Gerald Jay Goldberg
Robert Goldberg ’79 and his family helped complete his ailing father’s final novel

For author and filmmaker Robert Goldberg ’79, writing is a family affair. His mother, Nancy Marmer, is a critic and was the longtime managing editor of Art in America magazine, and his father was Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer Gerald Jay Goldberg. “When I did my papers for junior high school I had to come and sit at the dining-room table with my parents and have them painstakingly go over the entire thing,” Goldberg remembers. “I always felt like both of my parents were my first and best writing teachers.” 

That familial camaraderie lasted into adulthood for Goldberg — he and his father co-wrote two non-fiction books — and reached a peak when Goldberg’s father suffered a stroke and the family banded together to help complete the mystery novel he was working on at the time. “It was a small stroke, but it definitely took a toll on his linguistic ability,” Goldberg says. “But he was strong-willed, and he really wanted to get this book across the finish line, and we as a family really wanted him to have this.”

The Hanged Man’s Tale was published by Penguin Random House in December and is the sequel to The Paris Detective, which was published in 2012. Both books appear under Gerald Jay Goldberg’s nom de plume Gerald Jay. The new book was inspired by the real-life gruesome murders of tourists in France that took place while the Goldberg family was there on a family vacation in the late 1990s. Both mysteries feature French police inspector Paul Mazarelle, who Goldberg says has a vitality and love of life that remind him of his father. Mazarelle “loves food, he loves wine. He doesn’t take any crap from anybody, and that was my dad too.” 

Read an excerpt from The Hanged Man’s Tale

Gerald Jay Goldberg was working on the new mystery when he had the stroke. As the dust settled and the stroke’s effects became evident, the family pulled together to help him with the project. “There were certain things he could not do but there were certain things he could do, even writing-wise,” Goldberg shares. “He was not able to hold the entire narrative arc in his head at the same time, but at the sentence level, at the paragraph level, even the chapter level, he could do some really nice writing.”

The family resolved to help him finish. As a team, Goldberg and his parents, along with Goldberg’s son James, a recent film school grad, plotted the novel out on note cards, wrote, and edited. “We would go off and write each at our own desks and then come together around the dining-room table and talk about things and look at the cards and move things around,” Goldberg says. Working together, the family finished The Hanged Man’s Tale. 

As they persevered, Gerald Jay Goldberg became sick again and ended up in the hospital, passing away in June 2020. The book was not out yet, but it was complete and so was the family’s mission. “I felt so great that my dad was going out on top,” Goldberg says. “He was a winner at the end.” 

As for the family business, writing together is set to continue; Goldberg and his son are now working on a screenplay. “We have a really special bond in our family,” Goldberg says. “I feel lucky about that.”