David Jerome,
Roastbeef's Promise
(Smack, 2009)

I love comedy. Who doesn't like a good chuckle? So, I was very excited when I received a copy of Roastbeef's Promise by David Jerome several months ago. I was ready for some belly laughs. Unfortunately, what I had was several months of torture as I had to force myself to read a story that I did not enjoy at all. In fact, I never once made it through an entire chapter in a single sitting. If I got through 10 pages in a shot, I was doing good. I would have quit reading less than halfway through, but since I had to review this book, I had no choice but to keep going. My journey felt as long as Roastbeef's travel around the lower 48 states!

Jim "Roastbeef" Hume was a foster child who picked up his nickname one night as a kid when he overindulged in the entree. Then it just stuck. A few weeks before Jim's father -- who suffered from Alzheimer's disease -- died, he made his adopted son promise to cremate his body and spread his ashes in each of the contiguous 48 states. While the man could not remember who people were or what he did yesterday, he continued to remind his son of this promise. So, like a good son, young Roastbeef decided to take a break from college after his father died and head out across the states fulfilling his wish.

For about 300 pages, he describes his up and down adventures. Like clockwork, if he has money and things are going well, everything will go to hell within a few pages. Similarly, if Roastbeef is down on his luck, things will turn around shortly. If trips could be diagnosed as manic-depressive, this one would be prescribed some Lithium!

At first, I liked this Roastbeef character. Here was a guy that, despite the lack of support from his siblings, decided the right thing to do was honor his father's wishes. But I soon found the character to be rather despicable. For Jim, the end justifies the means. Damn the rules, screw other people's rights, just get it done regardless of who gets hurt or what laws are broken. And much of what is intended to be funny just comes across as another sad episode in Roastbeef's life.

Let me give you an example. Roastbeef meets up with his father's old World War II army buddy, Spud, who takes Roastbeef down to Tijuana for some "Mexican muff." Unfortunately, the brothel mixes up their prostitutes, and Spud dies when he can't handle a lady more than 50 years his junior. Roastbeef now has to sneak Spud's remains as well as his father's ashes back across the border. Could this have been funny? Possibly. I cringed the entire time I was reading it.

Author David Jerome used his experiences traveling through the 48 contiguous states back in the 1990s as a basis to write this novel, which gives this work of fiction a very real feeling. This is David's first novel, although he has another book out called I'm a Big Fan, for which he used the pen name James E. Spamm Jr. David has experience writing jokes for Jay Leno and has done some stand-up comedy.

Personally, I did not care for this slice of Roastbeef. I don't have a problem with the journal/diary style of writing. I wouldn't recommend Roastbeef's Promise because it is not a fun tale to read. The main character is simply not a likeable person. He is cruel (such as when he doesn't warn a little girl that the wind just blew some of his father's ashes onto her cotton candy). He is disrespectful (putting some of his father's ashes in a condom to attach to a firecracker and in wads of gum to stick to a wall). He is a thief (sneaking into buffets and crashing a wedding reception for free food). He is a liar (pretending to be a lesbian's boyfriend). He is a rule/law breaker (too numerous to note).

However, some readers might find his grit and determination while fulfilling his father's wishes to be worthy of praise. You might even find some of it amusing. I never had a laugh-out-loud moment, although I did have an occasional silent chuckle. But more often than not, I was disgusted and turned off from following Roastbeef's adventures. When I die, if my ashes are spread around, this is not how I want it done!

review by
Wil Owen

29 August 2009

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