The Gentleman Recommends: Noah Hawley

Book cover for Before the FallNoah Hawley is a great example of a writer who does not need this gentleman’s boost. In addition to the thousands of projects he has in the works (including a television adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’sCat’s Cradle“), Hawley is the showrunner of “Fargo,” one of my favorite television shows ever. He’s also a novelist, because apparently brilliant, hard-working people get to experience all manner of professional satisfaction. (Join me, won’t you, in declaring it’s high time some of this good fortune is distributed to all the frequently recumbent and mostly slovenly gentlemen out there just trying to peaceably make their way through the world’s bakeries without having their various flasks constantly confiscated.)

Before the Fall” is Hawley’s latest novel, and anyone who has experienced the rich tapestry of detailed characterization, deft and often hilarious dialogue, and rapid-fire plotting of “Fargo” will not be surprised to learn that is a delightful piece of entertainment. It tells the tale of a plane crash and the lives it ended or, in the case of two passengers, the lives it upended. The crash and the surviving passengers’ harrowing journey to safety occur in the first several pages, then the novel gives us a mix of flashbacks (fleshing out the characters and the possible reasons for the plane crash) and post-crash scenes largely concerned with one of the surviving passengers and government efforts to determine why the plane crashed. In reading the dead’s stories, the reader will learn some theories about the how the plane crashed (with one seeming particularly likely).

Among the dead are the owner of a fictional news network, a bodyguard, a guy that makes lots of money by doing things to money (including laundering money for terrorists), some spouses, a child, two pilots and a flight attendant. This is how the rich travel. (Join me, won’t you, in declaring it’s high time some of this luxurious travel, minus the crashing part, is shared with those of us who generally get around by balancing on our only functional rolling skate and tossing a grappling hook at passing automobiles or bikes pedaled by people whose strength is readily apparent.)

One of the survivors, a 47-year-old painter who was just finally beginning to experience a taste of potential success before the crash, is judged a hero by most, but a villain by some, including a host of a right-wing “news” show. The reader may join the blowhard host in finding it curious that the painter has recently produced a series of paintings of disasters, the descriptions of which indicate that Hawley may also be a gifted painter, which would be another of his gifts that I do not envy.

Before the Fall” is a mystery, a satire and an outstanding read. It doesn’t need the sales surge that a gentleman’s recommendation inevitably causes, but it merits it. You have my blessing to continue thriving and producing things that thoroughly entertain me, Mr. Hawley.

Leave a Reply