A few years ago I was enthralled by a novel from a »Hollywood » writer, I am Pilgrim by screenwriter Terry Hayes. The 600-page thriller pitting an American spy against a jihadi terrorist hit all the right notes.
With Before the Fall Noah Hawley proves again that some screenwriters, or TV showrunners and writers seemed to have captured the essence of our new plugged-in, Trumped-out world.
Writing a screenplay or navigating the huge demands of our new TV world where Breaking Bad is the new standard is not easy. But a novel, a thriller requires a sustained effort of will to keep the reader there, in the moment, on the page.
With cellphones beeping and flashing constantly that’s not an easy task. I am Pilgrim and Before the Fall are very different books. But they manage to silence our iPhones.
Hawley’s book grabs you early and never lets you go. As a private jet awaits to depart Martha’s Vineyard airport, failed painter Scott Burroughs arrives to board the plane, a last-minute invitee for a flight back to New York.
Burroughs’s life will change forever when the plane crashes less than half an hour after takeoff. Burroughs finds himself in the ocean, groggy and hurt. Of the eleven people on the flight, he seems to be the only one to have survived until a faint cry from a four-year-old boy who was on the plane, rouses him.
Burroughs finds the boy amid the wreckage. Here Hawley’s writing is precise, riveting and sparse but in a good way. The struggle to get to shore will anchor the rest of the book. This fight to live, rendered in gut-wrenching prose, bonds the reader to the book as much as it does Burroughs to the boy.
Before the Fall is written in a series of flashbacks that tell the tale of the 11 passengers. Somewhere in their lives, lies the secret or secrets that brought the aircraft down.
The book delves into the lives of the rich, the privileged, the ugliness of a Fox-TV like network, and in some prescient way our age of Trump.
BEFORE THE FALL
By Noah Hawley
391 pages, Grand Central Publishing, $31.50
Rating: 4 stars (Out of five)