“A Conspiracy Of Tall Men”

“A Conspiracy Of Tall Men,” by Noah Hawley was written in 1998, but is just as relevant today, if not more so.

Linus Owen teaches conspiracy theory at a small college. When his wife is killed in a plane crash his world implodes. The action unfolds in the present tense, so readers are taken immediately into Owens’ world of conspiracy. Owens seeks to find answers about his wife and the crash and immediately crosses the thin paper wall that separates government powers from the people they are supposed to protect. He finds conspiracy at every turn. He ventures deep into the deserts of Arizona and Nevada only to encounter men who eat meat, think protein bars taste like dirt, and listen to unorthodox broadcasts over the radio. They bury people and guns in big holes in the desert. Oh, and Owen has grown two inches.

At first, the plot appears to be only a compelling flashback to the abundant absurdity at time of its publication, 1998, with chemicals tests on people in the Nevada desert and biological weapons in the Gulf War; all that is missing is aluminum foil hats. However, as the complex conspiracy unfolds, talk of a widespread virus that infects entire populations, brings the world economy to a halt, invokes population unrest, initiated widespread unrest and violence, and allows the government to require medical testing and distribution of vaccines with minimal oversite. Suddenly readers feel they are in 2020.