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The Past is Never Dead: A Gritz Goldberg Mystery

David Schulman

John F. Blair, Publisher
$22.95 hardcover
6 x 9     
272 pages
Published in 2004

Middle-aged shrink David “Gritz” Goldberg is enjoying lunch one day when he receives a message to hurry to the historic Battery Park Hotel in Asheville, North Carolina, where an unidentified man is preparing to leap to his death.

The predicament, as it turns out, is both more and less dire than it first appears. The man has no intention of jumping. He is T Royal, Gritz’s childhood caretaker, back in Asheville after a long absence to live out his retirement. That’s the good news. The bad news is that, since his return, T has been plagued by the ghost of Mordecai Moore, a young black man put to death sixty-five years earlier for a murder he didn’t commit.

In 1939, a girl was killed at the hotel just prior to President Franklin Roosevelt’s visit to Asheville during a Southern campaign swing. T was with Moore that night and knew he didn’t do it but couldn’t testify because of the racial climate of the time.

Working from the same office where Zelda Fitzgerald once shared secrets with her own psychiatrist, Gritz and T form an unlikely duo. They stumble across dirty history involving members of Gritz’s own synagogue, as well as locals connected to Willard Dudley Paully, the head of a group of Nazi sympathizers known as the Silver Shirts. Eventually, Gritz finds himself set up to take a murder rap. That is, until the mystery leads him to a corrupt senator, a red hot shiksa nurse, a séance led by a massage therapist, a mute old lady with computer skills, and a local salvage company that may have changed the course of world history.

The Past is Never Dead introduces a reluctant, quirky sleuth unlike any other. Readers will enjoy searching out the real-life parallels in Asheville, a town equal parts historic and New Age.


The Past is Never Dead is Schulman’s deft story of a ‘gritsy’ Jewish psychiatrist with a sixty-five-year-old murder on his couch. Cultural conflicts and racial tension of Southern Appalachia in the 1930s paint the background of this startingly fresh first novel. All I can say is, if you don’t read this book you need your head examined.” —Randy Russell, Edgar nominee and author of Ghost Dogs of the South
“A remarkable book. The color of the South has never been spun from a more refreshing perspective. I hope to see a lot more of Schulman and Gritz.” —Hunter Morgan, author of The Other Twin
“Schulman knows how to create a world peopled with unusual, interesting, and believable characters. The quirky, sarcastic Gritz is one of the most likeable sleuths I’ve met in a long time, and he tells the story with just the right mixture of humor, insight, and compassion.” —Terry Lewis, author of Conflict of Interest and Privileged Information
“The humor in this endearing book, and there is plenty, comes, not just from its many funny moments, but from a core of incongruity that is quintessential small-town South—a place where a jaded Southern Jew would naturally ally with an elderly African American to save a dead man. The Past Is Never Dead is one of those rare books that, hours after you picked it up, you find yourself sitting in the same chair, turning the last delicious page.” —Tommy Hays, author of In the Family Way and director of the Great Smokies Writing Program at UNC-Asheville