Interview with Dave Zeltserman, author of 'Julius Katz and Archie'

Interview with Dave Zeltserman, author of 'Julius Katz and Archie'

Dave Zeltserman won the 2010 Shamus Award for Julius Katz, Ellery Queen’s Readers Choice Award for Archie’s Been Framed, and is the acclaimed author of the ‘man out of prison’ crime trilogy: Small Crimes, Pariah and Killer, where Small Crimes was named by NPR as one of the five best crime and mystery novels of 2008, and Small Crimes and Pariah (2009) were picked by the Washington Post as best books of the year. His recent The Caretaker of Lorne Field received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, calling it a ’superb mix of humor and horror’, and was 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 been optioned by Impact Pictures and Constantin Film.

His latest book is Julius Katz and Archie (Top Suspense).

You can visit Dave’s website at Connect with him on Facebook at

Thank you for this interview, Dave. Can you tell us briefly what your latest book, Julius Katz and Archie, is all about?

Julius Katz and Archie is the first full-length mystery novel based on the characters from my award-winning short stories, which have so far garnered Shamus, Derringer and Ellery Queen’s Readers Choice awards.

This is a charming and fun mystery appropriate for any mystery reader. When a famous mystery writer hires Julius to find out who is planning to kill him, it soon plunges Julius and his sidekick, Archie, into the world of murder and book publishing.

Can you tell us who or what was the inspiration behind your book?

I wrote the first Julius Katz mystery story for the Black Orchid contest sponsored by The Wolfe Pack and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. This is a contest looking for novellas that exemplify the spirit of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe books, and I’m a huge of these books having read them all several times. What I wanted to do was capture the same fun and humor of them as well as the same feeling of wanting to spend time with the characters that I always had when reading Nero Wolfe.

Julius clearly has similarities to Nero. They’re both brilliant and eccentric detectives. They’re both gourmets and rather lazy, preferring their own pursuits over working, and will only take a case when their dwindling bank funds require it. But there the similarities end. Julius is handsome, fit, a 5th degree black belt, prefers wine to beer, is a notorious womanizer (or at least he was before he met Lily Rosten), and prefers gambling over any other activity. While there’s some Nero in his DNA, there’s a lot more of Pete Mitchel con man in him.

My Archie is also similar to Nero’s Archie. Like Archie Goodwin, my Archie has the heart and soul of a hardboiled PI. And he’s fiercely loyal to his boss, and will pester him endlessly when he has to. But there’s one major difference. My Archie isn’t human. He’s an advanced piece of technology that Julius wears as a tie clip.

So while I wrote the first story, ‘Julius Katz’ for the Black Orchid contest, it didn’t win. However, it was picked up by Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and ended up winning the Shamus Award for best PI story. And the Wolfe Pack (the sponsors of the Black Orchid) are now endorsing Julius, saying:

This intriguing mystery series evidences some similarities to Rex Stout's detective pair, Nero & Archie, but only some. This modern-day duo from Boston's Beacon Hill, are well worth a try. One of the more striking similarities is the humor evoked by first person narrator, Archie Smith.

With the strong reaction my Julius Katz mystery stories have received it seemed like a natural to write a full-length Julius Katz novel. Plus the characters are so much fun to write, especially Archie.

Is this your first published book and if so, can you tell us your experiences in finding a publisher for it?

No, I previously have had 9 published novels that are selling in 14 countries. I also have two more novels scheduled to come out over the next year and a half from Overlook Press. I decided to put Julius Katz and Archie out myself as an ebook original.

I’ll tell you about the experience I had with Small Crimes. I wrote Small Crimes in 2003 and had it rejected by every major NY publisher. Ken Bruen and Vicki Hendricks had read it and wrote me up really nice blurbs for it, and they were both previously published by the independent UK publisher, Serpent’s Tail, so I reached out to Serpent’s Tail’s editor, John Williams to see if he’d be interested. John told me up front that the chances of them buying the book were close to zero, that they only buy books that they feel they can’t live without.

After a year of waiting, I ended up selling the book to Five Star, which is a library publisher. While they’re a fine publisher, to me this was in effect throwing in the towel since the book wouldn’t get the exposure with them that I had hoped for. Two days after sending back the contract, John called me to tell me that Serpent’s Tail loved Small Crimes and wanted to publish it. I then scrambled over the next month and worked out a deal with Five Star where they would free up Small Crimes and publish Bad Thoughts instead.

Small Crimes came out in 2008, and NPR ended up picking it as one of the 3 best crime and mystery novels of that year.

Where do you live and if I were coming to town, where would we go to talk books?

I live in Needham, which is close to Boston. The best place would be Back Page Books in Waltham. The store owner, Alex Green, is one of the most passionate people I’ve met regarding books.

When you’re not writing, what do you do to relax and have fun?

I started studying Kung Fu about 10 years ago and have since earned my black belt and will be testing soon for my second degree. It both helps keep me in shape and is very meditative. I really enjoy it. I’m also a diehard Sox and Patriots fan, and live and dies with my teams every year.

Do you make a living off your books or do you have another job?

I worked over 20 years as a software engineer, and saved up enough to allow me to try writing full-time now. I’m not making a livable income yet at this, but with a couple of film deals that I’ve signed, I’m getting closer.

Do you have any words of inspiration from other writers who would like to be wearing your shoes?

Enjoy the journey. Too often we get caught up in what we haven’t achieved yet instead of appreciating what we have.

What’s next for you?

I’m finishing up a YA noirish horror novel titled The Boy Who Killed Demons. I’ve got a new book out in the fall from Overlook Press titled, A Killer’s Essence, and am also in the process of negotiating a film deal for it where I’ll be writing the screenplay, so I’ll be starting that soon.

Thank you for this interview, Dave. Do you have any final words?

Thanks for having me here. I hope folks enjoy Julius Katz and Archie!

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