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Tomato Red Paperback – April 24, 2012

4.0 out of 5 stars 80 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

"You're no angel, you know how this stuff comes to happen: Friday is payday and it's been a gray day sogged by slow ugly rain and you seek company in your gloom...." So begins the bravura first paragraph of Woodrell's sixth novel (after Give Us a Kiss). As readers of Woodrell's previous fiction will expect, we are in the Ozarks?in West Table, Mo., to be specific. Sammy Barlach, our narrator, is a case?at the moment, he's employed in the dog food industry, but he's just met a girl "with teeth the size of shoe-peg corn" who's well supplied with crank and, toward the end of their weekend spree, suggests that they rob a mansion whose owners are (notoriously) on vacation. In the course of executing this plan, Sammy meets fellow burglars Jamalee and Jason Meridew?a sister and brother pair from Venus Hollow who break into wealthy houses in order to try on clothes and make believe they are rich. Jamalee, however, plans to make it big by using her brother's remarkable looks to seduce, then blackmail, the wives of the rich. (The hitch: Jason's tenuous, possibly nonexistent, interest in hetero sex.) Meanwhile, Bev Meridew, their mother, supports herself as a freelance goodtime girl and occasional snitch. Sammy moves in with this incestuous group as Jamalee's idea of muscle until even he can't protect them or their dreams from the nastier elements of Venus Hollow. The dialogue and characters are what keeps this awkwardly plotted little number plugging along. Woodrell isn't interested in Li'l Abner cutouts. These figures are all bluff and sorrow, and Woodrell succeeds in giving their misfit poetry a genuine C&W resonance that lingers beyond the last page. (Aug.) FYI: Ang Lee is currently directing a movie from Woe to Live On, Woodrell's second novel.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; First Printing edition (April 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316206210
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316206211
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #513,101 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
If you read all the reviews listed, you'll see a pattern develop. Great reviews raving about the author's way with words, his ear for dialect, his ability to paint a stunning, if bleak, portrait of the 'great unwashed' that inhabit these hills that I call home. I grew up within 50 miles of Woodrell's current home, and I'm here to tell you, this is the real thing. That boy's hitting the nail on the head. But if you read further you'll find other reviews. In them, someone will say 'I wasted my money on a book about white trash. I forced myself to finish it'. I'm sorry to see reviews like that about any of Woodrell's books. I could be wrong, but I don't think he's writing books for folks who have to force themselves to finish 'em. He's writing for those of us who relish tales about no-account hillbilly 2-time losers making bad decisions and living to regret it. Consider this a warning, if you're not happy reading about small town yokels who're tired of their boring lives, disgusted with poverty yet unable to escape it, losers plotting revenge on the local gentry for stomping on their dreams, just building up steam and ready to smash the next bossman who looks at them the wrong way...stay away. Do us all a favor and just stick with something you'll enjoy. This stuff's not for you. Spend your money on something sweeter, or with more car chases or whatever you enjoy. Those among you who think you'd like to read well crafted novel's that happen to be about some of life's castaway citizens, books where every word has been considered and all the flab slashed away, c'mon in, the water's fine. Be careful, you want to watch out where you put your feet. Some yokel's been breaking bottles around here. If I catch him at it, I'm gonna skin him alive and roll him in salt. Open up that cooler and hand me one of them there liquid bread bottles, hear?
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Format: Paperback
Sammy Barlach, wild and lyrical, crazy and philosophical, is automatically stopped by cops, followed around in a retail store by suspicious managers and someone you would probably cross the street to avoid. He is our narrator in this sharply satirical trailer park trash slice of life.
Sammy meets Jamalee and Jason Merridew while very unsuccessfully robbing a mansion. So far, the only thing he's managed to pilfer is a half-gallon of vodka, which he decides to drink then and there. Jamalee is a half-pint girl with hair the color "only a vegetable should have" and brother Jason is "the most beautiful boy in the Ozarks." Jamalee wants to get out of West Table, MO, and just maybe Sammy can help her. Sammy wants love or "any bunch that will have me." In Venus Holler they meet mother Sandra, a laid back, easy going, southern-to-her-fingertips whore.
Their antics are so funny, their energies and coping mechanisms so off the wall wild, I just gave in to helpless laughter. And yet, there is a sense of something preordained, sad and tragic about their existence. In ways both large and small, they are stripped of their dignity over and over again by the way they are perceived by society. "Society" ain't much in West Table, but it knows for a fact it's a world away from the likes of Sammy, Jamalee and Jason.
As the author shapes the rhythmic cadence of Sammy's story, the future is glimpsed and it's bad. It's been a long time since I have grown so fond of a character in a book. He has all the fascination of a train wreck waiting to happen. And then you shed a tear and knew it had to be.
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Format: Paperback
Woodrell is marketed , at least in the UK ,as a crime writer --his British publisher the estimable No Exit Press labelling them as country noir--but the subject matter is social class normally a covert as distinct from overt theme in crime writing .In particular they treat of the dispossessed ,the bottom feeders who must lie to cover up gaps in employment history all for the sake of menial low paid work which still denies them the cornerstones of human dignity namely choice ,spontaneity and purpose.
Tomato Red is narrated by Sammy Barlach who as the boojk opens is employed as a labourer in a dog food factory and has his foreman on his back the whole time . On a drunken Friday payday ,drinking with bar room buddies and fuelled by substances both illicit and alcoholic ,not to mention a heady dose of sexual bravado he , on a dare breaks into the home of an absent wealthy family and promptly passes out.He is awoken by Jamalee--aka Tomato Red for her distinctively dyed hair and her androgynous beautiful brother Jason They are not as he assumes and they pretend wealthy inhabitants of the home but trailer park inhabitants from the most despised part of their backwater town Venus Hollow.They flee when police arrive and Sammy is taken in by the pair and their mother Bev who is unashamedly a hooker and whose calm stoic dignity is a commanding presence in the book
Jamalee dreams of escape and views Jason -poor sexually confused Jason whose hard road is to be gay in a world where this is not an easy furrow to plough.Jason as magnet for sexual blackmail is the plan and Sammy the protector.In a heartbreaking but strangely funny scene she rehearses Sammy and Jason in good manners using an antedeluvian etiquette book role playing with plastic cups instead of cut glass.
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