Sunday, February 15, 2009

09.06 Tomato Red by Daniel Woodrell

Tomato Red (1998) by Daniel Woodrell
Trade, No Exit Press, 240 p.

There are a lot of books out there and not many of them are well written. Furthermore, there are millions of books that do not use an original idea in them. This goes double for genre fiction and in particular crime fiction. Tomato Red purports to be a crime book but you could have fooled me. The author, Daniel Woodrell, describes his writing as "country noir" and for this novel at least he shoots for what you might think that term means.

The story concerns a fellow named Sammy Barlach, a no good, messed up, hillbilly drifter who ends up one night passed out in the living room of a house he has broken into on the wrong end of a crank binge. He awakens to find a brother and sister there; she's Jamalee a short little redhead who wants to escape her up bringing and he's Jason a preternaturally handsome teen who is discovering he is gay. The two of them sort of adopt Sammy and take him back to live with them in the house next door to their mom, Bev the hooker.

It's all a good set-up and at this point you wonder where things are going to go with the story. Well, they don't really go anywhere. It mainly becomes a character study of the four cats mentioned above with some class tension thrown in for good measure. The writing style itself is cool and unique to at least what I have read. Perhaps some of his other books utilize the conceit better however by all accounts this is supposed to be his big award winning book. Better luck next time.


Olman Feelyus said...

That cover and title scream "stay away! Danger! Danger!" to me.

Buzby said...

Where did you find this? Who recommended it? I've decided to really focus my writing efforts on country noir!

Crumbolst said...

Yeah, the cover/title would have repelled me, but I like the character study thing. Nice non-specific endorsement by Roddy Doyle on the cover.