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Tomato Red

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  3,096 ratings  ·  346 reviews
Daniel Woodrell has been called "stone brilliant" (James Ellroy); an author whose novels "make you whistle they're so good" (Chicago Tribune). In Tomato Red, his 1998 New York Times Notable Book, now being published in a Plume trade edition, Woodrell brings together a trio of hard-luck souls desperate for that one big break.All nineteen-year-old Jamalee Merridew wants is a ...more
Paperback, 225 pages
Published October 1st 2000 by Plume (first published 1998)
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Average rating 3.80  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,096 ratings  ·  346 reviews

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Jun 16, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: grit-lit
tomato red is an earlier book by daniel woodrell, and occasionally this becomes apparent. there are moments where it gets a little overwritten even for me, the lover of melodrama and the densely-packed sentence.

is it as good as winter's bone??


but it's like saying "is megan fox as hot as angelina jolie, or is she some kind of cheaper, off-brand, less genuinely badass version??" does it matter?? is anyone kicking either of these ladies out of bed?? nope.

woodrell is never gonna get kicked out
James Thane
Mar 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who loves noir
Shelves: crime-fiction
Tomato Red has one of the best--and one of the longest--opening lines you'll ever read, and it sets the stage for a very good book that might best be categorized as Hillbilly Noir.

Sammy Barlach, the narrator and main protagonist, is new to West Table, Missouri, and to his job at the dog food factory. Seeking company on a Friday night after work, he falls in with a "coed circle of bums" who are well supplied with tequila and crank. You know that from this point on interesting things are going to
Apr 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013-reads
“I had been born shoved to the margins of the world, sure, but I had volunteered for the pits.”
Daniel Woodrell's Tomato Red is lighthearted and wickedly funny - until it abruptly isn't, and you are in vain trying to recover from the unexpected whiplash from the change in direction and tone, and trying to figure out when exactly this black comedy became tragedy - and has it been tragedy all along but you just haven't noticed in time??? - and rereading the last few pages trying to figure out w
Paquita Maria Sanchez
Oh yeah, dude. Yes. I loved this little beast. I understand that Winter's Bone is Woodrell's show dog, but this shit is off the hook, which come to think of it is a terribly inappropriate pun that only people who have read this book already will understand, and I apologize for that and swear it was an accident considering I in no way think even fictional Hate Crimes are funny, but still. Damn. This book. This book is good.

At very first, it reads a lot like Dylan's Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie
Sep 18, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
She Can't Help But She Born Among 'em; They Nothin but Po' White Trash

Daniel Woodrell pegs lower class whites, a/k/a rednecks, hillbillies, hicks, bumpkins, "Po White Trash,"the best I've read. These lowlifes, be they in the South or in Southie, share the same general senses, smell, sound, sight and feel apply. Woodrell shows you all the goods.

As in Winter's Bone, the female lead, whose hair here is dyed tomato red, has integrity and some sense of decorum about her, as well as hopes and wants (
Oct 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Lawyer by: Read as a result of "Winter's Bone"
Tomato Red: Daniel Woodrell's Tale of Leaving Home

Welcome to West Table, Missouri. Meet Sammy Barlach who's just hired on down at the dog food factory. It's Friday night. The Tequila and Meth have got Sammy flying, impressing new friends down at the bar. Wanting to fit in with the new gang, when one suggests Sammy burgle one of the town mansions, Sammy's up for it. But he hears the laughter of his new buddies and the roar of their pickup recede in the distance when they drop him off at his next
Anthony Vacca
Apr 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Poet Laureate of the Ozarks Daniel Woodrell's sixth novel Tomato Red is a slow-burning noir about the have-nots hating the haves--and with good reason. Told in the peculiar vernacular of Sammy Barlach, the novel relates the attempts of a pair of pretty but poor siblings who want nothing more than to get out of the shithole that is their hometown, West Table, Missouri. And lucky Sammy happens to be the itinerant loser that the ketchup-haired, redneck femme fatale Jamalee Merridew - the brains of ...more
Diane Barnes
Aug 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So, you were born trash, raised as trash, and everyone in town considers you trash. But you're smarter than that, you read books on etiquette, make plans to escape, use your brother's beauty as an escape route, use a loser who just needs a place to belong, distance yourself from your prostitute mother, and still nothing seems to work. Daniel Woodrell makes this a wondrous and heartbreaking journey. Jamalee is one of a kind, and you won't easily forget her. ...more
Apr 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Holy Bejesus, Tomato Red is good.

Daniel Woodrell, the guy who wrote Winter's Bone, is moving up my “favorite writer” charts. I've read two of his books and hope he's published 100 more. I'm salivating at the prospect.

Tomato Red reads like Jim Thompson in the Ozarks but with Woodrell's superhuman tag-team of spellbinding language and cutting psychological insight. The story centers on Sammy Barlach, a well-intentioned loser who meets Jam and Jason Merridew while sleeping off a bender in a house
Sep 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: black-as-night, lit
It's been labelled Country Noir but in reality Daniel Woodrell writes mouth watering literature in a noir mileau with a touch of the Thompson/Cain existentialism.

Set in a small Ozark town, a setting familiar to you if you've already discovered the wonder that is Daniel Woodrell, Tomato Red is the story of Sammy, Bev, Jam and Jay; how they come together and how they dissipate, how they live and how they dream.

Woodrell sets the scene with great effect from the off, filling your mind with descripti
Doug H
Sep 06, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

At first, I didn't like this at all. I kept groaning at the bad grammar and inconsistent tense and I had a vision of Miss Crabtree from The Little Rascals rolling in her grave. Then, sort of like Barack Obama and his position on gay marriage, my feelings about this book slowly-then-quickly evolved. Praise Evolution!

My feelings changed when I finally realized that the poor grammar and odd tense shifts as well as the disorienting style (especially in the beginning) are intentional. Doh! After all
Connie G
Aug 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"You're no angel, you know how this stuff comes to happen: Friday is payday and it's been a gray day sogged by a slow ugly rain and you seek company in your gloom, and since you're fresh to West Table, Mo., and a new hand at the dog-food factory, your choices for company are narrow but you find some finally in a trailer court on East Main...." Sammy Barlach, a loser ex-con who had a hard start in life, is hoping to find a place where he belongs when he moves to the rural Missouri town. He gets t ...more
Aug 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Just finished reading this aloud to my wife - we are both sitting here stunned by the book, especially the ending.

GritLit hardcore. More thoughts after I wipe the tears from my cheeks and drink a 40.
Debbi Mack
Jun 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite-reads
If you're of a mind to read a crime fiction novel that takes you off the beaten path (setting-wise and literary-wise), with prose that seems to sing to you with a rhythm all its own, and even features an opening sentence a mind-blowing 250 words long, you might take joy in reading TOMATO RED by Daniel Woodrell.

The story opens with Sammy, a drifter and criminal of the two-bit sort, breaking and entering a fancy house in (of all places) West Table, Mo. Sammy, who's coming down off a lost weekend o
Mar 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read_2012, reread, own
Delusions of grandeur, broken hopes and faded dreams populate this pocket marked landscape where a person’s status is symbolised by their street address and history accounts for their future.

‘Tomato Red’ is a tale of an unconventional grafter who finds heart by way of a homely trailer park family that encapsulate all the stigma tied to the white trailer park trash label they so gladly wear like a badge of honour. All that is, except for Jamalee, a whore’s daughter and sister to an overtly hands
Mar 11, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The major mode of Tomato Red is impotence. Not so much the inability to change, but the inability to bring about what you want and need. There are flavors of cognitive dissonance here: of little country girls thinking they are big city, of eternal outsiders thinking they can find a place, of quiet gay men thinking there is a place for them in backwoods anywhere. Mostly, though, there is impotence. Inability. Big dreams, hopes. People better than where they were cast, at least in their mind's eye ...more
Jun 18, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, dark
Wow, I'm not sure how he did this, but Woodrell was able to create characters in unlikable circumstances, but still have them be likable. The cast includes Sammy,a 24 year old drifter, who's been in and out of jail. Bev, the hooker and mother of two teens, who chooses not to protect her kids from the less savory details of her life. Jamalee, 18 year old daughter, who hates her mother a little too much and loves her brother a little too much. And Jason,17 year old beautiful boy, who's willing to ...more
Feb 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tomato Red doesn't stand for what you probably think it stands for...if you've even thought about it at all. I won't spoil it for you, so you don't have to worry. It wasn't at all what I thought it might be. The only thing I will tell you, it's not about tomatoes...

It was both discovered and recommended to me, and I have to say, I'm really glad. I discovered Daniel Woodrell because of his amazing book Winter's Bone", but also someone told me to pick up Tomato Red. For anyone who is wondering, To
Dec 17, 2011 rated it liked it
I was excited to read a book written by someone from Missouri. I lived in Missouri for... an annoyingly long time, and I hated the majority of that time. But I'm sure some good stuff came out of the state - if one of those things can be a good author, that's great. So I keep my eyes peeled.

I heard a lot about Winter's Bone, and something about a movie based on it. A friend asked for the book last Christmas and I had no idea what she was talking about at that time because I sometimes live under a
Ed [Redacted]
Jun 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
Another great book from Mr. Woodrell, This guy is an excellent writer. In this particular book we meet Sammy; our POV character and a down and out redneck criminal; Jamalee, a white trash girl who wants to make a better life for herself and her brother; Jason, the aforementioned brother who is devastatingly beautiful and confusedly gay; and Bev, the mother of Jam and Jason, and who pays her bills through prostitution. All characters are full and well fleshed out. The dialog is excellent and the ...more
Nov 23, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2014
2.5 stars what to say about this book.

Well, it's probably good for what it is, a Kurt Vonnegut meets Erskine Caldwell with maybe a tincy-wincy echo of Raymond Chandler. The writing is competent, and there's a point. It's just not a style of writing that appeals to fact, I find it a little annoying, but understand it's a personal preference kind of thing more than a reflection of the writer's talent.

I debated between two and three stars, but ultimately decided on two because af
Kirk Smith
Mar 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my second book by Woodrell and he has rapidly climbed my list of favorites. It's the one-liners, the never-too-anxious pacing, the tone, the perfect-pitch, and as if that's not enough, he laces it with humor. I am now a Fan.-- The story has many threads; class distinction between haves and have-nots, unrequited love, and achieving a sense of "belonging".-- There are loads of quotes in this little gem, I'll mention a few and it's just the tip of the iceberg. From the foreword, and a good ...more
Jul 31, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When will I ever learn? Woodrell pulls you in from the beginning. You fall in love with each of these lost characters and then your heart just breaks ever so slowly. You keep thinking this southern lit will be different. These lost souls will break the cycle. There's a small chance Jamalee might make it....I doubt it. Even the poor dog can't break the cycle....the park scene comes to mind. I can't wait to read more of Woodrell's newer stuff. ...more
I feel about Tomato Red the same way I felt about Woodrell's most famous novel, Winter's Bone: yes, I can see plainly that it's overwritten a la Cormac McCarthy, but I just love the sum of its parts so much that it matters not at all. He is masterful in depicting the sometimes tragic trajectories of rural poverty. ...more
William Thomas
I grew up around a whole heap of hillbilly boys straight out of the Tennessee hills. Grandmama picked cotton near her whole life. Grandpa died with fingers so gnarled from arthritis after pushing a plow for 50 years that he had to have his youngest boy hold roll and hold his cigarettes for him. My dad, well, he wasn't the hard-working type an let out for Las Vegas at age 17 and bounced from city to city his whole life. Always wound right back there in Ripley, TN though. Needed to be around his p ...more
I already feel bad writing this review. This is a book I should "like" based on the general genre, my admiration of the author, and the impact it had on other readers I greatly respect. Having previously returned it twice to the library after not being able to get it started within my allotted time, I was tickled it was selected as a monthly group read within the group "On the Southern Literary Trail"- surely the cue that it was meant to be for me to finally get it under my belt.

Perfect setup...
Jul 13, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this 2 years ago and I was surprised to find I didn't review it here.

This book started so well. I was so intrigued. A house robber knocked out, waking up to two creepy teenagers with a plan. . . .I thought I knew where this was going.

Well, I didn't.

It basically didn't really go anywhere. . .well, not anywhere good.

I read through to the end and it was sad. So sad.

Loved the title, though. That's what intrigued me.
Mary D
Jul 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“In the Ozarks, what you are is where you are born. If you're born in Venus Holler, you're not much. For Jamalee Merridew, her hair tomato red with rage and ambition, Venus Holler just won’t cut it."

Squish, splat this "tomatoe" back to the Ozarks!! This was my initial reaction to the longest, jumbled and muddled opening sentence I have ever read. But, I love fresh homegrown tomatoes. So I kept reading on and I am happy I did. Daniel Woodrell’s Tomatoe Red is a country noir, told from the eyes o
This reminds me of a television sit. com plot, or slapstick movie of the week. It has very similar dialog and flashy characters. Fast, fast read and more interest near the end, so I stretched to give it a three. My preferred humor is far more stodgy or dry, I guess. This seems more the Honey Boo-Boo kind of laughs. Nothing wrong with it, but just not for me. Sammy and his friends are so hapless, that they seemed from the get-go far more dangerous, than funny. And not only to themselves. Stereoty ...more
Oct 02, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Trailer park noir about a drifter who befriends two hillbilly goth kids who have "plans" for him. What these plans are we never really find out, hmm. Anyway, things get pretty suspenseful but unfortuantely the story kinda spirals into nothingness. The book needed Bubbles, Randy and Mister Lahey. ...more
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