In Killer, Leonard March walks free from jail after fourteen years’ hard time served after turning state’s witness against his Mafia boss Salvatore Lombard. Killer is the third part of Zeltserman’s “man-out-of-prison” trilogy – the other two being Small Crimes and Pariah– and it’s a hell of a read.
Look what the big kids say:
‘Killer is a major novel of crime and likely the book that will win Dave Zeltserman a much wider audience.’ Ed Gorman
‘To put it simply, Killer is a brilliant character study that will rip the literary rug right out from under the reader’s tightly-curled toes.’ Corey Wilde, The Drowning Machine.
“With graphic imagery and exciting twists, this novel is impossible to put down and has a surprising ending. A brilliant read.” The Aberdeen Press and Journal
Dave was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about Killer and his writing in general.
PDB: Dave, in twenty five words or less, can you pitch me your new novel KILLER?
Dave: A meditative look into the mind of a killer.
PDB: Small Crimes, Pariah and Killer all have protagonists who are very bad men that have done some very bad things. Doesn’t this go against the mandates of creative writing classes in that the ‘heroes’ of those books aren’t sympathetic?
Dave: I think most readers are going to find Leonard March, the protagonist of Killer, a sympathetic character, at least through most of the book. Yeah, he was a hit man, but he leaves prison as little more than a toothless old wolf howling at the moon. He’s got all these forces working against him, and he’s introspective as he tries to figure out how he got to where he is.
Kyle Nevin, my protagonist from Pariah, is a different beast entirely. Kyle is a force of nature, and like of forces of nature–hurricanes, tidal waves, volcanoes–it can be fascinating to see the destruction that he brings those unfortunates that get in his way.
Just as noir masters like James M. Cain and Jim Thompson could keep readers fascinated watching their noir protagonists inevitable descent into hell, I think the same is true with Kyle, except I think even more so given his utterly destructive and unrepentant nature.
PDB: Is the location of Killer an important part of the story?
Dave : Most of Killer takes place around Boston, but not really in it, with areas like Waltham, Revere and Winthrop taking center stage, but the flavor of these areas are important to the story and atmosphere. Boston is much more important to Pariah as a lot of South Boston mob lore is worked into the novel.
PDB: You once said that writing Small Crimes was a very ‘instinctive’ thing? What did you mean by that?
Dave: At some point the subconscious taking over, and adding strong thematic elements that weren’t planned, or necessarily intended at an intellectual level but worked their way into the book regardless.
Let me give you a more concrete example with Killer. Killer is written as alternating present and past chapters. Before I started writing I had the present chapters outlined at a very detailed level, but I was going to wring it with the past chapters, and make each one Leonard committing one of his mob hits.
At some point that changed without any real planning, and instead the past chapters ended up having a strong arc of their own, and connecting to the present chapters in ways I hadn’t anticipated.
PDB: Has your writing process changed over the years?
Dave: Not really. I still write very detailed outlines before starting. I still find myself deviating from these outlines as the book becomes something organic–a living thing so to speak. But while new and unexpected plot threads and characters are born, I always end up working my way back to the original outline.
I tend to struggle with my 1000 to 1500 words a day like I’ve always have, and then go on a blind writing fury when I get within 7000 or so words of the ends, finishing those in one sitting. The only real change is I’m closer to the mark now when I finish.
My earlier books needed far more revising–Pariah and Killer and others needed very little revising from their first drafts.
PDB: What’s in the pipeline for Dave Zeltserman in 2010?
Dave: Other than Killer, I have two more novels and a bunch of short stories.
Outsourced is a different kind of crime novel than my ‘man out of prison’ novels. In this one a group of desperate software engineers come up with a brilliant plan to rob a bank with things not quite working out as planned. Think Ocean’s 11 and Falling Down, which not too surprisingly, John Tomko, who was a producer on both those movies, is involved in the film development of this, which has been optioned by Impact Pictures and Constantin Film.
The Caretaker of Lorne Field is not crime, and I think is a book that is really going to surprise readers who’ve gotten to know my crime fiction. The basic premise of this is that a field has been weeded for over 400 years by a succession of caretakers, with the mythology being if the field isn’t weeded, the world will end. Now in the present day, the current Caretaker believes this myth but finds that most of the people in his small town no longer do, and his job becomes increasingly more difficult. A balancing act is performed through the book on whether he’s crazy or knows something nobody else does.
As far as short stories, Julius Katz and Archie will live on in Ellery Queen, and I also have stories in the next Thuglit anthology and Damn Near Dead 2
Dave Zeltserman’s website is here
His blog – SMALL CRIMES – is here
Killer will be available from Amazon
The first chapter of his unpublished novel Vampire Crimes is here