Emmy Award-winning TV writer and Minnesota native Matt Goldman will be at Once Upon a Crime at 7 p.m. Sept. 14 to read and sign copies of his first crime novel “Gone to Dust.”
Goldman sets his dead-of-winter whodunit in his former town of Edina, a city where murders are rare. In the novel, a P.I. named Nils Shapiro is hired by the Edina P.D. to help solve a crime along Minnehaha Creek. The irreverent Shapiro takes shots at various metro landmarks including 50th and France, the Perkins at Hwy. 100 and 50th, and “Little Mogadishu” on the West Bank.
Goldman’s TV credits include “Seinfeld” and the “Ellen” sitcom. I started this Q&A, done via e-mail, by asking about that Emmy.
Q: For what show did you win the Emmy?
A: “Wizards of Waverly Place.” Great writers. Great cast. Terrible network. I have no problem burning that bridge.
Q: Do you remember jokes you wrote for “Ellen” or “Seinfeld?”
A: I do. I think my favorite is in “The Robbery” for Seinfeld. Jerry’s apartment is broken into and he calls the police. The officer says something like, “We’ll give you a call if we find your stuff.” And Jerry says something like, “Do you ever find people’s stuff?” And the officer replies, “No.”
Q: What was the impetus for an Emmy-winning writer to try his hand at a crime novel?
A: When you’re highly introverted and spend 14 hours a day in a room full of boisterous comedy writers, murder crosses your mind.
Q: How did being a TV writer help in composing a crime novel?
A: When you work on over 400 episodes of television, you can’t help but learn story, dialogue, character and series architecture. You learn how to cast your characters in compelling relationships. You learn how to sow seeds of conflict that will pay off in the story and in future books.
Q: In what ways are you like Nils Shapiro the Jewish guy named for a Swede?
A: I’m named after a Swedish immigrant named Matt Anderson. He was like a second father to my dad, teaching my dad how to hunt and fish. Matt died the day my parents were married, and in the Jewish tradition, they named me after him. My father passed away last year. We spread some of his ashes on Matt’s grave this past summer. I borrowed heavily from that story for Nils.
Q: I don’t know if you are twisted at all but I imagine that mind-set would come in handy for mystery books?
A: We’re all twisted. If we’re good storytellers, no one knows it until we write a murder mystery. Or worse.
Q: Why isn’t Edina interesting enough to be the setting for your second book?
A: It is, but not as interesting as the Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament.
Q: Had you completed your first book when you started your second mystery?
A: Yes. I’d completed the first and started to write the second to anesthetize myself during the painful wait to find out if the first would be published.
Q: How much time do you spend in the Twin Cities?
A: It depends on my TV work and where my kids are. I’m finishing a TV job in late August, and both of my kids just moved back to Minnesota. I’m hoping to spend the bulk of this fall there to finish the third book. I miss it when I can’t be there. Writing books set in Minneapolis helps me feel close when I’m far away.
Q: For what celebrity are you mistaken?
A: A lot of people think I’m an actor. I don’t know who they think I look like, and when I ask, neither do they. When I was younger, probably Michael J. Fox. Maybe fellow Minnesotan Steve Zahn. Maybe I just look like I should be an actor. I hope that’s not an indictment of my writing.
Q: Because of your Hollywood connections, did you write this book with a movie in mind?
A: No. But I have optioned the rights for TV and have written the pilot. I’d love to make it as a series, but that was never the goal. I have fallen in love with novel writing.
C.J. can be reached at email@example.com and seen on Fox 9’s “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.