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Authors: Dave Zeltserman

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21 Tales

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21 Tales of Dark Suspense

by Dave Zeltserman


Digital Edition Copyright ©2011 by Dave Zeltserman



All rights reserved as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976. No part of this publication may be used, reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage or retrieval system, without the written permission of the author, except where permitted by law, or in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.


First eBook Edition: 2011


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, companies, institutions, events or locales is entirely coincidental.


Zeltserman, Dave

21 Tales by Dave Zeltserman


Cover design by Kenney Mencher


Published in the United States of America



“Danny Smith” © 2010

 “More Than a Scam” © 2002, originally appeared on the web-zine, Mysterical-E

“Flies” © 2006, originally appeared on the web-zine, Hardluck Stories

“She Stole My Fortune!” © 2010

“Closing Time” © 2006, originally appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, July/August

“Dave Stevens, I Presume?” © 2007, originally appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, March

“View From The Mirador” © 2007, originally appeared in Futures Magazine

“Almost Human” © 2003, originally appeared in Futures Magazine

“One Terrific Apartment” © 2010

“A Long Time to Die” © 1992, originally appeared in New Mystery Magazine, issue #2

“Money Run” © 2005, originally appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, November

“Man Friday” © 2010

“The Dover Affair” © 2003, originally appeared on the web-zine, Thrilling Detective

“Forever and Ever” © 2004, originally appeared in Hot Blood #12, Strange Bedfellows

“Triple Cross” © 2003, originally appeared on the web-zine, Orchard Press Mysteries

“Next Time” © 1996, originally appeared in Hardboiled, issue #22

“Nothing But Jerks” © 2008, originally appeared on the web-zine, Pulp Pusher

“The Plan” © 2003, originally appeared on the web-zine, Hardluck Stories

“A Rage Issue” © 2007, originally appeared on the web-zine, Thuglit

“Adrenaline” © 2007, originally appeared in Out of the Gutter, issue #2

“Nine-Ball Lessons” © 2007, originally appeared in Bullet, #7


Praise for 21 TALES


"Inventively depraved" --New York Magazine


"Dave Zeltserman is one of the crime genre's most accomplished, radical, and innovative talents. His command of style and personal dark vision of the world are framed in the short form to reach out and shake the reader by the throat. I only wish that 21 Tales had been 51 Tales or 101 Tales. We need more of his edgy stories to rattle the field." --Tom Piccirilli, author of Shadow Season
"In a relatively short period of time Dave Zeltserman has established himself as the most relevant author of dark crime fiction working today. As usual, Dave doesn't pull any punches, and his 21 Tales is inventive, nasty, pulpy fun." --Paul Tremblay, author of The Little Sleep
"Deadpan and more ruthless than ever, Zeltserman pulls off one clever shocker after another in classic pulp style. Not for the faint-hearted!" --Vicki Hendricks, author of Cruel Poetry
"Zeltserman's twisty-tailed gems drag you deep into pulpland, bitch slap you dizzy, and leave you begging for more." --Roger Smith, author of Mixed Blood
"Dave Zeltserman's stories demonstrate that he's as masterful with the short story as he is with the novel--the same stunning level of craft and the same lacerating vision. This is an important collection." --Ed Gorman, author of Ticket to Ride


"Dave Zeltserman’s 21 Stories has enough twists and turns and plot reversals to give O’Henry whiplash. Readers should expect the unexpected. Zeltserman delivers some dark and disturbing fun in these stories."-Lynn Kostoff, author of Late Rain


21 Tales
is a lethal Molotov cocktail that won’t give you a hangover but could give nightmares." Pulp Metal Magazine


"I’ve become a big fan of Dave Zeltserman for one simple reason: The man can write. 21 Tales, a collection of his short stories, surely will satisfy the most die-hard fan, while also giving bite-size tastes to the unconverted. It’s broken down into five sections that range from the semi-autobiographical to the brutal, but are dark tales of noir." Bruce Grossman, Bookgasm


Praise for other books by Dave Zeltserman


"Zeltserman is the author of increasingly accomplished crime novels, distinguished by spare and crisp prose, believable dialogue, imaginative plot twists and tightly wound characters who don't wear out their welcome."

"Superb mix of humor and horror...Zeltserman orchestrates events perfectly...Readers will keep turning pages to see how the ambiguous plot resolves."

—Publishers Weekly, starred review for The Caretaker of Lorne Field
"Harrowing. Zeltserman colors it black with the best of them."

—Kirkus Reviews
"Crime writer Zeltserman has produced a nail-biter...The narrative is straightforward and gritty, reminiscent of works of Dashiell Hammett...gripping and actually 'horrifying,' this title is recommended for horror fans and readers who may relish unpleasant surprises."

— Library Journal
“There's a new name to add to the pantheon of the sons and daughters of Cain: Dave Zeltserman. His new novel, Small Crimes, is ingeniously twisted and imbued with a glossy coating of black humor… The plot of Small Crimes ricochets out from [its] claustrophobic opening, and it's a thing of sordid beauty.”
—Maureen Corrigan for NPR’s Best Books of 2008
"[Small Crimes] deserves comparison with the best of James Ellroy."
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
"A strong piece of work, lean and spare, but muscular where a noir novel should be."
—The Boston Globe
"Not only does the novel have clean, simple prose, ample suspense and twists, and a fast-paced plot--standard fare; it also offers brilliant psychological insight into tortured souls, and on a deeper level, it is a moralistic tale about how small crimes beget larger ones."
—Bookmarks Magazine
"This novel [Killer]is everything hard-boiled fiction should be - compact, direct and disciplined, and concerned with humans rather than stereotypes. It is also, for all its violent subject matter, a quietly told story, which makes its tension all the more intense"
—Mat Coward, Morning Star


Other Books by Dave Zeltserman


Monster: A Novel of Frankenstein

The Caretaker of Lorne Field

A Killer’s Essence

Small Crimes




Bad Thoughts

Fast Lane

Blood Crimes


Julius Katz Series


Julius Katz Mysteries

Julius Katz and Archie

One Angry Julius & Other Stories


The Hunted Series


The Hunted

The Dame


For Judy


Special thanks to Kenney Mencher for his brilliant painting which was used for the cover art.


Look for the paperback edition of
21 Tales
from New Pulp Press.



These stories were written between 1992 and 2006. In the early nineties cell phones weren’t ubiquitous and we had VCRs instead of CD players, and it was tempting when putting this together to update some of my early stories to reflect these technology changes, but I resisted the temptation. I did use the opportunity to smooth out a few bumps here and there, but these changes were minor. Outside of
Danny Smith
, my shortest story, these stories are arranged in the following groups: my bogusly autobiographical ‘Life in Writer’s Hell’ stories, The Weird, The Hardboiled, The Manny Vassey stories, and The Brutal.
One Terrific Apartment
is fantasy, the rest of the stories in this collection are either crime, suspense or noir, and are populated by desperate criminals, con men, psychos, dangerous women and losers. There’s betrayal, deceit and treachery on these pages, and occasionally more enlightened behavior, such as self-sacrifice and courage. A few heroes emerge, not many, but a few.

As a kid I used to read all of the Alfred Hitchcock paperback collections I could get my hands on. I loved the twists and surprise endings in the better stories of these, and I’ve always tried to write the same sort of stories I used to love so much as a kid: stories that are fun and exciting and with plenty of twists, as well as endings that catch the reader by surprise. What can I say, at my core I’m a pulp writer. I hope people enjoy these.


Danny Smith



This is my shortest story. A mere 247 words long. My goal was to write a story in under 250 words that not only had a full arc, but was a satisfying read. You can be the judge for whether or not I succeeded.



I can’t get Danny Smith off my mind…

He was a good-looking kid. Well-mannered, soft-spoken, just an overall good kid. Only twenty-four years old. Six months ago he hired me to find his birth parents. You see, he was adopted, had great parents, but he wanted to know his roots. There was something familiar looking about him, made me think I had seen him before. The reason for that was his birth dad turned out to be Sam Lombardo, top guy in the Boston Mob. It didn’t take me too long to find that out. It turns out Lombardo had a one-night fling with a dancer, never knew he had this other son. When I told him about Danny, he told me what he would do to me if this kid ever bothered him.

That was six months ago.

Two weeks ago I heard Lombardo was on his death bed, dying of congestive heart failure, and word was he was going down fast. His goons brought me to see him. Lombardo wanted to know about Danny. I thought he just wanted to make peace with his son before he died.

A week ago Danny’s parents called me. They were frantic. Danny had disappeared. They had no idea where he was.

Three days ago I heard through the grapevine that Lombardo had found a heart donor. A good match, too. Transplant looks like its going to be a success.

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