Tomato Red by Daniel Woodrell
The bloom is off the rose. The tomato red of this tale describes the hair color of the seemingly perspicacious Jamalee. What it seemed like it was going to be about was more intriguing than what it actually was about. A methhead breaks into a mansion and passes out only to wake up tied to a chair by two rich kids. They offer him a room and clam linguini, ready to hire him as a thug, when the cops show up, and everyone has to run.
You see, Jason — the most beautiful boy in West Table, Missouri — and his sister Jamalee are actually common scum like our narrator. Jamalee wants to have a better life and escape Missouri to go to Hollywood or Palm Springs and use her brother’s looks to wile old women out of their moneys.
I actually kind of would have dug it more if it were actually about a couple rich snooty Midwesterners hiring a hayseed to be their thug. Instead, it sort of feels like the pan scrapings of all the books that came before it. Jamalee has inklings of Niagra from Give Us A Kiss. Sammy the narrator, feels like the modern version of Roedel from Woe to Live On. They fight against all the richies and the thugs and the law, same as all the other books. In fact, this really does feel like some kind of inside-out Cruel Intentions mashup forced into the plot of Give Us A Kiss.
It’s hard to root for Sammy, because he’s such an asshole. And not the good kind of asshole that usually populates a Woodrell novel, but an actual schmuck. He fucks Jamalee’s mama while pining for her. He keeps making dumb decisions, and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with a story like that, but it just makes it difficult to give a good goddamn.