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Fugitive Red


Fugitive Red

A new book by Jason Starr is always a cause for celebration. Starr explores the dark and dank underbelly of the modern lives of all kinds of individuals: the privileged, the victims, the has-beens, the never-wases. Lately he has been focusing on those who seem blessed on the surface but who are actually faking it and are a step or two away from disaster on several levels. He continues this examination in FUGITIVE RED, which is as bleak and compelling a read as anything he has ever written.

Starr returns to the claustrophobic confines of life in Manhattan and draws the curtains open on a marriage headed for the rocks, if it’s not there already. Jack, the narrator and protagonist of the piece, is a real estate agent who was the guitarist for a rock band that almost grabbed the golden ring. His glory days of a quarter-century ago have long receded in the rearview mirror. He and his wife, Maria, have an eight-year-old son named Jonah, who is naturally the most precious little kid who ever walked the face of the earth. Maria is quite successful in her corporate job, which brings in much more money than Jack’s efforts and involves frequent travel. As Jack notes in strategic places, they have been drifting apart for several years, which is okay for a ship and an iceberg but not for a married couple.

"There have been only a few authors who have handled this type of exploration of dark and tortured souls this well --- James M. Cain and Jim Thompson immediately come to mind --- but Starr is our contemporary master."

Still, Jack is trying to get and keep a grip on things, a process that includes maintaining sobriety. But he makes a big slip when, on the advice of one of his rock star friends, he begins visiting a site called Discreet Hookups, an online membership service for married people interested in a discreet affair. Let me stop for just a moment to point out that Starr elicits the “don’t do it!” reaction from a reader perhaps better than anyone else. In the case of FUGITIVE RED and Discrete Hookups, you can put that exclamation in all caps. Jack buys a membership and strikes crimson gold in the form of a woman named Sophia, who calls herself “Fugitive Red.” She represents herself as being in a loveless marriage, just like Jack, and they share mutual interests of the carnal type and otherwise.

Sophia suggests a rendezvous at a townhouse in the city that she and her husband own. Jack is struggling with his decision as he arrives there, but matters are soon taken out of his hands when he discovers that she has been brutally murdered. After reporting the crime to the police, he quickly finds himself a person of interest. He believes that Sophia’s wealthy husband found out about the affair that didn’t quite happen and killed her. He attempts to prove his innocence (a tall order) and save his marriage (an even taller one), but only succeeds at first in making things worse.

Maria is extremely unhappy with Jack, but his bigger problem seems to be that he has his own personal Inspector Javert, who is fully convinced of his guilt. Worst of all, though, is that Jack is leaving dead bodies in his wake. When he really does kill someone --- sort of by accident --- it appears he has hit rock bottom, and he begins drinking again. But then a sliver of hope arrives from an unexpected source. There’s just one problem: Jack can’t stay away from Discreet Hookups. It isn’t long before he learns the truth.

FUGITIVE RED is by no means a sequel to SAVAGE LANE, but there is a brief, tangential and intriguing intersection between the two. That said, this latest effort stands on its own, as does almost all of Starr’s work. Anyone who has sought salvation by reaching for the bottom of a bottle will see themselves in stark relief here. There have been only a few authors who have handled this type of exploration of dark and tortured souls this well --- James M. Cain and Jim Thompson immediately come to mind --- but Starr is our contemporary master. Read this book and then what has gone before.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on November 16, 2018

Fugitive Red
by Jason Starr

  • Publication Date: November 6, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Oceanview Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 160809314X
  • ISBN-13: 9781608093144