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God's Pocket

3.8  ·  Rating Details ·  480 Ratings  ·  50 Reviews
Leon Hubbard had it coming. So when the arrogant and near psychotic youth is killed on a South Philadelphia construction site in front of the whole crew, everyone who knows him wants to bury the bad news with the body. All, that is, except two people: Leon's mother and the local columnist, a drunk on a mission. Because only a mother could love a boy like that. And only a c ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published February 1st 1995 by Penguin Books (first published 1983)
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May 30, 2009 Joe rated it really liked it
I started following Pete Dexter as a columnist for The Daily News, in Philadelphia. His stories of what most people would call the "underside" of big city life were made incredibly compelling, even if you knew the people in them were probably waiting to do you some serious harm. There was usually some little gem of writing, or a turn of phrase, that made you think about things you thought you knew, in a new way.
I read this quite a while ago, as Dexter was turning into a "novelist". This is an
Mar 16, 2010 Adam rated it it was amazing
Dexter’s sense of terror and comedy is firmly in place in his very first novel.The book follows the impact the random murder of an unrepentant sociopath on the neighborhood he is from and a couple other unfortunate outsiders pulled into the events. The story told is one featuring painfully exquisite character sketches, brutal comedy, and violence and told with eye towards grit and street smarts. It reminds me of Nathaniel West, Lehane’s Mystic River( Lehane uses a quote from this book as an epig ...more
Sharon Powers
May 22, 2014 Sharon Powers rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Book Review by: Sharon Powers.

"Leon Hubbard had worried most everybody on the crew at one time or another, he'd even touched something in Peets. It wasn't the razor--Peets had taken razors away from people, that was as simple as understanding you were going to get cut--it was something in the kid you didn't want to listen to. The truth was, he didn't believe the kid's stepfather was connected. That was more bullshit, the same way the razor was. He kept it in his back pocket and brought it out t
Ned Mozier
Jul 14, 2013 Ned Mozier rated it it was amazing
Pete’s first novel, my 3rd of his, is a tight little tale built around a range of characters in small neighborhood in Philadelphia. The plot is spawned very early and the setup draws you immediately by the realism of the dynamics of working class construction crew and an elderly black gentleman (a beautifully crafted saintly character who appears briefly) who is long serving day laborer and quietly endures the noise and distractions of labor unions, street life and racial assumptions inherent in ...more
Jan 22, 2017 wally rated it liked it
Shelves: dexter
just finished this one early sunday morning, 5:23 now not to put too fine a point on it. stars? 3? 4? early on, there's this wonky transition, you're reading along, say the scene is a bar, newspaper office, something, and the next line stops you dead in your tracks. whud? you space out again? what happened?

so you backtrack a few lines, read through, and there it is again, this wonky transition, you leave the bar or newspaper officer, wherever it was your were situated, and you're in bed with som
Jonathan Briggs
Dec 09, 2014 Jonathan Briggs rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

As an old newspaperman (emphasis on the paper, just so we're clear), Pete Dexter knows the art of the lead: "Leon Hubbard died ten minutes into lunch break on the first Monday in May, on the construction site of the new one-story trauma wing at Holy Redeemer Hospital in South Philadelphia. One way or the other, he was going to lose the job." All the facts, followed by a hook to get you on to the next paragraph.

Leon is a persistent pest. "The more you don't lik
Mar 02, 2017 Andy rated it really liked it
Raw and vivid writing. This darkly humorous tale of people in Philadelphia (around 1980) with problems that I thankfully have not had to face is simultaneously brutal and deeply sympathetic.

This book is often deep, in a deceptively simple way. The following passage is set when an older, quite decent man nicknamed "Old Lucy" returns to work after taking some time off after a violent incident. "Peets" is his boss:

"You been all right?" Peets said. "I thought of comin' over to your place, but, you
Kristin Strong
Jan 19, 2016 Kristin Strong rated it really liked it
If you like your stories realistic, if you like being able to live a bit of the inner lives of the characters, if you can accept that people who do bad things are not necessarily bad will enjoy "God's Pocket".
The author was once a newspaper columnist in Philadelphia, where the novel is set and where a main character works as (surprise!) a newspaper columnist. The detail with which Dexter illustrates the city, its geography (both human and physical), and the intricate sociology of th
Aug 13, 2012 Alex rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Reading this book not too long after finishing a book by Mike Royko, I can say that the writing style these two journalists share is somewhat similar, and of course, likable. I did not feel like my relative lack of knowledge about Philadelphia impeded my enjoyment of this book, which can happen sometimes when I encounter something very regionally based (looking at you, George Pelecanos). While the story isn't a tightly wound thriller, or grisly crime/noir type, the dark comedy that played out ov ...more
Oct 01, 2009 Dan rated it liked it
Shelves: 2009
this is a pretty solid crime novel. a few moments are really brilliant; written with a real sense of economy and sensitivity. dexter has a knack for summarizing big ideas with little, incidental thoughts. it's an oil-and-water mix of interesting characters (peets, mickey) and predictable ones (jeanie, shellburn), and unfortunately it wraps up the narratives surrounding the stock characters better than a few of the more inspired ones.

it's also a novel of philadelphia (my city), at its nastiest,
Steve Rauscher
Jan 26, 2013 Steve Rauscher rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Was definitely interesting to read a fictional account of my neighborhood 30 years ago. Seeing how Dexter captured the essence of a Philadelphia I know to have existed was fun, and it was even more fun to compare and contrast his chosen named references to where they stand today. (Bookbinders is dead, but the Ben Franklin Bridge is indeed always being repainted)

His characters create a nice frame around the concept of belonging, presenting personalities from all sides of the equation, whether you
Nov 08, 2015 Amy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: five-star-books
The pacing, the language that he commands with such ease, wonderful characters who can surprise without beggaring belief. Dexter chooses just the right details to sketch the individuals and their surroundings omitting anything surplus. You know where you are, who you're with, no loose ends. How is this a first novel?

The narrative clips along in brief episodes moving the action from construction site to neighborhood bar to racetrack to refrigerated truck. Grown men cry in bathtubs. Old women sho
Crystal Caldwell
Sep 08, 2013 Crystal Caldwell rated it liked it
I'm not really sure how I feel about this novel. I read it in a day, but throughout the day my feelings were only lukewarm, until the end. The end jarred me. It was just kinda sudden and shocking. Because I didn't grow up in a neighborhood like that, I can't identify as much with the comradery that growing up there would bring, and how that would bring about what transpires at the end. It wasn't a happy novel, of course it didn't mean to be, and it was messy and gritty, which is what it was tryi ...more
Mar 04, 2011 Lulu rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
God's Pocket, while it doesn't rise to the literary level of Dexter's National Book Award-winning masterpiece Paris Trout, maintains a strong element of suspense, only dragging occasionally when Dexter indulges too much in painting his alter ego, a newspaper columnist unraveling the impact of the central death on the neighborhood. As in Paris Trout, the author's ability to convey a strong sense of place and community, and to explore racial and generational divides and their effect upon violent t ...more
Timothy Riley
Another great story by Dexter. There are some great characters here, but I always love the way that he captures working class Philadelphia. He obviously feels much better tuned in to the white parts of the city-south philly, fishtown, kensington then minority neighborhoods including more affluent white hoods like east falls, roxborough, the northeast. The city in 1983 is a much different one from today, maybe it has lost its neighborhood character-and that may be a good thing judging from God's ...more
Feb 06, 2015 Sierra rated it really liked it
God's Pocket is an interesting novel. I kept seeing flashes of Philip Seymor Hoffman in a too-tight yellow button down as I read, RIP (thanks, Netflix, for showing me the movie before I read the book). Dexter jumps from character to character and although their stories are different, they are the same; the neighborhood of God's Pocket is made up of the same kinds of people who have been there their whole lives. It makes me think of family cycles, an entire culture that hinges on questions of mor ...more
May 11, 2015 Margaret rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-to-movies
A gritty, and at times darkly humorous, story of the working class people who inhabit a section of Philly called God's Pocket. Dexter's writing of this, his first novel, seems influenced by Elmore Leonard. The characters are well developed and although none of them are particularly likeable (except perhaps Lucy and Peets), they are sympathetically portrayed. A sadness surrounds them and we know that for most of them, life will not get better. Well worth reading! A movie of the same name starring ...more
Dec 11, 2014 Ann rated it really liked it
Pete Dexter has created a vibrant South Philly neighborhood, filled with characters in every sense of the word. Some, like Leon Hubbard (whose imminent death is revealed in the first paragraph), are worthless. However, his mother thinks otherwise, and her pursuit of justice for her son has a far-reaching impact on many lives, especially the boy's step-father, Mickey. The novel unfolds in tragi-comic vignettes, but the overall impression is that if this neighborhood is God's pocket, it is surely ...more
Jul 20, 2014 Harry rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2014
Milieustudie statt Kriminalroman. Über God's Pocket, ein angeblich eher dunkles Viertel von Philadelphia. Über seine BewohnerInnen und ihre täglichen Kämpfe. Die Atmosphäre des Viertels wird gut vermittelt. Könnte genau so dort ausgesehen haben. 1983, als der Roman erschienen ist. Könnte aber auch heute noch genau so dort aussehen. Auch wenn für ausführliche Beschreibungen dann wohl nicht mehr ganz so viel Platz bleiben würde.
Oct 30, 2016 Erica rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2016
I didn't even finish the book, which is rare. This book needed a better editor. I'm not opposed to books that don't use much punctuation or chapters to delineate story lines (I'm lookin at you, Cormac McCarthy). But this was handled in an erratic and confusing way. The result was a book that wasn't written well enough to make me want to try to track the various characters and story lines. Too bad, since the other books of his that I've read were great.
M.E. Johnson
May 12, 2016 M.E. Johnson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I so thoroughly enjoyed Paris Trout, I just had to pick up another Pete Dexter. And boy was I not disappointed. God's Pocket is a little different, yet still reeks of the same Dexter essence with the perfect combination of violence and comedy relief.
A twisted heartfelt drama about the death of a troubled young man and how the aftermath is played out, from the killer to the reporter.
Ian Giesbrecht
Jun 12, 2012 Ian Giesbrecht rated it liked it
A first novel that reads like a first novel. Themes that Dexter gets better at exploring in later works are introduced here, but this wouldn't be a good starting point for someone new to Pete's distinct style. The least satisfying I've read by him, still a very enjoyable, dark and tense read.
Jul 10, 2008 Scoats rated it really liked it
This book was already a little dated when I got around to reading it. But that made it all the more interesting. Set in the recent past of a Philadelphia that isn't quite there anymore. A good solid read.
Larry Berthold
Aug 06, 2011 Larry Berthold rated it it was amazing
the beginings of the transition from all-time great columnist on the urban beat to one of America's best novelists and a national audience are all there...while remaining true to the neighborhoods that helped birth this tale.
Oct 20, 2010 Roger rated it it was amazing
If you know Philadelphia, you'll recognize the neighborhood, the people and even the plot. Dexter was a columnist for the Philly Daily News when he wrote this story and he got close to the characters that are Philadelphia. Great crime, fabulous plot. Dexter is a true artist.
Joan Noble
Jan 18, 2015 Joan Noble rated it really liked it
I loved God's Pocket by Pete Dexter. He's an awesome writer of life and relationships among the common people who work hard and barely get by. The lower end of the middle class. Gritty and down to earth. A great story teller with a touch of dark humor that brings life to characters.
Stacey Coburn
Jan 28, 2014 Stacey Coburn rated it really liked it
Dark, but vivid. Can't wait to read other titles by Pete Dexter.
Jul 13, 2015 Lori rated it it was ok
I am absolutely slogging through this book. I really pray it gets better in the second half. At this point, I feel no sympathy for any of the characters.
Chris Casagrande
Apr 06, 2014 Chris Casagrande rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this enough to give another by the author a chance, Someday. Big queue of others before that.
Jul 12, 2015 Stephanie rated it really liked it
I enjoyed how pathetic the newspaper columnist was and how sudden the violence always is in Dexter novels.

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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. He has been a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News and the Sacramento Bee, and has contributed to many magazines, including Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Playboy. His screenplays include Rush and Mulholland Falls. Dexter was ...more
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