Tag Archives: Elizabeth Zelvin

A day in the life of Bruce Kohler by Elizabeth Zelvin

I wake up sober.

This has been happening every morning, one day at a time, for almost five years now, but I still find it unbelievable. Absurd. Some days, just for fun, I lock eyes with myself in the bathroom mirror and say, the way we do in AA, “Hi, I’m Bruce. I’m a grateful recovering alcoholic.” Then I make like De Niro in Taxi Driver and say, “You talkin’ to me?” Like De Niro, I’m a lot older than I used to be. He could play me in the movie. I’d like that.

My girlfriend Cindy caught me at it one time. She laughed, but she didn’t think I was crazy. She’s a recovering alcoholic too and one of the main reasons I’m grateful. She’s a cop, a detective. Me being madly in love with a cop is even more ludicrous than how I stay sober, like going to AA and having a Higher Power. Don’t ask me what I mean by a Higher Power. It’s (a) complicated, and (b) none of your business. But am I the most powerful force in the universe? Does the sun rise or the earth spin on my command? If I didn’t pay attention, would they stop? So yeah, I’ll make a meeting today with my best friend Jimmy. And at some point, maybe in the shower or on the subway, I’ll ask Something to give Jimmy and my other best friend Barbara and their little girl Sunshine health and happiness and keep Cindy safe when she goes out there to do her job catching the bad guys. She’s tougher than De Niro, so it’ll probably be okay.

Breakfast. I don’t dawdle over it, because I’m meeting Barbara in the Park to go running. Here’s the difference between drinking and sobriety. If you want to get a laugh at the very idea of granola for breakfast, go into a bar and joke about it. If you want to get a laugh about how breakfast used to be black coffee and half a pack of cigarettes, speak at an AA meeting. What cracks me up is that it’s the same guys laughing. Ten years later. The survivors, like me.

Central Park. The jewel in the crown of New York City. In my misspent youth, it was somewhere Jimmy and I would go to drink way too many 40-ounce bottles of Colt 45, throw the empties into the bushes, and lie under a park bench to sleep it off. Now it’s where Barbara nagged me one step at a time through endless circuits of the track around the reservoir, then the lower loop and the upper loop, then the entire road that circles the Park from Central Park South fifty blocks north to 110th, from Fifth Avenue half a mile as the pigeon flies to Central Park West, until I was fit to run the Marathon. Fit. I refuse to say ready. She didn’t call it nagging. Recovering codependents don’t nag. She was encouraging me. Empowering me. Demonstrating her concern for my health because she loves me. But if you think I could have chosen not to run that Marathon, you don’t know Barbara. I shudder to think what she’d get us into if she had a gun.

Cindy has a gun. But unlike Barbara, she’s not at all impulsive. She works in the Central Park Precinct’s detective squad now, but we probably won’t see her today. A friend of ours died at the Marathon, an old guy they called the Ancient Marathoner, and Cindy caught the case. Of course Barbara was wild to help investigate. She always is. That’s what codependents do. Compulsive helpers. Fixers. They don’t call it snooping. Cindy knows we can ask questions she can’t and that Barbara is unstoppable. Barbara and Jimmy and I have stumbled over a few bodies. To be honest, we’ve stumbled into a few murderers too, and we’ve been lucky not to get killed ourselves before the law arrived. Anyhow, this time, we’re all trying to cooperate and play nice, since Cindy and her partner Natali have the resources, Barbara and I know the runners, and Jimmy is a computer wiz who’s probably better than the NYPD computer techs, good as Cindy says they are. Besides, sometimes you have to color outside the lines to find the information you need on the Internet. The NYPD can’t do that. Need I say more?

The key question in any murder that’s a mystery is “Who done it?” But in this case, we all agree, it’s more baffling than usual. Because who would kill an old man everybody loved?


Bruce Kohler appears in Elizabeth Zelvin’s short story, “Death Will Improve Your Marathon,” in Where Crime Never Sleeps: Murder New York Style 4, an anthology of crime and mystery short stories by members of the New York/Tri-State Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

What is the essence of the New York experience? A stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge? A concert at Carnegie Hall? Crossing the finish line at the New York Marathon? A trip to the Bronx Zoo? Or any one of these—plus murder? These seventeen stories by members of the New York/Tri-State Chapter of Sisters in Crime, with a foreword by Margaret Maron, explore the mystery and mayhem that lurk in every corner of the most unpredictable, irrepressible, inimitable city on the planet.

Where Crime Never Sleeps includes stories by Rona Bell – Fran Bannigan Cox – Lindsay A. Curcio – Joseph R. G. DeMarco – Ronnie Sue Ebenstein – Catherine Maiorisi – Nina Mansfield – Mary Moreno – Anita Page – Ellen Quint – Roslyn Siegel – Kathleen Snow – Triss Stein – Cathi Stoler – Mimi Weisbond – Stephanie Wilson-Flaherty – Elizabeth Zelvin

“A dream of an anthology for readers who appreciate a classic mystery unfolding in a perfectly characterized setting. A terrific collection of short stories!” —Alafair Burke, New York Times bestselling author of The Ex

“A collection of stories as diverse, original and exciting as New York itself. I really loved this book.” —Alison Gaylin, USA Today bestselling author

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About the author
Elizabeth Zelvin, editor of Where Crime Never Sleeps, is the author of the Bruce Kohler Mysteries, a New York series that includes five novels, beginning with Death Will Get You Sober, and seven short stories. She is also the author of the Mendoza Family Saga, historical fiction about a Jewish brother and sister who sail with Columbus and find refuge in the Ottoman Empire. Her short stories have been nominated twice for the Derringer and three times for the Agatha Award.

All comments are welcomed.

A Day in the Life of Diego Mendoza by Elizabeth Zelvin

Voyage of StrangersWhen I was a child growing up in Seville, Christians, Moors, and Jews still mingled in the narrow streets and markets of my beautiful city. But the shadow of the Inquisition was already upon us. I saw black Africans and Moors taken in the wars paraded through the streets in chains, the slave merchants hawking their wares as if these unhappy men, women, and children were so many oranges. I saw my first auto da fe when I was ten. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella had decreed that all citizens attend, and my papa made me look, to bear witness and also that I would never forget how dangerous it was to be a Jew.

Things got worse. We were forbidden to use our tallit and t’fillin for prayer, then to pray to Adonai altogether. Then the worst happened: we were commanded to convert to Christianity. If we did not, we must leave Spain or face the rigors of the Inquisition. My father had the foresight to take precautions before this happened, so that we might not be completely destitute, for all who owed our people money were glad to see our backs and retain all our possessions. Papa arranged for the family to travel to Italy, where Lorenzo de Medici, the merchant prince of Firenze, was known to be tolerant of the Jews.

I would have gone with them but for an extraordinary stroke of fate. A Genoese named Christopher Columbus had long declared that a trade route to the Indies might be found by sailing west across the Ocean Sea. He believed these lands lay much closer than our scholars and geographers had yet determined. Papa knew Columbus, for they had survived a shipwreck off the coast of Portugal together in their youth. Thus it happened that on the very day the Jews said farewell forever to Spain, I sailed into the unknown with Admiral Columbus.

My days aboard the Santa Maria–measured in watches, rather than days and nights–were filled with hard work and discomfort. When our duties were done, we slept where we fell on the brine-splashed deck or on coils of heavy cable. But I felt an extraordinary freedom as well. I would climb up the rigging to the crow’s nest, raise my arms and face to the wind, and sing out my praise to God.

I made that crossing twice, for having found new lands, a veritable earthly paradise, and a strange people who had their own gods, thought gold pretty but of little value, and had never seen metal weapons or horses, the Spaniards were determined to grasp and hold as much as they could. On the first voyage, the Taino greeted us warmly, for they strive not to excel in wealth or prowess but to outdo each other in the extravagance of their generosity. When we came back, the fleet of seventeen ships bearing soldiers and settlers as well as sailors, they soon knew we had come to destroy them.

I had my sister Rachel with me then, disguised as a boy with none but the Admiral himself the wiser. My days consisted mainly of hard work building the settlements of Isabela and Santo Tomas and making our way through the tropical forest between them, torn between the beauty of the lush vegetation and brightly colored birds and the persistence of the mosquitoes. But occasionally, Rachel and I would slip away to visit our Taino friend Hutia. We would celebrate Shabbat as best we could with a stub of candle and say our b’ruchas to a chorus of birdsong. Then, in the Taino village, we would play batey, a ball game that the Taino used as religious observance and court of justice as well as sport. Those days I will always remember.


Meet the author
Elizabeth Zelvin is a psychotherapist and author of the Bruce Kohler mystery series as well as the Admiral Columbus and Diego Mendoza series, including the Agatha-nominated story “The Green Cross,” which first appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, and Voyage of Strangers, her new novel about what really happened when Columbus discovered America. Liz’s stories have been nominated three times for the Agatha Award and for the Derringer Award for Best Short Story. Voyage of Strangers is available at Amazon. Liz’s author website is at www.elizabethzelvin.com


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A Day in the Life of Bruce Kohler by Elizabeth Zelvin

Hi, I’m Bruce, I’m an alcoholic. I’d feel like a dork if I said I’m a grateful recovering alcoholic, the way my friend Jimmy and other guys with long-term sobriety do in AA. But I have to admit that life without booze doesn’t suck as much as I thought it would. For one thing, I always thought I’d be dead by now.

Speaking of dead, I’m even more surprised to find myself stumbling over bodies and solving murders than I am to find myself hanging out at AA meetings. The stumbling part, yeah, been there, done that, like any other drunk. But don’t blame me for the sleuthing. Jimmy’s girlfriend Barbara gets us into that every time. She’s a nice Jewish girl from Queens with the kind of childhood Jimmy and I thought existed only on TV. She’s also a world-class codependent—addicted to minding everybody’s business, especially mine and Jimmy’s. She thinks running around trying to figure out whodunit helps me keep my mind off booze, and maybe it does.

What do I do? People always ask me that. Hey, I’m only two years sober. I’m still figuring what I want to be when I grow up. Yeah, yeah, I should know by now. I sure don’t want to temp my whole life. For one thing, I’m getting tired of hearing Barbara joke about my pink collar. Man, when she gets hold of a joke, she grabs it by the neck and shakes it like a terrier. You’ve gotta give it to her for persistence. She’s like that with the sleuthing too. That’s why we always end up in a faceoff with some murderer. Not only do I have to rescue her, I have to swear she didn’t need rescuing. Otherwise I’d be in the doghouse for sexism and crimes against women. Okay, okay, sometimes she rescues me. Why isn’t Jimmy ever there? Because he never comes out from behind his computer except to go to a meeting.

Last summer, Barbara got both of us out of town. With a lot of arm-twisting, Jimmy got us shares in a clean and sober group house in the Hamptons. Thanks to the iPad, he could even take the Internet to the beach with him. Wouldn’t you know it, we found a body the first time we went to the beach. In Deadhampton. You’re not gonna believe who she turned out to be: someone from my distant past. It took us all summer and a couple more murders to find the killer. At least I didn’t get bored. Besides, there was this woman….

Find out what happened to Bruce, Barbara, and Jimmy last summer in DEATH WILL EXTEND YOUR VACATION.


Elizabeth Zelvin is a New York City psychotherapist whose mystery series featuring recovering alcoholic Bruce Kohler and his friends includes three mysteries, starting with DEATH WILL GET YOU SOBER, and four short stories. Liz is a three-time nominee for the Agatha Award for Best Short Story. Her story, “Death Will Tank Your Fish,” was nominated for the 2011 Derringer Award. Also released this spring: OUTRAGEOUS OLDER WOMAN, Liz’s CD of original songs, which you can hear on her music website at http://lizzelvin.com. Liz’s author website is http://elizabethzelvin.com. She blogs on Poe’s Deadly Daughters and SleuthSayers.