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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
Four FASCINATING Stars! National Book Award-winning writer Pete Dexter wrote kaleidoscopic newspaper columns and magazine articles on his observations of life, love, marriage, death, and everything in between in preceding decades. These 82 vignettes are unique and engrossing, coming from multiple sources Iike Esquire, Sports Illustrated, Redbook, Inside Sports, Philadelphia Daily News, and the Sacramento Bee, focusing on many locations around the country. Although somewhat dated, this book proves the timeless phrase "The more things change, the more they remain the same": case in point, Dexter's 'O. J. Simpson vs the press' viewpoint is right on the money, as O. J. once again regretably rises to the attention of the world.

In the great tradition of writers like Jimmy Breslin, Mr Dexter writes with a keen eye, sardonic wit, and a gift for detail and opinion in rough-edged, highly-descriptive, and presumptive prose. The stories keep coming, letting the reader sometimes read between the lines and fill in missing details: here's how he describes how he rushed from Florida to Philadelphia in mid-winter to accept a much-needed new job: "I arrived three days later with one pair of boots, no coat, running as close to empty as I've ever been", a whale of a winter image in 21 words. You fill in the rest; unshaven, dirty laundry in the back seat? The book is loaded with these.

The specific stories are varied: a salute to a TV newsman murdered on his knees in a foreign country (no, not that newsman and not that country!), the escapades of two friends nicknamed Low Gear and Minus (no kidding!), a mother cat in a dangerous world, a beer throwing contest (seriously!), police stories, courtroom stories, stereotypical views on race but with an underlying fairness and fondness for all men, a paper bag that should have been left alone, murders that could and should have been avoided, an old boxer one should stay away from, and the Brian Spencer-involved murder case that he peels back like an onion. The stories run from the truly interesting to the mundane, but things are never boring based on the grittiness and uniqueness of Mr Dexter's vignettes of life. It may take a couple of stories to get your bearings, but by then he's pulled you into his world. Definitely Recommended!! Four INCISIVE Stars!

(Note: this review is based on an eBook digital download in secure eReader format.)
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2007
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Dexter is truly one of America's greatest writers ... this collection is impossible to put down. If the first piece doesn't grab your heart, you don't have one. This is every bit as good as his novels ... and those are masterpieces.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 11, 2010
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Pete Dexter writes about people who rarely make it into print and stories that rarely are told. There hasn't been a story yet that didn't make me stop and contemplate; I'm amazed at his skill in poignantly sketching a person and telling a story. Everyone is either caught in unbelievable circumstances or caught in a web made from a series of mind-boggling choices. No good can come of this -- yet Dexter makes you feel something special with each masterful, self-deprecating portrait.

Highly recommended.

(And best of luck to Mrs. Dexter.)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 9, 2008
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
PAPER TRAILS is a collection of essays. Some are hilarious, some are sad, some are outrageous, and all of them are thought provoking. The essays cover a wide range of subjects, from kittens to tractors to mentrual pads to evil boys who abuse dogs. There's something in the book for every taste. The writing is sublime.

It's a page flipper and difficult to put down.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 29, 2009
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I really, really enjoyed this book. Very interesting stories. Only I should have saved it for a long flight in two weeks...
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2008
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I remember Pete from his time at the Philadelphia Daily News. It truly was a different era. We still have columnists, but Pete was something special. Many of the columns collected here have the power to break your heart. Those that do not will make you laugh, or perhaps think. If you suppose that you can peg Dexter as a typical left wing demagogue then you must read his thoughts on the LA riots, and O.J. Simpson. This is a man who is dedicated to the notion of equality, and will brook no excuses for bad behavior. This book is like eating popcorn if you were eating popcorn that was extremely filling and had super nutritive qualities.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2010
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This is a must have book for Dexter fans as well as those unfamiliar with his work. Consisting of newspaper columns written before his international acclaim as a novelist (Paris Trout, Deadwood, Train, etc.), Pete writes with a rare combination of poignancy, wit, and down home talk: a modern day Mark Twain to my mind. Because the stories can be read in under four minutes, I often read them during the commercials of TV sporting events. Too often, I found myself going on to the next story at the expense of the next inning. Great stuff indeed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Boy is Pete Dexter a good writer. This collection of his columns from, among others, the Sacramento Bee and the Philadelphia Inquirer are occasionally a little dark, but never boring, and cover a wide array of subjects. If you've never read Pete Dexter, you should, and this is a good way to get your feet wet; that being said, his novels are not to be missed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I recogized much of the material here from personal experience. The characters might seem cartoonish to someone who hadn't shared the experience, but these are people who actually exist. Treat yourself to an unvarnished view of America and Americans. I couldn't put this down.
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Format: Hardcover
Pete Dexter is on of my favorite authors. His writing is tight, his insight is deep, and his humor is off the wall. “Paper Trails” puts all his talent on display.

The book is a collection of eighty-two of his well-received journalistic efforts. The essays are from newspapers and magazines that are astute enough to realize there are many readers who are tired of droning news items and who welcome some clever, diverse observations and musings. Dexter has handled that craving for decades.

Most of the entries are short. There are some towards the end of the book that tend to be wordy. I’m not sure where they came from. But, for the most part, the entries are concise and easily ingested. Most of them also contain irreverent remarks and humor that skewer conventional thinking, politics, bigwigs, and even Mrs. Dexter, his often put-upon and remarkably understanding wife. I love Mrs. Dexter.

Dexter calls the book “true stories of confusion, mindless violence, and forbidden desires, a surprising number of which are not about marriage.” There are so many of these true stories here that I hesitate to pick out my favorites. So I’ll just mention a few. There’s one where Mrs. Dexter catches Pete making love to his pillow. And another where Pete stuffs a raw egg down Mrs. Dexter’s pants to demonstrate a chicken’s egg factory process to a grandchild. There are several about inscrutable cats, insufferable editors, the never-ending search for girls, southern low-lifes, drinking adult refreshment, and juvenile pranks, most of which he instigated.

He gets a little more serious as he discusses inane lawyers, civil rights, down-on-their luck folks, and mindless violence, but his views on all these popular subjects mesh very well with mine. In fact, his entire outlook and life’s activities seem to square with my very proper mindset.

I recommend Pete Dexter’s work to every reader with a somewhat warped outlook on life. His books are also great diversions and entertaining reads. There’s no reason to be all wound tight and unfailingly opinionated. Loosen up with Dexter.

Schuyler T Wallace
Author of TIN LIZARD TALES
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