Writer Matt Goldman uses Edina as a backdrop for his mystery novels.
Local author Matt Goldman has published six books over the past seven years. Despite his voracious writing pace, he hasn’t always been an author. This is a career Goldman says he started late and wishes he would
have taken a chance on sooner.
“I always wanted to write books,” Goldman says. “My friends today are like, ‘Why don’t you slow down? You’re writing so much.’ But I started too late. I didn’t start writing until I was 53, and it was published when I was 55. I wish I had started earlier.”
While he’s thrilled to be focused on writing books at this point in his life, his work certainly wasn’t boring before that; Goldman spent several years doing stand-up comedy in his 20s, after which he was a TV writer (An Emmy Award winning TV writer, no less!) who cut his teeth as one of the original writers for Seinfeld and later shows, including Love and War, Ellen, The New Adventures of Old Christine and Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. The two career paths intertwined early on. Goldman met Jerry Seinfeld while doing stand-up; he opened for him at a Minneapolis show in the mid-’80s, and Seinfeld later called Goldman to join his four-man writing team after landing his show.
It’s not a resume you’d expect when meeting Goldman, who, while being a warm and generous conversationalist, isn’t the extroverted, comedy-writer type. He would much rather be at his desk writing, out fly fishing or playing squash; spending time with his wife, Michele, and their kids; or taking his two standard poodles for a walk. (Goldman is insistent that, if his poodles are mentioned, it must be made known that they do not have the typical poodle haircuts. “That part is very important,” he says.)
He currently lives just a few blocks over the Edina border into Minneapolis, but Goldman spent many years living in Edina proper, which has served as a backdrop to several of his mystery and thriller novels—including his recently published A Good Family, which centers on a family living in a recently renovated home in the Country Club neighborhood.
Goldman lived in Los Angeles for 15 years as a TV writer, but when his two children were school-aged, he and his family moved back to Minnesota, landing in Edina and later Minneapolis. His kids attended Edina Public Schools all the way through, while he hopped back and forth between Edina and Los Angeles for work. It was during this season of life that he experienced firsthand all Edina has to offer.
“It really is an idyllic community in so many ways. The schools are excellent. The parks and rec facilities are excellent. [You have] the Edina Arts Center. Everything is really lovely,” he says. “I went to high school in St. Louis Park, and just because we were the neighboring suburb, we didn’t like Edina. But I’ve been pleasantly surprised living there … And I’ve met a lot of very interesting people—local people who grew up here and people who have moved in. Lovely people, smart people.”
It was exactly this—a beautiful, friendly city with great schools and low crime—that inspired the premise of his first novel, Gone to Dust. In it, a divorced woman is found murdered in her Edina home in the first chapter, and Goldman spends the rest of the book taking the reader through twists and turns before a very unexpected culprit is discovered—all while making readers fall in love with the charming private detective on the case, Nils Shapiro.
At the time that he wrote this novel, there hadn’t been a murder in Edina for nearly a decade. “I just thought it was a great juxtaposition to put a murder in such a lovely place,” Goldman says.
When writing his first novel, he was still going back and forth between Minnesota and Los Angeles for work. And he found that continuing to use Minnesota—and Edina and Minneapolis, particularly—in his next couple of novels helped him feel connected to home when he was out working in California.
“I wanted to write about a place I knew, and I knew about two places: Minneapolis and Los Angeles. There’s a lot of great crime fiction that’s already set in Los Angeles. It’s really where, in many ways, the genre started,” Goldman says. “I really love Minneapolis. So when I couldn’t be here, it helped me feel connected to here. And that was really the main reason I chose [the] Minneapolis [area].”
While Goldman thinks he may be done using Edina as a backdrop for his novels after his most recent one, he enjoyed using the Country Club neighborhood as the primary setting for A Good Family.
The summer he was writing the manuscript, he drove through the neighborhood in June. Goldman says that everywhere else in Edina “there were dandelions everywhere you look, and I mean, every boulevard, every yard—except Country Club,” he says. “There was not one dandelion there. And it just made me think about what it takes to maintain a certain standard of living.” Goldman is quick to say this observation isn’t an indictment. “I have dear, dear friends who live in Country Club, and I almost bought a house there twice,” he says. “So I do love it there.”
That musing coupled with his own contemplations around the idea of the American Dream. “I’m having a lovely book writing career. But it’s not as lucrative as writing television, and that was an adjustment for me, psychologically,” he says. “So I wanted to explore that a little bit, too. About that, maybe it’s an American thing, uniquely—I don’t really know because I haven’t lived in another country—but that constant feeling like you have to earn more, everything has to grow, nothing can stop getting bigger. And how there’s a dark side. Those two things kind of motivated that book.”
As for what the impetus was for Goldman to finally realize his goal of writing a book? “It was January of 2015. It was freezing out. Both my kids had gone back to college. I was in my Minneapolis house. I knew I was going to go work on a show around May 1,” he says. “I had that window of time [to write a book], I thought, ‘I’m just going to write a book—finally I’m going to write a book and see what happens.’ … I just sat down and wrote Gone to Dust in three and a half months … And that changed my life.”
Goldman doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. This spring he sent off his seventh manuscript to his publisher. He then took a day off to go fly fishing and started his next novel the very next day. “I just wrote 500 words,” he says, modestly. Then, smiling, adds: “I have to do it, or I get a little grumpy.”