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Book Review: Paris Trout by Pete Dexter

Paris Trout is a loathsome character. He shoots and kills a 14 year old Black girl for no reason. Not a crime of passion, but more chillingly a crime of indifference. She’s simply in the way when he tries to collect his debt so he shoots her. Well-drawn novel villains often have some, if not redeeming qualities, at least qualities that make them seem more human. They love their children or their dog. Or they have some charming roguishness.

Paris Trout has none of that. If he had a dog, he would beat it. He simply has no redeeming qualities. It is a testimony to Dexter’s writing skill, that even in all his loathsomeness, Paris Trout is still a compelling character. However, if this were simply the story of a racist sociopath it would be hard to endure and probably not worth reading. Definitely not National Book Award worthy.

But it is, of course, much more.

We see the story of Paris Trout unfold from not only his perspective, but from the point of view of the girl he killed, his lawyer, his wife, the prosecution and a host of supporting characters.

Dexter creates what feels like a very realistic feeling portrait of redneck Georgia in the early 1950s. It feels honest, not patronizing or apologetic. Paris Trout: A Novel, is at times an uncomfortable reading experience, but worthwhile. Highly recommended.

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