Sunday, October 30, 2016

Book Review: Before The Fall by Noah Hawley

Before The Fall by Noah Hawley

Hardcover, 391 pages

Published May 2016 by Grand Central Publishing

I am a huge fan of the FX series Fargo. The first season rebooted the classic Coen Brothers film, and it was pretty good, with some moments of genius dialogue. The second season kicked my ass. I loved it. The story tried to capture the feel of a Coen film in tone, look and sheer story telling force. The show runner Noah Hawley did a amazing job and when I saw he had a brand new novel in the new releases at Mysterious Galaxy here in San Diego I knew I wanted to read.

Before the fall is a curious novel that has many layers all of which are subtle. It is in many senses a slow burn mystery, and a fable that explores social issues. Hawley creates a novel that is tapestry of influences. I am not sure he would list this wide variety of sources but the novel feels at times like a Dennis Lehane New England crime novel, Coen brothers combo of tension and subtle humor, with moments Of Tarantino like dialogue and through it all A Dostoevsky like examination of class and social reaction to extreme events.

The story is about a private plane crash, 12 passengers, all but one man come from a life of privilege. The odd man out is painter named Scott the novel starts with Scott waking to in Ocean, he is hurt and doesn't remember the plane crash. He is about to start the long swim back to shore when he hears the voice of a child. He knows this is the son of a TV news network Icon. He is not thinking about the money but makes the impossible swim to shore. The aftermath of the crash and the events that lead up to it dance back in forth in this intense narrative.

It is sorta of a crime novel, sorta a thriller and it certainly is structured in a non-liner way to show-off Hawley's serious story telling chops. It comments on how the media reports scandals, in part through the ugly character Bill Cunningham who is a cable news anchor. The various characters drive the story, each fully realized. There are twists but none are jarring or too intense. The power of the story comes from the characters and dialogue.

I will be checking out Hawley's earlier novels. This one was solid, Fargo season two was solid. He is a story teller worth reading.

Oh yeah...Some of the most powerful moments in both seasons of Fargo hinged on fantastic dialogue. The same is true here. One scene really got me enough that I dog-eared the page and read it to a friend who also loves witty dialogue. Page 142-43 just amazingly funny dialogue.

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