By Azam Gill
There’s a new demon unleashed in the City of Angels—The Cupid Killer targets couples in love, mercilessly torturing women before murdering them. Then, he forces the men to watch before leaving them beaten and broken—but alive—and wishing them “an especially wonderful day.”
The surviving male victims have all identified the killer’s snarling wolf tattoo.
L.A. detective Morris Brick is on the case—though he’s never hunted a psycho who’s taken such sadistic pleasure in destroying people’s lives before. He knows he’s on the trail of a brutal predator who’s taunting him, but he doesn’t realize the danger is much closer to home than he imagines…
UNLEASHED is the fifth book in the Morris Brick thriller series by Jacob Stone—Dave Zeltserman’s pseudonym. His other fifteen thrillers are under his real name.
Prolificacy being the child of talent and perseverance, it took Stone 11 years to sell Fast Lane, his first novel, finished in 1992. His big break came with Small Crimes and Outsourced in 2008.
The books triggered a starburst of recognition—movie rights, translations, and spots on the Best Books of the Year lists from The Washington Post, NPR, Booklist, American Library Association, and WBUR. He’s been crowned with the Shamus, Derringer, and two Ellery Queen Readers awards. Four of his books have been optioned for films.
In his enthusiastic review, Jeffery Deaver spotlights Stone’s rare quality of being able to work the binary nature of evil into a single tale, integrating a moral statement without challenging societal values. It is at this epicenter that thriller literature distinguishes itself from other genres which can bore readers to a standstill or test their stamina to slog.
Such writing is as premeditated an act as many of the greatest villains of literature may conjure. Writers as diverse as Norman Mailer, William Faulkner, Stephen King, Joseph Heller, J. K. Rowling, and others have written and write to outlines.
Harnessing the urges of his thriving imagination, Stone makes “eight-to-10 page … detailed outlines before starting a book, so the characters unique to this book and the plot [take] shape at the same time.”
The process may take several weeks, while the character histories of the lead protagonists require additional time. Despite seductive detours from the plan, Stone stays within the initial framework, keeping his stories watertight and his characters growing.
The frontiers of his writing are like those of the American West before the Closing of the Frontier. The defiance and opportunity in writing UNLEASHED was to ensure that the fifth in the Morris Brick series is equally unique.
Seeking to expand the subgenre of serial-killer thrillers, the Morris Brick series offers “something different.” The killers’ motivations trod an unbeaten path. They are not just psychos finding a release in taking human life. Each book is a standalone story, closer to crime fiction than psycho-horror.
As Stone says: “UNLEASHED is very much a tough, hard-hitting crime novel with characters that could’ve come out of one of Richard Stark’s Parker novels. A second challenge with each book is to make sure Morris Brick’s bull terrier Parker is more than just window dressing.”
Stone was candid about writing under his pen name and his real name, Dave Zeltserman.
“When I was talking with Kensington about writing a thriller series for them, they wanted me to use a pen name to differentiate this series from my crime and horror novels, although they didn’t want to keep it a secret that I was writing the series,” he says. “When I chose the pen name, with their help, I wanted something simple as a contrast to my last name, which has often been misspelled by reviewers. I chose the last name Stone to match my hero, Morris Brick’s last name, and my publisher suggested Jacob for the first name, and so Jacob Stone was born.
“I try to keep it simple and use my [birth] name. On my website, I have a page for my Jacob Stone books, and I have blurbs that use my name and my pen name.”
Stone writes from his office with a view of the trees in his backyard, the tranquility of the scene a counterweight to the controlled turmoil of the worlds his plume creates. A down-to-earth professional, he maintains a target of writing 1,000 words a day—and that’s not counting editing and other “writing-related tasks.”
He confesses that “when I get deep into a book, I tend to get obsessed and will spend almost all my time working on it, and my wife suffers. But fortunately, she’s understanding and a terrific person.”
Unpretentious even in personal recreation, his pleasures, apart from reading and watching movies, are to “see friends, drink the occasional beer, and try to have outings with my wife once a week.”
Considering his qualities of head and heart, it’s hardly surprising, then, that Steve Hamilton, international bestselling author and one of only two authors to win Mystery Writers of America Edgar Awards for both best novel and best first novel, enthuses, “Dave Zeltserman is one of the best suspense writers in the business, and his Jacob Stone thrillers are not to be missed.”
Jacob Stone is the pseudonym for Dave Zeltserman, an award winning crime, horror and mystery writer. As both Dave Zeltserman and Jacob Stone, he has published 22 novels and dozens of short stories, and his novels have been translated into six languages. His crime novel Small Crimes, which topped NPR’s best crime & mystery books in 2008, has been made into a Netflix original film starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Molly Parker, Gary Cole, Jacki Weaver, and Robert Forster. His crime and horror novels have been named by The Washington Post, NPR, American Library Association, WBUR, and Booklist as best books of the year, and his mystery short fiction has won the Shamus, Derringer and Ellery Queen’s Readers award (twice).
To learn more about Dave and his alter ego, please visit his website.