Synopses & Reviews
In the 1970s and 1980s, before he earned national acclaim for his award-winning novels, Pete Dexter was a newspaper columnist. Every week, in a few hundred words, Dexter cut directly to the heart of the American character at a time of national turmoil and crucial change. With haunting urgency, his columns laid bare the violence, hypocrisy, and desperation he saw on the streets of Philadelphia and in the places he visited across the country. But he reveled, too, in the lighter side of his own life, sharing scenes with the indefatigable Mrs. Dexter, their young daughter, and a series of unforgettable creatures who strayed into their lives. No matter what caught Dexter's eye, it was illuminated by his dark, brilliant humor.
Collected here for the first time are eighty-two of the best of those spellbinding, finely wrought pieces—with a new introduction by the author—assembled by Rob Fleder, editor of the bestselling Sports Illustrated 50th Anniversary Book. Paper Trails is searing, heart-breaking, and irresistibly funny, sometimes all at once. As Pete Hamill says in his foreword, these essays "are as good as it ever gets."
"In this sprawling collection of finely etched prose, noted novelist Dexter (Paris Trout) lays bare the darker workings of the human experience. Assembled mostly from his newspaper columns for the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Sacramento Bee, these short pieces chronicle the often violent, sometimes tender foibles of the denizens of America's lower socioeconomic strata. Senseless crimes are committed, alcohol flows like water and lives are damaged beyond repair. In clipped, world-weary prose, Dexter writes of Joline, a prostitute working the streets of West Sacramento 'The rent is $95 a week, and she still owes the manager fifty. She says that is two dates, maybe three. Joline is twenty-three years old. She says she'll have it in two hours.' The stories are imbued with the spirit of the ink-stained old school journalist. While not all the tales are of degradation and mishap Dexter writes tenderly of his wife and child the self-inflicted woes of the less fortunate stay with you. 'Mummers Day on Two Street: The body is laid out on the corner. The pink dress is pulled up around the neck, which is painted green. The eyes are partly open; but when you look into them all you see is white.' With authority and a strange grace, Dexter has crafted a powerful portrait of the underbelly of the American Dream." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Several of Dexter's columns pack a wallop, sometimes from the bizarre and violence-laden circumstances that they report, other times from Dexter's poignant or stark observations or his humor, which is sizable." Los Angeles Times
"This collection is ideal for journalism students, writers, and any book lover who appreciates a good story." Library Journal
"[Dextrer's] is a voice meant for the empty spaces of American life, the way Richard Ford was meant for New Jersey. It's best to read a few columns at a sitting, savoring each as its own self-sustaining organism." New York Times
"Pete Dexter makes it known with Paper Trails that he was born with talent, a master storyteller able to entertain and inform without resorting to sensationalism or affected emotion." San Francisco Chronicle
"Dexter's writing is compact, illuminating, sometimes hanging on a single word, sometimes thrilling with the unstated." Oregonian
"[A] winning book the sort you keep around because it's good company and delivers the news in short powerful bursts....Paper Trails proves Dexter's best work on deadline deserves a longer life." Seattle Times
"Dexter's collection is a reminder of what the best city columnists do: Hit the pavement with sharp eyes, keen ears and a razor wit, then come back and reshape that world on the page. From craft, art. And something resembling truth, or what we can know of it." Denver Post
Collects eighty-two of the author's newspaper columns from the 1970s and 1980s, revealing the violence and despair he witnessed on the streets of Philadelphia while also offering a lighter look at life within his own family.
Filled with humor and wisdom, the brilliant first collection of Dexter's finest nonfiction chronicles his life and times.
About the Author
Pete Dexter is the author of the National Book Award-winning novel Paris Trout and five other novels: God's Pocket, Deadwood, Brotherly Love, The Paperboy, and Train. Dexter was born in Michigan and raised in Georgia, Illinois, and eastern South Dakota. He lives on an island off the coast of Washington.