Noah Hawley has been publishing novels for over twenty years, and he’s also the creator and writer of TV shows and movies—most notably the TV adaptation of Fargo. His TV writing and novels cover a wide spectrum of topics, but all edge across the mystery and thriller genre and many share similar themes and styles. Whether you’re familiar with Hawley’s work through the screen or the page, we’ve paired his novels with two of his TV shows and one of his movies—so grab some popcorn and get ready to binge read (or watch) your way through Hawley’s extensive body of work!
If You Like Fargo, Read Before the Fall
by Noah Hawley
Read by Robert Petkoff
The TV adaptation of Fargo follows several interconnected storylines of average people and small-town law enforcement tangling with organized crime across the decades in the midwest. The series boasts a strong sense of place, idiosyncratic humor, and bold storytelling. Many of the scenes may seem random in the moment, but the inevitable payoff is always worth it.
Before the Fall is set on the east coast rather than the midwest, but the setting is fully realized, and the novel has the same straightforward, serious tone cut through with moments of irony and dark humor. The story centers on Scott Burroughs, who survives a private plane crash, along with a four-year-old boy, and the media storm that follows as Scott struggles to figure out what happened. Was the crash a fluke, an accident, or is something more sinister at play? Flashbacks and asides are well-written, fascinating, and sometimes a little puzzling, but their significance becomes obvious as you get deeper into the story. Hawley takes his time describing the visceral moments of the plane crash, survival, and fallout, which will remind readers of some of the more intense moments in Fargo. If you like the way events escalate dramatically in the TV show, you'll be glued to the pages of Before the Fall.
If You Like Lies and Alibis, Read The Punch
by Noah Hawley
Lies and Alibis is a 2006 movie about Ray Elliott, a man who runs a company providing alibis for men and women cheating on their partners. Ray fancies himself in the risk management business and likes to keep his work free from crime, but when a prominent client's son accidentally kills his mistress, Ray and his associate Lola are drawn into a messy web of lies where they have to extricate themselves not only from their panicking client but also from the police and a few other seriously bad guys. The sardonic humor, quick dialogue, and clever twists are appealing even though most of the characters are engaging in highly questionable behavior.
The Punch is very similar in tone, with quick-witted lines, characters leading double lives and guarding big secrets, and razor-sharp humor. The titular punch is delivered right at the beginning of the novel when brothers David and Scott come to blows in the aftermath of their father's death. The two must juggle handling their checked-out mother while preparing their father's memorial service, and keep their personal lives from imploding...without much success. Like Lies and Alibis, The Punch builds to a memorable and explosive climax that highlights the complexities of relationships and human behavior.
If You Like The Unusuals, Read A Conspiracy of Tall Men
by Noah Hawley
The Unusuals is a ten-episode TV show that first aired in 2009, and focuses mainly on Detective Casey Schraeger, who is assigned to an NYPD murder squad the same day that one of their own is found dead. Teaming up with Walsh, the murdered cop's former partner, she and the rest of the squad solve mysteries while also slyly probing the corruption within the unit. Walsh's partner was corrupt, but he had files on all of his coworkers, and it seems that he wasn't the only one keeping secrets.
While A Conspiracy of Tall Men isn't a procedural, fans of conspiracies and off-kilter humor will certainly devour this story. Linus Owen is a professor of conspiracy theories and is rather shocked to find himself caught up in a conspiracy of his own when his wife dies in a plane crash in Florida...when she's supposed to be in Chicago. Together with his two conspiracy theorist friends, Linus dupes the FBI into giving him info about the crash and finds himself in over his head with multiple federal and terrorist organizations. Readers who are comfortable with a bit of ambiguity and like their humor sharply contrasted with drama will enjoy both the TV show and Hawley's debut novel.
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