Title: Tomato Red
Publisher: Henry Holt
Publication Date: 1998
Book Condition: Very Good In Dustjacket
Edition: 1st Edition.
New York. 1998. Henry Holt. 1st American Edition. Very Good In Dustjacket. 225 pages. August 1998. hardcover. Jacket design by Raquel Jaramillo. 0805055770. keywords: Mystery America Ozarks Literature. inventory # 25765. FROM THE PUBLISHER - In small Ozark towns like West Table, Missouri, what you are is where you’re born. And if you’re born in the Venus Holler section of town, what you are isn’t much. For Bev Merridew, who can turn a trick as easily as she can roll a joint, life in Venus Holler is tolerable. For her nineteen-year-old daughter, Jamalee, a life guaranteed to be the replica of her mother’s isn’t good enough. With her tomato-red hair and her barely contained rage, she has plans, and they don’t include Venus Holler. What they do include - indeed, depend on - is her drop-dead beautiful brother, Jason. But Jason may just be a country queer, and in the hills and hollows of the Ozarks, that is about the most dangerous thing a man could be. Into their midst comes Sammy Barlach. With too many entries on his rap sheet, he’s passing through on his way to nowhere, looking to be a loser in new surroundings. Jamalee thinks he might be the muscle she and Jason need. WHAT THE CRJTTCS HAVE BEEN SAYING ABOUT DANIEL WOODRELL - ‘Woodrell does for the Ozarks what Raymond Chandler did for Los Angeles or Elmore Leonard does for Florida. He does something else as well. Beyond the savory hill-tones, the bite, the warmth, the cadences that link the Appalachian tongue to an older English treasure, Woodrell is also writing pastoral, an invocation of green hills, red dirt, and sagging wooden structures in the hollows.’ - Richard Eder, Los Angeles Times Book Review. ‘Woodrell’s South, like his prose, is complex and ironic; it is as beautiful and full of love as it is violent and self-destructive; its people are as dynamic and hopeful as they are irrevocably bound and governed by their collective past.’ - Jamie Miller, The Bloomsbury Review. ‘If one is tempted to hear echoes of William Faulkner, Erskine Caldwell, or Andrew Lytle. no matter. Mr. Woodrell isn’t imitating any of them. He’s only drawing from the same well they did, but with a different take, a different voice, a sharper sense of irony.’ - Robert Houston, The New York Times Book Review. Bookseller Inventory # 25765
Synopsis: I was a kickaround mutt from Blue Knee, Arkansas, on my own slow ramble through sincere poverty and various spellbinding mishaps."That's the voice of Sammy Barlach, one of life's losers who sings the blues with acid sweetness and fated violence--another original from Dan Woodrell.
Review: The hero of Daniel Woodrell's Tomato Red is the most endearingly out-of-control loser you're likely to meet. Sammy Barlach looks like a person "who should in any circumstances be considered a suspect"; clerks follow him through the supermarket when he shops, and the police pull him over simply from habit. But in spite of his looks, Sammy only wants to be loved, even if it's just by "the bunch that would have me"--and in the hardscrabble world of West Table, Missouri, that's a bunch you wouldn't necessarily want to meet. The novel begins with a heady Methedrine rush, as Sammy celebrates payday by letting himself be talked into robbing a nearby mansion. Even when his newfound friends disappear as he's breaking in, he persists: "You might think I should've quit on the burglary right there, but I just love people, I guess, and didn't." The break-in leads Sammy into an unlikely alliance with the Merridew family: Jamalee and Jason and their mother Bev, a prostitute in the town's ironically named Venus Holler. Flame-haired Jamalee dreams constantly of a different kind of life, and she plans on using Jason's extraordinary beauty as her ticket out of West Table. Jason, however, seems to be shaping up as what Sammy calls "country queer"--which, as Sammy observes, "ain't the easiest walk to take amongst your throng of fellow humankind."
Unfortunately for Jamalee, Woodrell's Ozarks is a place that rewards ambition with disaster. Here as in his five previous "country noir" novels, Woodrell writes with a keen understanding of class and a barely contained sense of rage. The residents of West Table's trailer parks and shotgun shacks share Sammy's sense of limited possibilities. "I ain't shit! I ain't shit! shouts your brain," Sammy thinks while wandering around the mansion, "and this place proves the point." Even when Jason sticks up for his own family, the way he does so is heartbreaking: "This expression of utter frankness takes over Jason's beautiful face, and he says, 'I don't think we're the lowest scum in town.' He didn't argue that we weren't scum, just disputed our position on the depth chart." With her mildewing etiquette guides and grandiose plans, Jamalee is the only character who doesn't share their sense of defeat, and she's the only one who, in the end, gets away--though she leaves behind her a trail of betrayal and heartache. By the time the novel's final tragedy rolls around, it seems both senseless and inevitable, as tragedies do in real life. Told in a voice that crackles with energy and wit, Tomato Red is sharp, funny, and more importantly, true. --Mary Park
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