Friday, April 26, 2013

Five Years of Forgotten Books: Day 26

Michael Koryta is the author of five novels, including the 2008 LA Times Book Prize winner, Envy the Night, and the forthcoming The Silent Hour. (bio from 2009)

TOMATO RED, Daniel Woodrell

In a literal sense, Daniel Woodrell's "Tomato Red" doesn't meet forgotten book standards as it is neither an old text, nor, I suspect, forgotten by a single soul who actually read it. Overlooked, then, let's say if you like noir, hardboiled crime, or clever mysteries, you definitely won’t be disappointed. Falling Angel is one all it that, and agree that such a thing is a damn shame because Woodrell is as good a writer as anyone alive. There's no easing into the story in Tomato Red -- we pick up our narrator, Sammy Barlach, riding a good crank high and breaking into a mansion with a pair of "trailer-park bums," the sort Sammy imagines are the only crowd that will have him. From there you're along for a swift, insightful, and tragic ride narrated in a way only Woodrell can manage. There's a touch of Twain in the observations of his protagonist/narrator -- "You might think I should've quit on the burglary right there, but I just love people, I guess, and didn't." -- and a dose of James Agee in his handling of rural social class frustrations (rage?) but the writing is all his own, and there aren't many writers out there who can come close. Is Tomato Red as powerful and fully realized a novel as Winter's Bone or The Death of Sweet Mister? No. But it's a hell of a book, one that can make you laugh out loud in the first half of a sentence and then twist your heart in the second, and when you find a writer capable of such feats, you ought to read every word they put on paper.

My review of THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES is up at Crimespree Cinema. 

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