Argylle and other fictional books from films and TV that you can read in real life

These began life as small details in the world of other stories but were eventually published as stand-alone books. Here are 14 of the best

Argylle the book; the film adaptation is screening in cinemas from February 2. Photo: Bantam / Universal Pictures
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The much-anticipated spy action comedy Argylle, out now in cinemas, has an interesting premise. The film follows a reclusive author whose real-life adventure is eerily similar to the plot of her own spy novel. More interesting still, the real-life novel the film is adapted from was written by the character herself.


There is a whole genre of books out there whose details blur the lines of fiction within fiction, eventually taking a life of their own to exist beyond the pages they were born in.

For example, books read by characters within a novel are often spun off later and become stories of their own, allowing fans to take an even deeper journey into imaginary worlds.

Here are 14 books that have been published after beginning life as a bit-part detail in a novel, film or TV show.


This one might take a moment to get your head around.

Argylle by Elle Conway is a thriller novel about a spy agent, Argylle, with a flawed past whose mission is to recover the Amber Room, often referred to as the eighth wonder of the world, which has been lost for seven decades.

The book has seemingly been adapted, according to its marketing materials, into a film starring Henry Cavill, Bryce Dallas Howard and Dua Lipa among others.

However, here’s the twist – the supposed author of the novel is really just a fictional character in the film's story. In the film, Elle Conway (Howard) is an introverted spy novelist who gets caught up in the mission surrounding agent Argylle, which coincidentally mirrors many of her bestselling novels.

Released before the movie's debut to make it appear that Elle Conway and her novels may really exist, this is ultimately a clever piece of stunt promotion, which becomes an enjoyable way to engross yourself in Matthew Vaughn's madcap world after you've seen the movie, or before.

The real identity of the book's supposed author Elle Conway, however, is still a mystery. There have been several online theories attempting to discover the identity of the author, including that Conway is Taylor Swift – a theory that director Matthew Vaughn has denied in an interview with Rolling Stone.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J K Rowling

The Harry Potter book series by J K Rowling is full of fascinating details that make the world of magic come alive. One of those details is the variety of books Hogwarts pupils study.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is one of those that not only captured the imagination of readers but one that Rowling actually wrote and released in 2001.

The encyclopedic guide to the magical beasts of the wizarding world by the fictional author Newt Scamander was then adapted into the film franchise of the same name.

The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer by Jennifer Lynch

TV serial drama Twin Peaks enjoyed huge success in the 1990s.

Created by Mark Frost and David Lynch, the first season centred on FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper investigating the murder of high school student, Laura Palmer.

Spin-off novel The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer was published between seasons one and two to give fans more insight into the world of Twin Peaks and the psyche of Laura. It was written by Lynch’s daughter, Jennifer Lynch, and featured on The New York Times' bestseller list.

Bad Twin by Gary Troup

James Ford, also known as Sawyer, was the anti-hero of the supernatural TV series Lost. Aside from his conniving and sarcastic traits, Sawyer was also a vivacious reader.

In one episode, he reads a manuscript for the fictional pulp noir mystery novel, Bad Twin, written by Gary Troup, a fictional author who was also a passenger on Oceanic Flight 815 that crashed on the island the characters are stuck on.

The novel follows the story of private investigator Paul Artisan, who is hired to find a man’s identical twin but finds himself in a complex world of conspiracy theories. Bad Twin was published in 2006 and written by ghostwriter Laurence Shames.

Murder, She Wrote by Jessica Fletcher

Dame Angela Lansbury’s character Jessica Fletcher from Murder, She Wrote was one of the wittiest and lovable detectives of the 1980s and '90s. The retired English teacher, mystery writer and amateur detective wrote several novels under the name of JB Fletcher in the popular series.

More than 50 original novels have been written and published by the New American Library under the name of Jessica Fletcher, by several ghostwriters. While these novels weren’t featured in the series, they are extensions of the show where Fletcher is simultaneously writing the crime she is attempting to solve.

Look Out for the Little Guy by Scott Lang

No, this isn’t a memoir of actor Paul Rudd. It is a fictional memoir of his Marvel character Scott Lang also known as Ant-Man.

The Ant-Man trilogy isn't Marvel's most popular, though Lang remains one of the most relatable superheroes.

In his memoir, Lang shares how he balances being a real superhero and a divorced father while recounting what happened with the Avengers and Thanos.

A Woman First: First Woman: A Memoir by Selina Meyer

Flawed, ambitious and hilarious, Selina Meyer is a fictional character portrayed by Julia Louis-Dreyfus in HBO's political satire series Veep.

Meyers is a politician and vice president of the US who, along with her team, attempts to create a legacy but often finds herself immersed in the absurdities of the inner workings of government.

Meyer's memoir is a first-person account in character where she shares with readers more of what they loved about her and her time in office.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Rainbow Rowell’s popular novel Fangirl is a story about the world of fan culture, particularly the protagonist Cath Avery’s obsession with a Harry Potter-inspired fan fiction series called Simon Snow.

When her protagonist and readers became equally enamoured with the fictional series, Rowell published Carry On in 2015, a stand-alone novel based on the story of Simon Snow and his magical adventures.

The Bro Code by Barney Stinson and Matt Kuhn

Barney Stinson, played by Neil Patrick Harris, is an unforgettable character from the sitcom How I Met Your Mother.

Opinionated and manipulative with a love for expensive suits, he often refers to his personal philosophy also known as "the bro code". Fans of the series and Barney’s sense of humour can now refer to his witticisms in his manifesto. The book is a guidebook that explains the simple and complex rules for male friendship.

Ghosts from our Past by Erin Gilbert, Abby L Yates and Andrew Shaffer

Ghosts from Our Past is written by two fictional authors from the 2016 remake of Ghostbusters.

Abby L Yates and Eril Gilbert (played by Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig) and real-life author Andrew Shaffer have written an updated version of the paranormal book, which includes personal childhood experiences of ghosts as well as a history of the supernatural.

Charlie the Choo-Choo by Beryl Evans

Who would have thought that the master of horror, Stephen King, would turn to children’s books? Writing as Beryl Evans, King produced Charlie the Choo-Choo, a novel mentioned in The Waste Lands, a dark fantasy from his series The Dark Tower.

While the series is menacing with dark themes, the children’s book tells the story of Engineer Bob and his best friend Charlie, a train that has been brought to life.

Fire & Blood by George R R Martin

Any fan of the Game of Thrones books or HBO series knows that George R R Martin’s stories are immersive with long and detailed histories. So it may come as no surprise there are spin-off novels from the world of Westeros.

Fire and Blood is a novel that recounts the history of House Targaryen, and is referenced several times in the original A Song of Ice and Fire series, which consists of five published novels. Characters and events from the book are also mentioned in the TV series.

Fire and Blood was published in 2018 and was adapted into the HBO series House of the Dragon.

Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America by Leslie Knope

Comedian Amy Poehler plays Leslie Knope in the political satire mockumentary Parks and Recreation.

This book is written in Knope’s voice and acts as a guidebook exploring the history, culture and landmarks of the fictional town of Pawnee in Indiana, building on many jokes from the popular show.

Tales of Beedle the Bard by J K Rowling

Harry Potter fans first learn about The Tales of Beedle the Bard in the final book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, when Albus Dumbledore gives Hermione Granger a copy of the book in his will.

The book is a collection of five children’s fairytales from the wizarding world, which often have an important moral lesson. The book and one of the stories in it, The Tale of the Three Brothers, is central to the plot of the book and the film. Rowling published the children’s book in 2008, a year after the final book was published.

Updated: February 02, 2024, 6:54 AM