My Life in Books

8 books that inspired Caught star Allan Hawco

Allan Hawco is the star, showrunner and writer of Caught, which premieres on CBC on Feb. 26, 2018.
Allan Hawco stars as David Slaney in the television adaptation of Caught, which premieres on CBC-TV on Feb. 26, 2018. (CBC)

Allan Hawco is the star, showrunner and writer of Caughta five-episode series that premieres on CBC on Feb. 26, 2018. The show is based on the Scotiabank Giller Prize-nominated novel of the same name by Lisa Moore. Set in 1978, the story follows David Slaney, who dreams of a carefree life — but must first break out of prison and pull off one more job with his old business partner.

Below, Hawco, known for his work on Republic of Doyle and Frontier, tells CBC Books about eight books he loves. 

Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Shakespeare's Macbeth follows a depraved man's attempts at ascending to power. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

"Sometimes, as a student, literature can be framed like it's a chore you're being forced to do, or at least that's the way I felt. Shakespeare was what opened the gate. I had an amazing teacher in high school, and once I started realizing the complexities within the writing, the complexities in the message and the complexities of what happened to these characters, I was sucked in. Then I discovered it's not just Shakespeare's plays that can lead you this way and a whole universe opened up."

Caught by Lisa Moore

The true story of a daring attempt to smuggle a massive cache of marijuana into Newfoundland, Caught was a finalist for the 2013 Scotiabank Giller Prize. (CBC)

"Caught spoke to me right away. I could hear the music of the period screaming at me, and I could see right away what I thought it should be for television. Lisa's such a beautiful, lyrical writer, who takes you through a character's internal thought process. A lot of that stuff does not translate well to film, so there had to be structural changes. I worked hard to keep touchstones, no matter how far away I went from the original idea. I'm still having 'pinch me' moments. I'm so grateful it all happened."

In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje

Michael Ondaatje's In the Skin of a Lion was published in 1987. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

"Being in Newfoundland, I always felt so far away from what Canada was. It felt like a different country. You're living there, and reading these Canadian authors like Michael Ondaatje. Something about In the Skin of a Lion rocked my existence."

Today I Learned It Was You by Ed Riche

Edward Riche's novel sends up political correctness in the city counsel of St. John's.

"Ed Riche has such a crazy sense of humour. He's such a wonderful writer who paints such an interesting portrait of who these people are. I obviously identify with them because he's writing about where I live and grew up. I literally know some of these people."

Where I Belong and A Newfoundlander in Canada by Alan Doyle

Alan Doyle's books include A Newfoundlander in Canada and Where I Belong. (Dave Howells/Doubleday Canada)

"Alan Doyle is a friend. His voice is so specific, you can hear him reading to you. His style of writing and his sense of humour are so deeply connected to who he is as a person. He's so entertaining. He's a born showman. He's a born host. I'd imagine that is a tricky thing to pull off, to have that translate so well into your writing."

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho is the author of the beloved novel The Alchemist. (Alejandra Brun/Getty Images)

"Someone gave The Alchemist to me as a gift. I was at a place in my life where I needed some kind of blind faith in what I was doing as a career. I was so cynical about stuff like 'everything happens for a reason' — I didn't buy into it. But I needed a non-cynical perspective. I needed something that said, 'Stay the course and if you keep looking at it and looking for it, you could possibly get there.' There was something about this book that was like, 'OK, luck is going to be a big part of success. Hard work matters, but you have to be willing to be lucky, so try that angle.'"

Empire of the Bay by Peter C. Newman

Journalist Peter C. Newman, pictured above at the 2010 Scotiabank Giller Prize, published Empire of the Bay in 1998. (Aaron Vincent Elkaim/Canadian Press)

"Empire of the Bay is Peter Newman's book about The Hudson's Bay Company and the fur trade. It should be mandatory reading to get a handle on where we come from, and how this all started. I think Canada is a close-to-perfect country in so many ways, but we still have so much to atone for in other ways."

Allan Hawco's comments have been edited and condensed.

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