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on March 18, 2000
I read "Paris Trout" (which I picked up wondering what the City of Light and fish have to do with one another) and was hooked. Pete Dexter writes books about people you don't really want to know -- racists, violent men, drunks, people who are depressed to the point of dragging you down with them -- but he gets his hooks in you on page one and never lets go. "Paperboy" is basically about failure and how close we are to it even when it seems that life is going OK -- something can come into our lives that takes it all apart. The story is magnificently told in prose so tight that you can almost hear typewriter keys clicking away (Pete Dexter's books don't read like they were produced on a word processor). Best of all, there are the many places in the book where the words "as if" or "like" appear. Nobody does descriptive comparisons better. This is a great book, just like the other Pete Dexter books -- you just can't go wrong with him.
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on January 6, 2000
Pete Dexter is one of the most overlooked writers around. His style is beautifully lyrical, insightful with great characterization. Granted, his stories are dark examples of the human condition but well worth the journey. If you want a fast-moving plot, a pretty story or happy endings, you won't find them here. What you will find is some of the best writing you will ever read. I must admit to a bias here because Pete and I worked together in the '70s at a couple of newspapers so I consider him a friend. But I'm also a book editor and reviewer and read a lot, and I've read all Pete's books and consider this one of the best. Now, if he'll quit writing movie scripts ("Rush" and "Michael" to name a couple)long enough to write another fine novel, we'd all be happy!
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on July 24, 2001
I enjoyed reading this book, and I've decided that being an enjoyable read is worth 3 stars. There were a couple of things that bothered me about it though.

It starts off as sort of a murder mystery, with a group of reporters investigating the murder of a sheriff in a sparsely populated county. The narrator is the brother of the reporter who heads the investigation. The plot eventually moves away from this theme, and becomes sort of jammed between a character study of the narrator and his brother, an indictment of media morality, and some sort of Greek-style tragedy. The overall effect is that the book wanders a bit, and doesn't seem to be able to decide what it's trying to do. It almost seemed like whenever the book got perilously close to making a statement, it backed off and went in a different direction. This is something of a pet peeve of mine, as I think sometimes writers do this kind of thing to seem mysterious and profound, under the assumption that being understandable means being simple and shallow.

Other than that, the book was well written and for the most part the characters were interesting, although most of them were not very likable. I think the book would have been better if the narrator's brother Ward, who was perhaps the central figure of the book, had a detectable personality instead of just acting like a journalistic robot. The book was saved by the narrator, whom it was possible to sympathize with, and even like.

Overall I would mildly recommend it, but don't feel like it is a must read.
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on May 22, 2014
The story of a unhappy family. A wife who left an alcoholic spouse with two sons, and a newspaper business. The husband and sons were unable to expressed themselves when it came to their emotions and needs. It was a dysfunctional family. The newspaper business was their only connection. You could feel the isolation and frustration. A very moving portrait, of a family with talents, and cut off communication.
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on October 3, 2014
This is a really good book, much more complex and nuanced than one reading can reveal.
Read it with a pencil in hand. Have a close look at how water is everywhere.
Think about not being able to get your bearings. Think about being careful what you wish for.
Notice that nobody is intact. Remember the ways we can be foolish when we think that aging is a loss.
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on June 2, 2016
Hard story, but I sure do love the way it's written. I recommend it, but it does get tough (emotional parts with violence and serious sex), which I have no trouble with. It's a great book. Better than the movie, of course (although the movie was pretty intense!)
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on January 30, 2014
I hadn't heard of the film until Nicole Kidman was nominated for an Oscar, and even after that, I didn't bother to see it until it popped up on my Netflix. Since, I've watched it a total of 4 times. It's an amazingly haunting movie. Because of how much I enjoyed the film, I decided to read the book. Much more detailed, and a little difficult to follow at times, but despite that, it was still just as haunting as the film.
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Telling a dark story about investigative reporting and the people involved in it, Pete Dexter sets his story in 1965 - 1969, in Moat County, Florida. Jack James, the narrator, is a college dropout who works as a driver and general gofer for his idealistic brother Ward, a reporter for the Miami Times, and his writing partner, Yardley Acheman, an attention-seeking dandy. The two writers are investigating the possibility that Hillary Van Wetter, convicted of the murder of the sheriff in the town where Ward grew up, may have had an alibi--along with an incompetent attorney. Charlotte Bless, an attractive woman who has a fetish for death row inmates like Hillary, aids them by providing mountains of files she has collected about the murder.

As Ward and Yardley investigate, Dexter explores the newspaper business. Questions they raise about Van Wetter's legal counsel, a famous good-ol'-boy attorney, affect the reputation and popularity of Ward James's father, owner of the local newspaper, sending his ad revenues plummeting. When Ward is physically unable to continue working on the story, Acheman and an editor from Miami rush the story into print and the second phase of the novel begins.

Ward James and Yardley Acheman reflect the drive of reporters to succeed and their tendency to identify personally with their stories. The aftereffects of the reporters' investigation into the Van Wetter case, which constitute phase two, grow exponentially, further affecting the reporters, Ward James's father, Charlotte Bless, and, obviously Hillary Van Wetter, as the national media become involved. Along the way, Dexter raises ethical questions, not just about the ethics of reporting, but about the ability of the press to control outcomes and public perceptions. Ultimately, he raises the issue of whether justice is served when the egos of reporters and the desire to sell newspapers cause the media to lose their sense of perspective and cloud their judgment about what is right.

Dexter, an outstanding writer of (sometimes earthy) dialogue, is brilliant in his selection of revealing details, especially the mannerisms of his sometimes odd characters--how they move, speak, and respond to direct questions. Ultimately, most face ironic destinies. While this novel may not have the intense thematic focus of Paris Trout, which won the National Book Award in 1988, it raises important issues regarding the press, and in the process tells an exciting story about the search for justice. n Mary Whipple
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on July 19, 2015
One of my favorite novels of all times. Simple language that hits you right between the eyes. I read every other book written by this auther after stumbling upon this one. The Things They Carried is another masterpiece by Pete Dexter.
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on April 14, 2013
The Paperboy is a brilliant example of true Southern Gothic. This novel is a combination of genres and a compelling read. It differs considerably from the film, particularly the later stages of the story. Like the film it is dark, gruesome and confronting. It is thought provoking enough that it continues to have a disturbing effect long after you've read it. The protagonist effectively pulls you into the story.
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