The full title of Scott Seward Smith‘s debut novel is Red Line Blues: The Passion of Owen Cassell, Closet Conservative (2018). Close to middle age, Owen Cassell is divorced from Lisa, drinks heavily, and eventually has sex—with one woman, Audrey. That he is a closet conservative (and Republican) certainly matters inasmuch as Audrey is a callow liberal and would be bothered by any boyfriend hiding his political outlook from her.
Smith gives only so much space to the subject of this relationship, focusing as he does on Owen’s connection (as speechwriter) to Mitt Romney, the life and doings of his grandfather, and other things. But it is all too bad that happiness through being loved must remain at bay. We are meant to believe, I think, that Owen should not be the coward he is, and that Audrey should not dismiss a man because of his political outlook. This, however, is, or may be, “the popular current,” to use Alexander Hamilton’s words.
There is no fluid prose in Red Line Blues but it is ably written. It’s straightforward. It harbors a good attitude toward America, wherein, in fact, Owen is not a ruined man. Smith writes that “everything to him [Owen] seemed renewable, like the very spirit of America itself.” That Smith respects the spirit of America is one reason this is one of the most mature novels I’ve read.