Tuesday, November 18, 2014

My keynote speech for the Bouchercon Nero Wolfe Banquet

Rex Stout has long been one of my favorite authors, and it was an honor to be able to give the keynote speech at the Bouchercon Nero Wolfe Banquet, and meet Mr. Stout's daughter, Rebecca Stout Bradbury. The dinner itself was a fun and lively affair. The toasts that were offered were imaginative and well-researched by true Wolfeans, and Weronance (emcee) Ira Matetsky kept things moving quickly with the wit of a Catskills comedian. 

Below is the keynote speech that I gave--and nobody pelted me with dinner rolls! (of course, they were all eaten by the time I gave my speech!!)

The Curious Case of Mr. Katz, Mr. Wolfe, and Two Archies

I’ve been invited to talk here tonight because of my Julius Katz mysteries which Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine have been publishing. Even if you didn’t know that Julius’s assistant in these stories is named Archie, it should be no surprise given the name of my detective that these mysteries are an unabashed pastiche of Nero Wolfe. My talk tonight will be comparing Julius Katz  with Wolfe and my Archie with Archie Goodwin. I don’t expect for us to glean any great insights from my talk, but I hope these comparisons help illuminate some of the qualities that we enjoy so much from Stout’s Nero Wolfe books.

I am by no means a Wolfean scholar, but I have spent 100s of highly enjoyable hours visiting Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. I first discovered Nero Wolfe as a teenager when I bought a dog-eared copy of Fer-de-Lance from a used bookstore. What hooked  me was the ingenuity and cleverness of Stout’s writing, but what drove me to keep searching out more of the Nero Wolfe books was how much I enjoyed spending time with the characters, even Lieutenant Rowcliff. I’d like to offer the following quote from Donald Westlake, which sums up my own feelings:

“I go there to see my old friends and watch Archie be archly secretive about his sex life and hear Wolfe say, ‘Pfui.’”

By the time I entered college I had read maybe a quarter of the Wolfe books, and I soon discovered that my university’s library had a full collection. My grades suffered my first year as I couldn’t help myself from devouring all the rest of the books in the series. What made this especially a treat—and maybe some of you might’ve had a similar experience—was discovering notes left in the margins by other Wolfe fans.  Since college I’ve reread my favorite Wolfe books at different times, have read everything else I’ve been able to find from Stout, and loved the A&E series starring Maury Chaykin and Timothy Hutton. I mention this so people here understand that while I’m not a Nero Wolfe expert, I am a fan, and while there are few writers who can match Stout’s talent, and I’m certainly not claiming to be one of them,  it was nonetheless  important to me to take great care in trying to duplicate for my Julius Katz series the enjoyment that I experienced reading all those Nero Wolfe books.

Now to the subject at hand. Both Julius and Wolfe live in brownstones, Wolfe’s is located at West 35th Street in Manhattan, Julius’s in the Beacon Hill section of Boston.  Both detectives are brilliant, display some eccentricities, and have lazy tendencies where they prefer other pursuits than being actively engaged as a detective. Both have expensive lifestyles. Both have discerning palates where they not only enjoy, but demand fine food. Wolfe’s beverage of choice is beer, Julius’s wine. Both are gracious hosts. Both enjoy the comfort of their homes. Both have strict requirements in how they choose to live their lives, Wolfe more so than Julius. Both live refined lifestyles, again more so with Wolfe than with Julius. Wolfe’s hobby is orchids, Julius’s is collecting wines. Both have a nemesis on the police force named Cramer. In Nero Wolfe’s case, it’s Inspector Cramer, in Julius’s case, it’s Detective Mark Cramer. Both Cramers often suspect that the private detective in question is pulling a fast one on them, and withholding critical information. Both Cramers also begrudgingly respect the private detective in question. Both Wolfe and Julius at times hire freelance detectives. In Wolfe’s case, these detectives are Saul Panzer, Fred Durkin and Orrie Cather. In Julius’s case, they’re Saul Penzer, Tom Durkin, and Willie Cather. Both Wolfe and Julius have assistants named Archie.
Now for some differences. Wolfe is in his mid-fifties and weighs one-seventh of a ton. Unless he’s in training to kill Germans in World War II, his idea of exercise is throwing darts. Julius is 42, weighs less than one-eleventh of a ton, is handsome, very fit, holds a fifth  degree black belt in Shaolin Kung Fu, and spends two hours every morning engaged in rigorous exercise. While Wolfe might be occasionally charmed by a woman, he has no intention of becoming involved with one, or ever letting a woman live under his roof. Julius is a notorious womanizer—or was until he meets Lily Rosten in the first of the Julius Katz stories—and becomes smitten by her, and dates her throughout the rest of the stories, at least so far. Wolfe rarely leaves his home, and while Julius has cultivated a similar image, he often leaves his home to dine at fine restaurants and to gamble, but like Wolfe, prefers not to leave his home for anything work-related. Wolfe employs a chef, Fritz Brenner, Julius does his own cooking. Finally, Julius’s true passions are very different than Wolfe’s; namely: Lily Rosten, wine, and gambling—he’s an expert poker player, and will often use bluffs and his skill at reading a player’s tell in his detective work.

Now for the two Archie’s in question. Archie Goodwin, along with being Nero Wolfe’s assistant, also performs a number of other tasks, including doing Wolfe’s bookkeeping and banking, typing Wolfe’s correspondences, and keeping the germination and other records for Wolfe’s orchids. His primary job, though, is detective work, and he’s very good at it. Tough, tenacious, and a keen observer who has the ability to report conversations verbatim, Goodwin is more than capable, although he accepts that Wolfe is the genius, and that his job is to assist, and occasionally to pester when Wolfe needs prodding. Goodwin is also fiercely loyal to Wolfe. In many ways Julius’s Archie is very similar to Archie Goodwin. He’s fiercely loyal to Julius, and pesters Julius when he feels it’s necessary. Along with being Julius’s assistant, he performs a number of other tasks, including being Julius’s accountant, wine purchaser, secretary, and all around man Friday. Just as Goodwin will collect information for Wolfe, Julius’s Archie does the same, except instead of going out into the field to do this and flashing shoe leather, Julius’s Archie collects the information over the Internet, usually by hacking into computer sites. One way in which they’re very different, is that Julius’s Archie isn’t human. Instead this Archie is a two-inch rectangle piece of advanced technology complete with audio and visual circuitry and a self-adapting neuron network. All the great 20th century detective novels, including the complete Nero Wolfe works, were loaded into his knowledge base leaving this Archie with the heart and soul of a hardboiled private eye. Since Julius wears him as a tie clip, he has a very different self-image of himself than say Goodwin—picturing himself as only five foot tall, which is his distance from the ground when Julius is standing.

Other than having an image of himself as a human, Archie is very self-aware, and understands that Julius named him Archie as an inside-joke—that he is destined to also being the second banana, always to be one step behind his boss in solving a case, and this brings up yet another way in which Julius’s Archie is very different than Goodwin—he badly wants to beat Julius to the punch in solving a case, and believes if he observes Julius in action enough times, he can keep refining his adaptive reasoning module and knowledge base so that he can accomplish this.

One final way that Julius’s Archie is very different than Goodwin is that when Goodwin is pestering Wolfe, there’s not much Wolfe can do about it, except to threaten to fire him, which I can’t remember ever happening. Julius, though, always has the option of turning his Archie off.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Remember the little demons contest?

I got this photo from the winner of the demon contest, Ron Clinton.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Julius Katz Collection

The Julius Katz Collection is now available as a 350-page paperback and kindle download. This collection has the first 6 Julius Katz mysteries that were originally published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and have so far won a Shamus, Derringer and 2 Ellery Queen Readers Choice awards, and an original 22,000 word novella, Julius Katz and the Case of a Sliced Ham.  If you haven't discovered these charming, fun, and audience-pleasing mysteries yet featuring Boston's most eccentric, brilliant, and laziest detective and his very unusual sidekick, Archie, now's your chance!

Monday, November 3, 2014

21 word story

A dark-haired beauty. She almost stole my heart. But I wrestled the knife away before she could finish the job.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Digital Demons Today!

Kindle, Nook, and all other digital versions of Demons are available today

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

On sale before going away for good

Once the kindle version of THE JULIUS KATZ COLLECTION is available (paperback available now), I'll be retiring the current kindle collections containing Julius Katz stories (Julius Katz Mysteries, Archie Solves the Case, and One Angry Julius Katz & Other Stories). I was torn somewhat with One Angry Julius since there are other stories in the collection that I think are pretty good, and others must've thought so also since one of the stories, A Hostage Situation, was a Thriller Award nominee, and another, Emma Sue, was named a notable story by Best American Mystery Stories. For this reason I've put One Angry Julius on sale for $0.99, and will keep it at that price until the collection is available to replace it.

Monday, October 27, 2014


The sordid truth was bound to come out sooner or later, and over at Tony Black's Pulp Pusher I come clean about where THE BOY WHO KILLED DEMONS came from...

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

More Demons!

I've got the following reading/signing events scheduled:

New England Book Mobile, Newton MA (where the demon hunting takes place!) Oct. 22nd 7pm

Annie's Book Stop, Worcester MA, Oct. 25th 5pm

Harvard Coop, Cambridge MA, Oct. 30th 7pm

If you'd like a signed book, preorder from one of these bookstores, or pickup a copy from Mysterious Bookshop in NY.

So what have the early reviews been saying about Demons?

“The sympathy that Zeltserman invokes on behalf of Henry is heartbreaking, and readers will fully believe in both the madness and the greatness of his tragic young hero.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Humor outweighs the horror in this amusing look at a 15-year-old saving the world . . . Zeltserman manages the voice of a teenager deftly, and the adolescent angst rings true. The demons are almost background to a tale about growing up.” —Kirkus Reviews

"Henry’s fortitude and single-mindedness will stir the hearts of adult and YA action fantasy fans" Library Journal

 'Like Stephen King, Dave Zeltserman makes the incredible come alive." Bookreporter.com

 'There's plenty of suspense and lots of chapter cliffhangers that make the book hard to put down. Zeltserman comes up aces again, with just the book for your Halloween reading.' Bill Crider

'For a YA novel, there’s plenty of action, a splash of horror and lots of suspense. It’s also loaded with drama which stems from being a teenager and from the curse that has befallen Henry.' DeadBuriedAndBack

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Win a Demon!

To celebrate today's release of THE BOY WHO KILLED DEMONS, the good folks at Overlook Press commissioned Jacob Klingele to make this one-of-a-kind demon figure, and they've asked me to run a contest to give this very unique object away to a deserving fan. So here's how this will work: if you're a fan of the book, you should have no problem answering these five questions about demons. Email me your answers to dave.zeltserman@gmail.com by November 7th, and one lucky fan will win the above demon figure.

1) When demons aren't plotting to open up the gates of hell, what do they do during their downtime for entertainment?

2) As THE BOY WHO KILLED DEMONS documents, the demons hiding among us take jobs to keep us from being suspicious.  What's the most common profession that demons end up in?

3) For those few of us who are unlucky enough to be able to see and hear them for what they are, describe how they sound.

4) In our realm, what are the demons natural enemies?

5) How many cities must the demons simultaneously perform their awful rituals so that they can open up the gates of hell?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Demons at Comic Con

Here's a photo of me and Overlook Press' publicity person extraordinaire, Kait Heacock. I'd never been to Comic Con before, wasn't quite sure what to expect, but it was a fun experience.I don't know how many people were there on Friday--the number I heard was a 120,000 people had bought passes for Comic Con--and the Javitz Center was jammed making it tough to move around. Not as many people wearing costumes as I would've thought, the showroom was huge with some very cool booths, and I wish I had had time for some of the presentations. But all in all, a fun time.