It’s the 25th Anniversary of Fargo, the Coen Brothers movie set in Minneapolis. To celebrate the Oscar winning film, author Nige Tassel has published a Fargo Companion Book for fans of the movie. Many thanks to @randomttours for inviting Touring Tales Books to join the book blog tour. Also thanks to the author @NigeTassel and @PolarisBooks for an advance copy to review. Before Dave shares his review here’s the book info.
Book Cover Notes
A deep dive into the Coen brothers’ much-loved film, timed to coincide with the 25th anniversary of its release
Fargo was the Coen brothers’ break-out film. A brutal and darkly comic tale that became their biggest commercial success while also earning them their first Academy Award (for Best Original Screenplay). Its star, Frances McDormand, picked up the Best Actress gong.
Ahead of the 25th anniversary of its release, Nige Tassell revisits the film to unpick its intricate plot of abduction, deceit and murder. To salute its unforgettable characters (among them McDormand’s police chief Marge Gunderson, William H Macy’s car salesman Jerry Lundegaard and Steve Buscemi’s loudmouth kidnapper Carl Showalter); and to celebrate its ever-quotable screenplay.
Tassell, a former resident of Minnesota, also revisits the snowy killing fields in which the film is set. Stopping off at
particular locations and examining the culture and character of the state’s inhabitants.
The result is an entertaining, insightful and esoteric deep dive that will shine fresh light on a film adored by many. Greed, money, blood, pancakes, woodchippers and maximum-tog outerwear. All human life is here.
In time for the 25th anniversary of the cult film Fargo, Nige Tassell writes a companion book in homage to the classic. Aimed squarely at fans of the film and movie buffs, I thought I’d better rewatch the film in preparation. The films stands the test of time well and is still a good watch today. As a lover of Scandi noir bingeworthy box sets, I found the gruesome tale familiar territory.
Nige is clearly a BIG fan of the film, having watched it so many times he can recite the dialogue. He writes:
”A film that occupies the highest of altitudes. Nothing can cast a shadow on it.”
I agree it is a really good film and I enjoyed watching it again. It’s not up there with Pretty Woman or Top Gun though…. 🙂
There’s lots to like about the film; the stark landscape and simple sets. The bungling protagonists, an unconventional pregnant lead detective who in a columboesque way, slowly zero’s in on the killers. I wasn’t sure whether I was going to enjoy reading a book devoted to a film. But I’m pleased to report that I really enjoyed it. It helped me discover and appreciate the qualities, the locations and the characters more.
I liked how Nige describes the audience on his first trip to see it on a sunny Friday morning back in 1996;
“We were exclusively bookish types, bespeckled specimens with a low vitamin D intake”.
The book is structured as short chapters devoted to the key scenes or aspects to explore in the film. As a former Minnesota resident himself, Nige is often able to add his own recollections about the locations, the people or the dialects.
The film opens with a declaration that it’s based on real events that took place in 1987. An early revelation in the book is that this is not true. We learn from the author that it was a clever ploy by the writer/director Coen brothers to draw the audience into a greater acceptance of the events that follow in the simple town of Brainerd. You’re darn tootin’, it had me fooled.
I learned a lot about Minnesota & Minneapolis, actually where the Coen brothers grew up. The cold climate, over 10,000 lakes(!), “Broom ball” (a form of ice hockey played with…. a broom and a ball – bet you were ahead of me there!). The Minneapolis Skywalk where you can go from home to work, shop and back again without going outside at all. “Minnesota Nice” is really a thing. The locals are inherently polite, reserved and non confrontational. Our heroine Marge offers a great example when in the face of shear incompetence from one of her officers says;
“I’m not sure I agree with you a hunnert percent on your policework there, Lou”
As you progress through the book more is revealed about the actors and their influence on the way their character was played. Frances McDormond (Marge) wanted to play a strong matter of fact woman not a “Mother Nature” type, she wears the trousers in her household. William H.Macy, post audition heard that the Coen’s were still auditioning in New York, so he hopped on a plane to insist that they allow him to read again for the part of Jerry Lundegaard “…because I’m scared you’re going to screw this up and hire someone else”.
We learn that in real life, Peter Stormare (Gustafson) who has hardly any dialogue in the movie, in contrast to the incessant wittering of Buscemi’s Showalter, is actually the chatterbox to the quiet Buscemi. The cast also went to great lengths to be true to the Minnesota accent, intonation and sayings. These nuggets help the reader/viewer appreciate what goes into a movie and that it’s often the sum of its parts, even the small parts; Norm, the hookers, Jean, Stan that makes it such a classic rather than any individual.
Whilst not a “funny” book there were some laugh out loud moments. For me ”Showalter and Mr Pink (Reservoir Dogs) are both cut from the same cloth, both mildly abrasive and both look a lot like Steve Buscemi” that’s the sort of comment I’d make 🙂
Knowledge of the film is required to really appreciate this book. However, if you’re a fan, or like me watch the movie again, you’ll love the book. It’s like rewatching the film with a knowledgeable best friend who makes you appreciate its finer points. Things that as a causal watcher you’d miss. This is a great resource for Fargo fans. It’d be good if there were more books like this for film fans. “You betcha!”
Where to Buy
Further book info
- Published Date: 4 March 2021
- Publisher: Polaris Books
- Page Count: 288
About The Author
Nige Tassell has written about popular culture for a range of publications. Including The Guardian, The Sunday Times, GQ, Esquire, The Word, Q, New Statesman and many others. Nige Tassell writes about sport and popular culture as both a journalist and author.
And It’s A Beautiful Day is his sixth book. His previous books include:
- The Bottom Corner – journey through life in the lower reaches of the football pyramid. Plucky underdogs or perennial underachievers. Your local non-league team offers hope, drama or at least a Saturday afternoon ritual that’s been going for decades. Nige Tassell spends a season in the non-league world. He meets the raffle-ticket seller who wants her ashes scattered in the centre-circle. The envelope salesman who discovered a future England international. The ex-pros still playing with undiluted passion on Sunday mornings.
- Three Weeks Eight Seconds – The 1989 Tour de France is surely the greatest ever. A race that saw Greg LeMond overturn a 50-second deficit to Laurent Fignon on the final stage on the Champs Elysees to snatch the title by a mere eight seconds. After three weeks and more than 2,000 miles in the saddle, this remains the smallest margin of victory in the Tour’s 100+ year history.
- Butch Wilkins and the Sundance Kid – Butch Wilkins and the Sundance Kid chronicles the author’s obsession with televised sport during his teenage years in the 1980s.
- The Boot Sale – For football fans who hungrily feed on gossip and rumour. Christmas comes twice a year – once in August and again in January. These are the months when the transfer window dominates thoughts. When the prospect of a new signing or two reinvigorates the hopes and dreams of the hopelessly devoted. Nige Tassell goes behind the scenes to observe the workings of the transfer window. And to examine why it continues to hold such fascination for a nation of football lovers. He speaks to players, managers, chairmen, agents, scouts, analysts, fans, journalists, broadcasters and even bookmakers. To hear how they survive – and possibly prosper from – these red-letter months in the football calendar.
Where to find Nige online
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I hope you’ve enjoyed Dave’s book review of And it’s a Beautiful Day by Nige Tassel
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