Goldberg collaborated with his family to complete his late father Gerald Jay’s second mystery featuring Paris Police Commandant Paul Mazarelle, The Hanged Man’s Tale (Doubleday/Talese, Dec.).
How did your father develop this series?
Our family rented a house one summer in the Dordogne, near the town of Issigeac. It was a dream summer. Then my dad started reading in the local newspapers about a family of foreign tourists who had been murdered. That unsolved crime was in the news all summer—impossible to ignore or forget. It was out of those news reports that the first novel, The Paris Directive, was born.
How far had he gotten on a sequel?
He worked on the book for about four or five years, and had conceived of the book and mapped out most of the plot—the murder, the villain, Mazarelle’s role, and the love story. Over the years, he had written about two-thirds of it. And then the stroke hit. That’s when we came together as a family to work on the book.
At what point did you and your family decide to complete it?
Within a year after my dad’s stroke, the four of us—my dad, my mom, my son, and I—had an unusual three-generation meeting. We sat around the dining room table and we decided that we would try to work together as a writing
team. My dad didn’t have a major stroke, but it was challenging enough. In his case, the interesting thing is that he could focus one scene at a time, and still have great ideas—still have a vivid sense of scenes and characters, and surprising flashes of language. But he couldn’t remember the whole story at once. It was clear he didn’t have the stamina or the big picture vision to see it all through. That’s where we came in. Our goal was to maintain my dad’s style and original ideas as far as possible, and to complete it on deadline.
What was the hardest part of doing so?
The key for all of us was always to write in my father’s voice. That’s the thing we all went back over again and again, editing each other’s sections, to make sure we had a streamlined, unified tone. When I think of my dad’s writing, I think of his gift for language that sparkles, for images that surprise you. For example, he describes a murder victim falling down an elevator shaft, “her shrieks trailing after her like a torn parachute.” That’s what inspired us. And pulling it all together was my mom, who was the managing editor of the magazine Art in America.