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Paris Trout [Paperback]

Pete Dexter
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 31 1989 Contemporary American Fiction
A respected white citizen of Cotton Point, Georgia, Paris Trout is a shopkeeper, a money-lender, and a murderer of blacks. And his friends, family and foes do not realize the danger they face in a man who simply will not see his own guilt.#Penguin.

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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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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars SOME THINGS NEVER CHANGE July 11 2004
By Sesho
Paris Trout is about a murder of a young black girl, the utter of absence of morals in the killer, and the hypocrisy of a white town which almost doesn't want justice to be done to him. Set in an inbred town in Georgia, Paris Trout is a shopkeeper who has his hands in a lots of other business, such as loan sharking and auto sales. He sells a car to a young black man, Henry McNutt, vastly escalating the sale by adding "insurance" to it. After Henry becomes involved in a car wreck, he comes to Trout demanding that it be fixed because the accident was covered by his insurance. In the following dispute, Henry leaves the car and says he's not going to pay on the car anymore. After repeated warnings to pay, Paris Trout shows up at the McNutt residence with a former cop that had been kicked off the force for abusing black citizens. Not finding Henry there, they proceed to get involved in a situation with his mother and her children. Guns are drawn by Paris and the ex-officer and Henry's mother and a young girl living with the family are shot. The rest of the novel is about the aftermath of the killing, in which Paris believes he was justified because he was owed money.
Harry Seagraves, a lawyer who recognizes Paris' guilt, but feels he is obligated to the decadent aristocracy of the town, decides to take over Paris' defense. Everyone in the town knows Paris is guilty, but are reluctant to see a white man go down for the killing of a black girl. The question is, will the town overcome its inherent racism and see justice done? Ward Townes, an honest county attorney takes over the prosecution.
This was a good novel. It really exposes what many people already knew about certain parts of the South.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A dark tale, well written June 3 2004
The tale is nasty, but the writing is good. I read this book very quickly - I was pulled in by the characters and their actions. Paris Trout is scary; those who do little to stop him are also scary. I don't like how Dexter treats the women in his books - horrific is the word that comes to mind. Definitely worth reading if you are in the mood for something very dark.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A remarkable book Feb. 23 2004
Paris Trout centers around a character of the same name. Though he is clearly a psychopath, he has money and is a business man, so his violent nature is ignored by the citizens of his small town, Cotton Point, Georgia. The book opens with an attack by Trout on a local black family. The town's white population does not want to be seen siding with a black family against a white man, so, from then on they turn a blind eye towards Trout and allow him to bully the legal system. Also involved in this hard boiled drama are Trout's wife Hanna and Harry Seagraves, Trout's good-guy lawyer. The book is framed as the story of a very bad man terrorizing a sleepy town, but the amazing thing about it is the way Dexter slowly turns the tables until it becomes clear that the complacency of the townspeople is a far greater sin than the murderousness of someone who lives among them. Though it reads like genre fiction with gripping suspense and at times remarkable violence, the subtle play on the psychology of a small town elevates the book to a remarkable literary novel. Although, I should say, if this book were not as deep and were merely a legal thriller, I would still have found it to be fantastic based on the strength of Dexter's writing. A great book.
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2.0 out of 5 stars truly evil July 27 2003
This book is about a truly evil person- PARIS TROUT- and the collection of misfit's and sad people he affect's. From the poor girl he kill's to his wife, to his lawyer, he destroy's everything around him . After reading about these sad people in post-war GEORGIA you might need a shower.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Awfully disturbing Aug. 20 2002
Sorry, but while Paris Trout may have been well written, realistic characterization, etc., I must say it had one of the most gruesome scenes of cruelty I've ever had the misfortune to read. It's been several years now and it still makes my stomach turn to think of it. So fair warning to all who may be contemplating reading this book. I wish I hadn't.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Surprising disappointment. Jan. 3 2002
By A Customer
I have to agree with the reviewer from Yuba City. After finishing this novel I was also surprised that it had won the National Book Award. Although I agree with other reviewers that the depiction of complacency by the Cotton Point citizens with respect to Paris Trout's deeds was well done by the author, I did not find the character development, the writing or the plot to be above average. The National Book Award and glowing reviews this novel received set my expectations higher than the novel could meet.
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I'm not sure what the competition was in 1988, but I find it hard to believe that Pete Dexter's "Paris Trout" was the best the American literary community had produced that year for the National Book Award. This award giving out to the most outstanding work of Fiction in a given year includes the names of past honorees, William Faulkner, Delillo, Gaddis, Roth, etc. I'm sorry to say that Pete Dexter is not one of these. The premise behind the story has promise. A small town racial murder and how that town and the main characters deal with the aftermath. We do find ourselves frightened of Trout, shocked by the blatant racism, and fearful of the silent acceptance that lies beneath, but in Dexter's hands the story falls short. The writing doesn't come across as anything above the norm. Some of the plot events seem to be thrown in just for shock value and nothing more. Out of all the books that my wife and I have read aloud together "Paris Trout" is one of the more forgettable. If you are looking at knocking of some National Book Award winners, go read Delillo's "White Noise." The award going to "Paris Trout" in '88 just seems a little fishy to me.
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