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Interview: Dave Zeltserman, Author of Dying Memories

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Dave Zeltserman, the acclaimed author of the ‘Man out of Prison’ crime trilogy (Small Crimes, Pariah, and Killer), won the 2010 Shamus Award for Julius Katz Mysteries.  In addition, Mr. Zeltserman’s novel Small Crimes was picked by NPR as one of the five best crime and mystery novels of 2008, and Small Crimes and Pariah (2009) were both named best books of the year by the Washington Post

Zeltserman’s recent novel, The Caretaker of Lorne Field, received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, which called it a ’superb mix of humor and horror’.  The Caretaker of Lorne Field has also been shortlisted by ALA for best horror novel of 2010. Outsourced (2011) has already been called ‘a small gem of crime fiction’ by Booklist and has also been optioned by Impact Pictures and Constantin Film.

Readers can learn more about Mr. Zeltserman and all of his fantastic work by visiting his website, as well as following him on Facebook.

Please tell us a bit about your book, Dying Memories, and what you hope readers take away from reading it.

Dying Memories is a pure thriller. When a Boston-based reporter, Bill Conway, links two murders to a biotechnology firm, he finds himself not only framed for murder but hunted by shadowy forces. The danger for him increases with each chapter as he searches for a way to reclaim his life, understand what’s happening, and ultimately stop a sinister plot to enslave the country. With Dying Memories I put my own spin on the thriller genre by introducing a good amount of paranoia and giving the book a hard noir edge, and I think Dying Memories is a book that thriller readers are going to enjoy, and that Bill Conway will be a hero they’ll be able to identify with and care about.

Who are your favorite characters in the story?

That would have to Bill Conway and the mysterious G. Bill is a character who survived a horrific childhood and still came out of it a solid and good person. Throughout the course of the book, he finds his situation increasingly more dangerous, and it’s his resourcefulness that saves him.

G was just a very fun character to write, with his vague motives. As a reader, you’re never quite sure what G is up to.

Do you have a favorite line or excerpt from your book?

My favorite lines and excerpts would be giving away too much of the book. But I do like all the cryptic email messages Bill receives from G. Here’s a fairly innocuous one from early on (again, I don’t want to give away any of the twists), but it demonstrates how these messages change the tone:

His phone rang. It was Emily calling to say hi, and to thank him again for the coffee and éclair. While he shot the breeze with her an email came in with the subject ‘about your meeting today’. He opened it up. The message was short, simply saying:

You’re treading in dangerous waters. Be careful. –yer pal, G.

If your current release were to be turned into a movie, who would you love to see play what characters and why?

Maybe Chris Evans for Bill, Lauren Ambrose for Emily, and Jeff Bridges playing G.

What are your favorite aspects of writing?

I love the creative part. Building a world and cast of characters out of nothing, creating a plot that will thrill a reader, and when it all comes together it’s a great feeling. But the very best part of writing is when you get lost in your writing and the characters come alive. There’s a certain high when that happens that’s really quite something.

Your least favorite aspects of writing?

That would be writing a synopsis! My books and plots tend to be very involved, and I hate trying to boil it all down to one page!

Who are some of your favorite authors/books?

I’ll limit it to 10 authors and books. Dashiell Hammett is my favorite crime fiction author. I’m in awe of all five crime novels he wrote, but Red Harvest is my favorite. Flannery O’Connor and Wise Blood. Ray Bradbury and The Illustrated Man. Donald Westlake and The Ax. In my opinion, Westlake, under both his name and Richard Stark, was the best crime writer of the last 30 years. Jim Thompson and Savage Night. Joseph Heller and Catch 22. Bruce Jay Friedman and Far from the City of Class. I love Friedman’s absurdist humor and Far from the City of Class is my favorite short story collection. Dan Marlowe and The Name of the Game is Death. James M. Cain and Double Indemnity. Rex Stout and his complete Nero Wolfe collection.

What are you reading right now?

I am Legend by Richard Matheson. Brilliant writing, and while it’s ostensibly an apocalyptic vampire novel, it is so much more than that.

If you could have a dinner party and invite five authors—dead or alive—who would they be and what would you serve them?

I’m not sure how well these authors would get along, but I would love the opportunity to meet them. Edgar Allan Poe, Dashiell Hammett, Jim Thompson, Charles Willeford, and Mary Shelley. I would have to have plenty of whiskey on hand, and would serve grilled cod, Maryland crab cakes, and Philly cheesesteaks, and that would be only so I can see what Poe chooses so I can answer once and for all which city can lay claim to Poe!

What is a book that you wish you could say that you had written and why?

I’m very happy with the collection of books I’ve written, but if I’m going to be purely mercenary about it, I’d choose Harry Potter for the simple reason of all the money that book would make me, and how it would allow me to just focus on my writing instead of the business end of things! Instead I’ll answer this about the crime novel I most admire (since I write mostly crime fiction), and that would be Hammett’s Red Harvest. It’s about as perfect a crime novel as I’ve found, and I just marvel at both the writing and the way the book is constructed. I know some people claim they can see the seams since it was written in four parts for Black Mask, but I believe those four parts fit together seamlessly.

What is the greatest piece of advice (for writing and/or just living) that you have heard?

I’m going to stick with writing advice that can also carry over to living, and that’s enjoy the journey. Too often in writing we get stuck worrying about where we want to be, instead of simply enjoying what we’re doing and appreciating what we’ve achieved.

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