Interview with ‘Julius Katz and Archie’ Dave Zeltserman

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

Q: Thank you for this interview, Dave. Can you tell us 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.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

Julius is a brilliant, eccentric and incredibly lazy private detective, and is usually only willing to take a case after days of being pestered from his assistant, Archie, and that’s only after his funds have reached anemic levels. Julius is also handsome, physically fit, a 5th degree black belt in Kung Fu, a gourmet and a wine connoisseur. He used to be a notorious womanizer, at least until he met Lily Rosten. His favorite activity, other than loafing, is gambling.

Archie is probably the most unusual sidekick in the annals of mystery fiction. While he has the heart and soul of a hardboiled PI, he’s not human, but instead an advanced piece of technology that Julius wears as a tie clip. For a long time Archie was very confused as to why Julius’s behavior changed so dramatically after meeting Lily Rosten, at least until Archie analyzed a Jane Austin novel.

Mark Cramer is a homicide detective who is convinced Julius is always trying to pull something on him.

The rest of the cast includes freelance detectives Julius uses, a murder victim, and a cast of suspects.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

Most of my characters spring purely from my imagination. A couple of exceptions are my novels Pariah and Monster (which will be out 2012 from Overlook Press). Characters from Pariah were inspired very heavily from Whitey Bulger and other members of the South Boston mob, and Monster is a retelling of the Frankenstein story which includes several historical figures, including the Marquis de Sade.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

I’ll write a detailed plot outline before starting. At some point my book becomes something organic and new plot lines and characters come up, but I always work my way back to my original outline.

Q: Your book is set in Boston. Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular?

Well, I live in the Boston area, have my whole life except for 5 years when I was at school at the University of Colorado. I figure if Nero Wolfe can have Manhattan, Julius Katz can have Boston!

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

My story is very character and plot-driven, but setting does play a role.

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

Julius Katz and Archie is an e-book only, so I’m guessing at where page 69 would be.  Julius is expecting a visit from a very angry Detective Cramer, who Julius knows is going to accuse Julius of holding back information regarding a murder.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

I think this excerpt will give people a good idea of the tone of this book. To set this up, Julius had earlier been approached by a client to participate in a potentially embarrassing charade for a large fee. When Julius turns this client down, a bottle of ’78 Montrachet is later added to the fee to induce him, and well, what can Julius do but accept?

“I thought your dignity and reputation weren’t for sale?” I asked.

A wry smile pulled up the edges of Julius’s lips. “I don’t believe I ever said anything about my reputation being priceless,” he said.

“Okay, your dignity then.”

More of his wry smile. “Technically, Archie, I don’t believe I as much sold my dignity as bartered it away.”

It was a clever joke, but I wasn’t much up to joking then. More of that excess heat began to burn again in me. “For a lousy bottle of wine! That’s what you did it for!”

“I hardly think you can call a ’78 Montrachet a lousy bottle of wine.” Julius’s smile faded as he sat straighter in his chair and rubbed his thumb along the knuckles of his right hand. With others, Julius kept his emotions and thoughts impenetrable, with me he didn’t bother. Right now he was showing his annoyance, but I didn’t care. “The man is a philistine,” Julius continued. “He was going to mix soda water with a ’78 Montrachet to make a wine spritzer. It would’ve been a crime to let that happen.”

“So you were just saving humanity from an outrage?”


“Okay,” I said. “I understand. For a bottle of wine, you’ve agreed to play a stooge.”

Julius stopped rubbing his knuckles. He took in a slow breath and with a forced attempt at humor, said, “And of course, twenty-five thousand dollars.”

“Of course, we can’t forget the twenty-five thousand dollars. So for that money and the Montrachet, you’ll be looking like a dunce to the world.”

“Again, Archie, things are not always what they appear.”

“Yeah, well, as far as the TV and newspaper reporters are going to be concerned, Kenneth J. Kingston will be trumping you at your own game. Should I be ordering you a dunce cap now for the occasion? I might be able to find a good deal.”

Julius slowly began rubbing his knuckles again. “Enough of this, Archie.”

I should’ve taken the hint, but I couldn’t help myself. “Sure, of course,” I said. “I understand. But Boss, should I get a jump on updating your biography to reference that you’re no longer Boston’s most brilliant detective, but have slipped to the second-most? Or should I wait until after Kingston plays you for a chump? Now that I think of it, after that happens I’m not even sure you could legitimately claim that title since probably every other working private investigator in Boston would be able to prove themselves intellectually superior to Kingston, so by the transitive property that would in effect make you Boston’s least brilliant detective. Not as compelling a title for you to hold, but I guess we’ll have to deal with it. If you want I can order stationary now to that effect, or I can wait until—”

I pushed him too far. Julius cut me off, saying, “Goodnight, Archie.” And blast it! My world went black as he turned me off!

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Dave.  We wish you much success!

Thanks for having me!





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