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Paris Trout (Contemporary American Fiction) Paperback – August 1, 1989

4.0 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In this novel of social drama, a casual murder in the small Georgia town of Cotton Point just after World War II and the resulting court case cleave open the ugly divisions of race and class. The man accused of shooting a black girl, a storekeeper named Paris Trout, has no great feeling of guilt, nor fear that the system will fail to work his way. Trout becomes an embarrassment to the polite white society that prefers to hold itself high above such primitive prejudice. But the trial does not allow any hiding from the stark reality of social and racial tensions. Dexter, a former newspaper columnist, is also the author of Deadwood and God's Pocket. Paris Trout won the 1988 National Book Award.

From Publishers Weekly

In what PW described as "an expertly crafted and bleakly fascinating tale of social conflict and madness in the deep South," the eponymous protagonist of this National Book Award-winning novel murders a black child while collecting a debt and is astounded that he is prosecuted for the crime. 50,000 first printing .
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Series: Contemporary American Fiction
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (August 1, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140122060
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140122060
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #232,332 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Doug Vaughn HALL OF FAME on January 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
There is no question that Dexter is a wonderful wordsmith. He knows how to arrange language for the effects he wants. What makes this book much better than just a well written, literate story of racism and murder, however, is the vivid picture Dexter draws of the main character, Paris Trout, and the townspeople who tolerate him. Trout is a sociopath who inspires fear in all those around him. His brutal and selfish actions, however much despised by his peers, are tolerated rather than confronted. The portrait of his wife - equally vivid - is a sobering and sad picture of someone struggling to make a stand for herself. Much of the tension in the book comes from the relative inarticulateness of the characters and the sense of something horrible underlying the action.
This book is a step up from most sterotypical stories of redneck racists in small Southern towns. Dexter writes with the authority of someone who knows the place, knows the language and knows these people. When finished with the book, the reader feels that he knows them too. A reading experience that's hard to forget.
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Format: Paperback
The National Book Award Winner from 1988, _Paris Trout_, based on a real murder and subsequent trial in Milledgeville, Georgia, is a tale of racism, abuse, bribery, injustice, and most of all, arrogance. Paris Trout, a white shopkeeper in Cotton Point, Georgia, makes his own rules, paying little attention to other laws as he sells used cars (on which the rust is hidden under new paint), terrorizes the black community into repaying loans with high interest, and uses trickery to avoid claims on the insurance policies he sells.

When the older brother of 14-year-old Rosie Sayers refuses to pay for a damaged car that Trout has sold and insured but will not fix, Trout and an accomplice decide to use him as an object lesson. Going to Henry Ray's home, Trout shoots little sister Rosie to death and leaves Mary McNutt wounded with four bullets. Surprisingly to Trout, he is put on trial, where people are bribed and the outcome is uncertain, despite eyewitnesses. The crime and trial take up the first half of the book, while the effects of the trial on Trout's defense attorney, Harry Seagraves, the increasing madness of Trout, and the town's growing impatience with Trout's behavior occupy the second half.

Dexter manages to give new life to a story of bigotry which has been told many times, creating in Rosie a particularly vulnerable and sad child, and in Harry Seagraves a lawyer who faces a crossroads--as a lawyer, husband, and man. Paris Trout, however, remains a bigoted stereotype, which reduces important aspects of the plot to "good guys" vs. "bad guys.
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Format: Paperback
In the mood for a nice little murder story? Well, don't look here. This tale of murder is as bad as they come; there is no subtlety, no ironically cute plot twists. Author Pete Dexter takes readers by their hands and whispers, "Come follow me if you have the courage, and I will show you the depravity of man." This brutal, unblinking honesty has become Dexter's trademark, and few writers can match his skill. "Paris Trout" is a novel readers will have a hard time walking away from once they've finished the last sentence. Dexter's prose is so powerful that audiences may catch themselves actually feeling sorry for Trout, the story's main character. Few times in fiction has a character been so convinced of his own righteousness, so obsessed with his own cause, while he sets out to destroy all those who have betrayed him.
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Format: Paperback
When this book came out I was in high school and I thought, that's all we need, yet another book about racism and a small southern town..I mean how many books can be written on this subject? I recently sat down and read this book, it's quite a page turner, but still it's a one trick pony..on part Harper Lee, two parts John Grisham. Granted, Paris Trout, is a racist monster, conjured up from Redneck Hell, but he is a total caracture, it's like the author read To Kill a Mockingbird and said, I'm going to make my cracker worse, and to his credit, he suceeded, Paris Trout is one of the most vile, base characters i've read in fiction, but in making him so totally vile, he's not as effective. I just felt the book treaded over well worn road, yes we know people were and are like this..I grew up in Texas, I'm very familiar with the genus Redneckus Southernus, but I dont exactly enjoy reading about it..again and again and again...this book won several awards, and frankly I dont understand why..its not a bad book, but it's hardly, To Kill a Mockingbird, and frankly I like A Time to Kill better..read this if you must..but only if you must.
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Pete Dexter has created a chilling portrait of a sociopath in Paris Trout, and a warm portrait of his small town and its social strata. I lost myself in this world for two days. I have known a man or two I felt was close to Trout's depravity, or capable of it, so he seemed true to me. The tragedy of such a monster is how much he can get away with and for how long, because most people are good and desire harmony, and Dexter is brilliant on this aspect of the story.

I'd love to play with Dexter's punctuation—as always with run-ons (comma splices here), only about one in five works for me—and sometimes I wished for physical descriptions of characters and landscape. Yet the novel is so fully imagined that I believed it. I reveled in its flashing insights into its characters' minds and emotions and its page-turning plot. Telling the story from shifting perspectives, in a distanced third-person point of view, was interesting and effective.
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