Author Stewart O'Nan's new novel West of Sunset (Viking, $27.95) imagines F. Scott Fitzgerald's last years while working for MGM Studios in Hollywood, cranking out screenplays to pay his bills. "We think of him as a tragic writer, but he was a comic writer — fast, pithy and sharp," O'Nan says. The author talks about the novel Feb. 3 at the Cuyahoga County Public Library's Beachwood branch.
Q | Where does Fitzgerald rank among great American writers?
A | I want to say that he was underread in his lifetime. The big boom didn't start until well after his death.
Q | What surprised you the most during your research for this book?
A | Fitzgerald worked on Gone With the Wind. He was pulling all-nighters with [producer] David O. Selznick, taking pills to get him going and taking downers at night to sleep.
Q | Did the move to Hollywood hasten his death?
A | He made a lot of money in a short time, but it didn't help that his best friends were raging, highly functional alcoholics.