Interview with Matthew FitzSimmons, Author of The Short Drop
20 Jan 2016
The Short Drop is about Gibson Vaughn and the search for Suzanne Lombard, a childhood friend and daughter of the American vice president. Her disappearance has haunted Gibson Vaughn since he was a troubled teenager. Ten years later, he’s been given the chance to solve the mystery. It’s an opportunity that he can’t pass up and of course gets him into all sorts of trouble.
What is the one movie that you can quote the most?
That’s a three-way tie between Midnight Run, Ghostbusters, and Miller’s Crossing. I can recite all three films start to finish due to countless (and I do mean countless) viewings. All three are masterclasses in creating character through dialogue.
What’s your favorite play or musical?
It would have to be Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. I’ve always loved art that marries the highbrow to the lowbrow and Waiting for Godot is a shining example of that tradition. Godot is a profoundly intellectual play – a play of ideas – but Beckett leaned heavily on vaudeville to convey his philosophical themes. Buster Keaton’s earlier short, The Loveable Cheat bears a striking thematic resemblance to Godot. The play did very well in Europe, but struggled to find an audience in the United States. There’s a story about a performance in 1957 at San Quentin by actors from the San Francisco Actors’ Workshop. Why perform a play written by an intellectual for intellectuals to an audience of criminals and convicts? How could they possibly appreciate what more cultured audiences had not? But by legend, hardened criminals wept openly at the play and at Vladamir and Estragon’s interminable wait. They understood, exactly what the play said about their lives.
What advice would you give your teenage self?
Work harder to recognize important friendships and not to let them pass out of my life.
If you were a teacher, what book would you assign to your class?
Well this is a tricky one, because I was a high school English teacher for more than a decade, and there are so many books that I’ve loved teaching. If pressed, I’d choose Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin. It is, to me, the quintessential American book.
What’s your favorite quote or scene from The Short Drop?
The final page; the final lines. I remember exactly where I was when I wrote it. It is still precisely as it was in the first draft (something that can’t be said for much of the book), and it still hits me exactly right. The clatter of a closing screen door reminds me of a safe, happy moment in my childhood so I find the last line moving in a way that some readers may not.
Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?
I do not. For me, I fear that distilling life into a few words leads to a lifetime of failing to live up to an oversimplification. I have a friend whose motto is “Live for Today,” yet she diligently puts money into her child’s college fund. The child is four. I think that’s admirable and a terrific idea, but hardly living for today.
Matthew FitzSimmons is the author of the new book The Short Drop.Buy The Book
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