Page Turner / Edited by Peter McDermott
The dramatist and mystery writer Joseph Goodrich has described himself as a “Minnesota native who’s delighted to find himself in New York City.”
His latest work, however, is concerned with Los Angeles. “South of Sunset” is a collection of nine plays, most of which were written and first produced in the city.
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“They reflect the surreal, often violent quality of life in the City of Angels,” said Goodrich, a popular reader at both the Irish American Writers & Artists salon and the Artists Without Walls showcase. “It’s a city of extremes with a lot of empty space to fill, and it attracts the ambitious and the desperate alike. Many of the pieces involve crime to one degree or another.”
Goodrich added: “Theatre is the most ephemeral of the arts, so it’s a pleasure to see these plays in print.”
Date of birth: 1963
Place of birth: Worthington, Minnesota
Residence: Jackson Heights, NY
Published works include: “Blood Relations: The Selected Letters of Ellery Queen, 1947-1950” (Perfect Crime Books 2012); “Panic” and “Smoke & Mirrors” (Samuel French 2008); “The Mystery Box: New Stories From The Mystery Writers of America,” edited by Brad Meltzer (Grand Central Publishing 2013); “The Rich and the Dead: New Stories From The Mystery Writers of America,” edited by Nelson DeMille (Grand Central Publishing 2011); as well as articles and stories in “Mystery Scene, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine,” and “Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.”
What is your writing routine? Are there ideal conditions?
It depends on whether or not I’m engaged in a project. When I am, I try to work no less than four hours a day, generally in the morning. A second session can take place in the afternoon, should the project demand it. If I’m working on a piece of fiction, I aim for 2,000 words a day. A measure of quiet is necessary—as is coffee.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Don’t give up. Learn to accept criticism gracefully, but only use what’s helpful to you. Be bold. Find writers you trust, and share and exchange your work with them. It can be a lonely business, writing, and like-minded friends can make all the difference. Read widely and constantly.
Name three books that are memorable in terms of your reading pleasure.
“Harpo Speaks,” by Harpo Marx and Rowland Barber, which introduced me to a world of theater and show business that still fascinates me; Nicholas Meyer’s “Confessions of A Homing Pigeon” and “The Book and the Brotherhood,” by Iris Murdoch, another of her magisterial examinations of British intellectual and social life.
What book are you currently reading?
“The Love-charm of Bombs: Restless Lives in the Second World War,” by Lara Feigel. What did writers Graham Greene, Rose Macaulay, Henry Green, Elizabeth Bowen and Hilda Spiel do during and just after WW II? Feigel’s book offers the reader a highly detailed account of a time of personal and global tumult.
Is there a book you wish you had written?
Any good book prompts my admiration, but I wouldn’t mind having written “The Aleph and other Stories” by Jorge Luis Borges or “Vanish in an Instant” by Margaret Millar.
If you could meet one author, living or dead, who would it be?
I’ve spent a lot of time recently working on a project about playwright / biographer S. N. Behrman, and by all accounts he was a charming, witty man who enlivened any room he entered. I imagine we’d lunch at the Colony or Le Pavillon—he liked good restaurants. Round, bald, bespectacled, wearing an expensive suit smeared with cigarette ash, Behrman might interrupt an anecdote about working with Garbo to exchange a few words with Moss Hart, who happened to be passing by…The conversation would be as rich and filling as the food.
What book changed your life?
The book that’s had the greatest effect on my artistic and personal life is “Plays From Padua Hills 1982.” It led me to the Padua Hills Playwrights Workshop / Festival in Los Angeles, which set in motion a train of events that ultimately brought me to NYC.
What is your favorite spot in Ireland?
Ely Place, Dublin, and Trinity College on a brisk March morning when daffodils are nodding and a lone horse clops along the road. And you ask yourself: is it 2015—or 1916?
You’re Irish if…
You bleed for your country.