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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
After spending more than a few years out of print, Robert Ward's Red Baker, which won the prestigious PEN West prize for Best Novel in 1985, is finally being reissued. With a reverential foreword by Michael Connelly, this story about a Baltimore steelworker's downward spiral into despair after he loses his job is an archetypal "Great American Novel" comparable to Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath and Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.
In the winter of 1983, after spending most of his life working around the forges at Larmel Steel, 40-year-old Red Baker is summarily laid off. With a much cheaper workforce overseas, the company's six-month shutdown is rumored to be permanent. Baker's life is turned upside down in an instant. Possessing only "nontransferable skills," his ordeal at the unemployment office offers no hope. With a wife and teenage son to support, Baker moves from one short-lived minimum wage job to another, becoming increasingly dejected. Things turn from bad to worse: A former coworker in the same predicament commits suicide, and in the same week, Baker's wife, Wanda, and his mistress -- a go-go dancer named Crystal -- both leave him. Increasingly popping pills and drinking hard liquor to cope, Baker turns to one desperate criminal act…
In the book's foreword, Connelly describes this as a literary novel, a crime novel, and a novel of social reflection. "In Red Baker, one man's story becomes our story, his conscious becomes our collective conscious. His journey is our own. I am Red Baker and so are you. It is why it should always be celebrated and always in print." Paul Goat Allen