into production this year, and I’m awaiting a revised film contract for A Killer’s Essence, which the producers seem very eager to make. Unless things fall apart completely, there will be a film deal also for The Caretaker of Lorne Field.”

*****

Dave Zeltserman won the 2010 Shamus Award for Julius Katz and is the acclaimed author of the “man out of prison” crime trilogy: Small Crimes, Pariah, and Killer. The first two were selected by The Washington Post as best books of the year for 2008 and 2009. The Caretaker of Lorne Field received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, which called it a “superb mix of humor and horror,” and was short-listed by ALA for best horror novel of 2010. His upcoming Outsourced has already been called “a small gem of crime fiction” by Booklist and has been optioned by Impact Pictures and Constantin Film.

For more accolades and to learn more about Dave, please visit his website.

Dean Murphy

L. Dean Murphy interviews authors and reviews books for Bookreporter.com & The Big Thrill. The MWA, FWA and ITW member is working on, The Art of Murder, and Two Bodies. His maxim is "When there’s nothing left, write."

Visit him at: www.DeanMurphy.net.

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