No, it’s not Taylor Swift. Instead, the authors of Penguin’s Argylle novel are revealed to be Terry Hayes and Tammy Cohen.
Forming part of a surprisingly elaborate marketing campaign, early January 2024 saw the release of a novel called Argylle, billed as an “explosive spy thriller that inspired the new Matthew Vaughn film”.
Rather than a traditional tie-in – one of those books that essentially takes a screenplay and turns it into page-turning prose – the book was instead a standalone thriller based on the antics of the spy played by Henry Cavill in the film. In a further post-modern twist, the Argylle novel is credited to Elly Conway, the character played in the movie by Bryce Dallas Howard.
This begged the question: if Conway’s a fictional character, who really wrote the novel? Much speculation ensued, including the quite batty theory that Argylle had been written by Taylor Swift – a notion that Vaughn himself was eventually forced to publicly bat down.
Over the weekend, however, The Telegraph uncovered the true identity of Argylle’s writer – or writers, it turns out. One is the Australian novelist and screenwriter Terry Hayes, and the other is British thriller writer Tammy Cohen.
Exactly how two wordsmiths from opposite sides of the globe came to write a (sort of) movie tie-in novel is quite fascinating. It all began when Vaughn tried to get the rights to adapt Hayes’ debut novel, I Am Pilgrim, first published in 2013. Unfortunately for Vaughn, those rights were already owned by MGM, who “for their own bizarre reasons,” according to Hayes, “could not do a deal with Matthew.”
Frustrated, Vaughn instead came up with the idea that Hayes could write a novel to go with his film Argylle, which was about to start shooting. Hayes and his publisher agreed, but there was a problem – Hayes was deep into writing his latest book, The Year Of The Locust, which was already “seven years overdue.”
Hayes’ publisher, Transworld, therefore signed up Cohen to help finish the manuscript. That pedigree certainly explains why the Argylle book is such a decent read – “Conway writes with brio and ambition,” wrote the Financial Times.
The Argylle novel and its mystery writer were also, quite evidently, a publicity stunt. The Telegraph’s reveal includes a lengthy interview with the authors, as well as a professionally-taken publicity photo of a smiling Hayes and Cohen popping out from behind a black door. The whole piece appears to have been carefully timed to coincide with Argylle’s cinema release over the weekend (it came out on the 2nd February), with the authors’ true identities carefully kept out of the public eye until now.
It’s all good-natured stuff, though, and the interview with Hayes and Cohen is entertainingly candid in places. (“I’ve dealt with some real idiots making movies – I mean gold-medal, on-the-podium, play-the-national-anthem idiots,” Hayes says, adding that he hopes Vaughn will still get to direct an adaptation of I Am Pilgrim.)
The duo are also hopeful that they’ll get to write more Argylle books in the same mould. “Everything depends on how the movie goes down,” Cohen said. “Hopefully, it will be a huge success and we’ll write another 10 of these books.”