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3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on July 11, 2004
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. You basically had some good people who knew about injustices being done to the blacks but were so ingrained with racial biases that they couldn't see blacks as equals. A murder could be bought and paid for and even lynchings could be done and noone searched that hard for the killers. This book reminded me of Crime and Punishment, in that even people without consciences can be haunted and driven mad by their crime. I did feel the closing parts of the book were not executed very well. This book won the National Book Award and should appeal to anyone that enjoys all the lawyer shows on TV at the moment like Law and Order.
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on February 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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on August 27, 2001
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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on January 4, 2000
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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on January 21, 2000
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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on December 6, 1998
Pete Dexter is clearly a gifted writer, and his talents are on full display in Paris Trout. His character development is rich and complex, and the reader gets to know each of the book's figures with intimate familiarity. The book is gripping but I found the ending unsatisfying. Without ruining it for those who haven't read it, I just felt that after so much tragedy and bloodshed by the evil Trout, I thought the heroes deserved a better fate. But perhaps that is Dexter's point -- things do not always have a happy ending in the real, unforgiving world.
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on August 23, 1996
"Paris Trout" was a scary book to me, and not just because
of the crimes committed by the title character. Even more
menacing was the complacency of the other characters in the
book. They all could have stopped the chain of events that
eventually spiraled into mass violence. This is a book that
will definitely make you think--but not all pleasant
thoughts, as you contemplate men like Trout and the "good,
up-standing citizens" that turned a blind eye to evil until
it was too late.
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on January 3, 2002
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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on February 18, 2000
Paris Trout is a finely wrought and masterfully crafted book. Mr. Dexter leads us, knowingly, to places that we don't want to visit. This book is as raw as it gets. Paris Trout walks the line between slow methodical terror and pure rage. Simple and understated writing, full of grace and fear. From the very beginning one feels that something is tied and taught, and waiting for the perfect moment to snap.
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on July 13, 1999
One of the best contemporary American fiction books I've read in a while. Powerful and suspenseful ... I had to put it down once or twice because Dexter's descriptions are so graphically vivid. For this reason, it isn't for the faint of heart.
A made-for-cable film adaption was done several years ago with Dennis Hopper, Barbara Hershey, and Ed Harris. Worth checking out.
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