Robert Parker is gone. Who is the next face of Boston crime fiction?
By Don Aucoin, Globe Staff | February 23, 2010
Robert B. Parker had been the face of Boston crime fiction for nearly four decades when he died on Jan. 18. There is no replacing a writer who built a larger-than-life persona and cut a unique swath with his best-selling Spenser novels. But who are the new faces to watch? Who stands poised to possibly follow in Parker’s footsteps and make their mark with hard-boiled protagonists and gritty stories drawn from the streets of our fair city? Here are a few likely suspects:
Dave Zeltserman worked for 25 years as a software engineer at companies like Digital and Lucent before he got his big break as a writer of crime fiction. And it happened just in the nick of time, because Zeltserman was prepared to abandon his dream of being a novelist.
So excuse him if he seems like a man in a hurry - he wrote last year’s “Pariah’’ in six weeks - rather than pausing to savor his success.
Zeltserman broke through two years ago with “Small Crimes’’ and quickly followed it up with “Pariah’’ and his new novel, “Killer,’’ out in the United States in May (Serpent’s Tail has published all three). Before that, while he managed to get a couple of books published, he had to weather constant rebuffs from publishers who told him his work was too dark. “I was about to quit writing for good, because I was frustrated as hell,’’ says Zeltserman, 50, of Needham.
Kudos are flowing his way these days. The Washington Post compared Zeltserman to pulp-master James M. Cain, author of such classics as “Double Indemnity.’’ National Public Radio chose “Small Crimes,’’ which revolves around a corrupt ex-cop in Vermont released after serving time in prison for stabbing a district attorney, as one of the top five crime and mystery novels of 2008, calling it “a thing of sordid beauty.’’ Globe reviewer Ed Siegel lauded “Pariah,’’ one of whose characters is a Whitey Bulger-like mobster, as “darkly enjoyable,’’ adding that Zeltserman’s “smooth, lively writing’’ makes him “a fine addition to the local literary scene.’’
Raffi Yessayan, Margaret Mclean, Paul Tremblay
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