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The Paperboy [Hardcover]

Pete Dexter
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)

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Library Binding --  
Hardcover, 25 May 1995 --  
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Book Description

25 May 1995
When Jack, (the narrator), and Ward return to their home town where their father publishes a county newspaper, Ward has in tow a young woman who loves a man condemned to death for killing the local sheriff. She has convinced Ward that they should reinvestigate his case.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; 1st edition (25 May 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670860662
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670860661
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 15.7 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,436,152 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Dexter is a writer who cuts to the bone. There is not a spare word in this searing tale... A bravura performance by one of America's most original and elegiac voices. --People

Hip, hard-boiled and filled with memorable eccentrics ... The Paperboy burns with the phosphorescent atmosphere of betrayal. --Time

A wise and fascinating tale well told. --Entertainment Weekly --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Pete Dexter won the US National Book Award for Fiction for Paris Trout, two Penn West Awards for Best Novel of the Year (Paris Trout and The Paperboy), and the Los Angeles Times prize for Best Novel for Train. His most recent novel, Spooner (Atlantic Books), was published to critical acclaim in 2009.

'An eerie and beautiful novel ... Its secrets continue to reveal themselves long after the book has been finished.' --The New York Times Book Review --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astonishingly powerful 15 Sep 2009
By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Dexter's books are noir at its most bleak, unforgiving, humane and disturbing. At his best, he uncovers a side of American life that is unsung, uncelebrated and perhaps best undiscovered, at least in real life. The deep south has always been an area of darkness - with its slave plantations, its human rights record and the Florida hinterlands where kids don't go to school much, even if they want to. The poor white trash get raw deals as a matter of course and never, it seems to the observer, manage to make the best of things.

In this novel two brothers, the sons of a small county newspaper proprietor, make their way towards truth in the case of a murder. They work for a large paper in Miami and are joined by a woman determined to save a man on death row. Ward, the elder brother, is a respected reporter but has made his name in an investigation case with another reporter as his partner. The younger brother, the novel's narrator, is drafted in as a driver and gofer.

Dexter's strength is in character. Ward is taciturn, obsessive, dysfunctional on a social level, but honest and moral. His partner is altogether more mercurial, a ladies' man, a dissimulator, but a writer at least. Their investigations into the background of the case against poor white boy, Hillary van Wetter, seem unpromising at first, but there are contra-indications and puzzling lapses in police procedure.

The writing is undemonstrative, like the brothers, but astonishingly powerful as high drama unfolds. There are no wasted words and it is compulsive reading. This is a haunting, violent, and deeply disturbing novel.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "It was in the paper. How could it be a lie?" 15 Dec 2005
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, represent 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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A slow Southern drawl 12 Aug 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I decided to read the before seeing the film (which I have yet to do and from all I have read, has some major script differences). However the storyline was rather dull and I never really got into the characters despite a feeling that I should have. The book meanders along in a way that suggests the humidity of the area described has filtered into the writing, so while not bad, I wouldn't go so far as to recommend it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
`Bleak' isn't always a bad thing when it comes to books. I've read several books that I'd describe as bleak but that I really loved: Never Let Me Go and The Woman Before Me are two that come to mind. I'd put The Paperboy in a slightly different category, perhaps alongside The Virgin Suicides - its bleakness made it hard to really love, but something in the craft of the writing and the integrity of the story kept me reading.

I had no idea what The Paperboy was about before reading - I knew it was recently made into a film but had no preconceptions. I was surprised by the beginning, which tells of a county sheriff found murdered and the man from the notorious Van Wetter family on death row as a result. So it got off to an interesting enough start, if a little meandering. The gist of the rest of the novel is that three paperboys (men working for a newspaper, rather than boys delivering them) are persuaded by the fiancee of Hillary Van Wetter to investigate the sheriff's murder in the hope of finding evidence that will see him released from death row. This sounds like it holds the promise of a fast-paced, intriguing story, no?

Unfortunately not. This felt like one of the longest and slowest-moving books I've read. This impression is heightened by the complete lack of chapter divisions, so it's just one interminable narrative told from one fairly monotonous and uninspiring perspective. Jack James is not really a paperboy; he drives delivery trucks for his father (who does own a small, local paper) and has no particular grand plan for his life. His brother Ward is building his reputation as a reporter in Miami, working in partnership with another ambitious young man called Yardley Acheman.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars a book you can't put down
Captivating from the first moment and keeps you wanting more. The cinema film kept true to the written story - well done again Matthew McConaghey
Published 1 month ago by David Macleod
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Yet another fantastic Pete Dexter story
Published 3 months ago by Sam E
3.0 out of 5 stars An Uneasy Stew of Themes
I picked this up on a whim -- partly because I wanted to try something from Dexter, and partly because before I watch the apparently fantastically bad movie version, I want to have... Read more
Published 8 months ago by A. Ross
5.0 out of 5 stars better than ex[ected
I enjoyed this book enormously. Would recommend to readers. A change of theme for me but most enjoyable. Thanks a lot
Published 10 months ago by Mrs M Shearsmith
5.0 out of 5 stars Totally involving
I read this novel perhaps fifteen years ago and loved it. I recall thinking it would make a great film. Read more
Published 11 months ago by J. Griffiths
1.0 out of 5 stars A disappointing mess
The characters are unbelievably badly defined and totally unconvincing.The narrative does'nt work and it verges on the pornographic in places.
Published 13 months ago by david jones
4.0 out of 5 stars Stan's view
Have also seen the movie and the story does differ quite a bit, but still a very good read. I think I would have preferred it to finish like the movie
Published 13 months ago by Mr S Garden
4.0 out of 5 stars Class delivery. Jm
Great book with real characters and a sound story not only a page turner it is also a solid piece of literature Pete Baxter is a fine writer
Published 14 months ago by wayne mullane
4.0 out of 5 stars A nice book
This was a very interesting book a good bedtime read with a few twists in it.Peter Dexter is an author to look for
Published 14 months ago by Brenda Roberts
2.0 out of 5 stars OK in places
When got interesting seemed to fade away. Struggled to understand the plot sometimes.

Also struggled with American dialect.

Recommended for Americans
Published 15 months ago by Kevin
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