In 1937, F. Scott Fitzgerald was a troubled, uncertain man whose literary success was long over. In poor health, with his wife consigned to a mental asylum and his finances in ruins, he struggled to make a new start as a screenwriter in Hollywood. By December 1940, he would be dead of a heart attack.
Those last of Fitzgerald’s life, often obscured by the legend of his earlier Jazz Age glamor, are the focus of Stewart O’Nan’s novel “West of Sunset.”
O’Nan talks about his book at 7 p.m. Jan. 31 at Village Books, 1200 11th St.
With flashbacks to key moments from Fitzgerald’s past, the story follows him as he arrives on the MGM lot, falls in love with brassy gossip columnist Sheilah Graham, begins work on “The Last Tycoon,” and tries to maintain a semblance of family life with the absent Zelda and daughter Scottie.
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Fitzgerald’s orbit of literary fame and the Golden Age of Hollywood is brought vividly to life through the novel’s romantic cast of characters, from Dorothy Parker and Ernest Hemingway to Humphrey Bogart, a sympathetic and deeply personal portrait of a flawed man who never gave up in the end, even as his every wish and hope seemed thwarted.
O’Nan’s novels include “Snow Angels,” “The Speed Queen,” “A Prayer for the Dying” and “The Night Country.” Granta has named him one of the Twenty Best Young American Novelists.