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really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  2,846 ratings  ·  274 reviews
DEADWOOD, DAKOTA TERRITORIES, 1876: Legendary gunman Wild Bill Hickcock and his friend Charlie Utter have come to the Black Hills town of Deadwood fresh from Cheyenne, fleeing an ungrateful populace. Bill, aging and sick but still able to best any man in a fair gunfight, just wants to be left alone to drink and play cards. But in this town of played-out miners, bounty hunt ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published July 12th 2005 by Vintage (first published 1986)
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Big Pete Deadwood is one of the best Westerns ever written. On the interesting scale I'd rank it about 9/10. However, if you consider yourself sensitive I…moreDeadwood is one of the best Westerns ever written. On the interesting scale I'd rank it about 9/10. However, if you consider yourself sensitive I would not recommend it.
The author is Pete Dexter, a very fine writer and journalist who has won the National Book Award (for his 1988 novel Paris Trout) and various other prizes. He is known for his dark humour, lucid prose style and grim subject matter. His books are often twisted and always very funny. (less)

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really liked it 4.00  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,846 ratings  ·  274 reviews

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Aug 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
Despite being written 20 years before the excellent show on HBO was first broadcast, it's hard to imagine that it didn't serve as a template for the show's creator, David Milch (minus the profanity ubiquitous throughout the show). So in sync are the characterizations in both the book and show, despite the age difference, that I easily and comfortably envisioned the actors playing the various real-life roles reciting the dialogue from the book.

Since I think the program might well be the best thin
Wayne Barrett

When I came across this book I wanted to read it because I had seen the HBO series, Deadwood, and thought it was fantastic. Unfortunately, the book was nowhere as good as the series. Just so I don't confuse anyone, I want to point out that the series was not a film adaption of this book. They are both based on the same town and characters but are two different animals when it comes to the telling and style. The book is not bad, it's just that it lacks the dark, dramatic backdrop set in the serie
Jan 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Dexter’s Deadwood is boisterous, wild, and darkly humored epic. The humor and the intricate exploring of the characters makes you forget that this book catalogues murder, insanity, sickness, suicides, mutilation, prostitution, and the mud and the squalor of a frontier town. This mingling of darkness and character driven comedy is as finely tuned as anything since Heller’s Catch 22.
Stephen Durrant
Jul 29, 2011 rated it liked it
A novel difficult to rank (3.5 stars[?]) and to summarize. "Deadwood" is set in the Badlands during the 1870s and concerns Wild Bill Hickok, his sidekick Charlie Utter, who narrates much of the novel, and an array of other historical figures, Calamity Jane perhaps the most skillfully and delightfully drawn. It is the product both of careful research and of genuine literary talent. The novel begins with two desperados carrying human heads around the town of Deadwood, South Dakota, one of which br ...more
Mar 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
- Charley Utter & Wild Bill Hickock approach Deadwood…

… following the Whitewood Creek & where things widened enough for a town sign, that was Deadwood.

“How's it look to you?” Bill said.

“Like something out of the Bible,” Charley said.

“What part of the Bible?” Bill said.

“Where God got angry” Charley said.

When I started reading this book, I thought it was about Wild Bill & his off-sider & companion Charlie Utter. In fact, Wild Bill is a bit player & departs relatively early, a
Shirley Schwartz
Feb 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-5-star-reads
I watched every episode of the Deadwood series, and was so disappointed when it ended so abruptly after only 3 seasons. When I saw that this book was actualy the book that David Milch built his series around, I had to read it. The book is similar in many ways to the excellent series, but it is different too. It's actually much deeper and Charlie Utter (one of my characters in the series) is the main character in the book. He is the glue that holds everything together. The book is totally surpris ...more
Nov 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
3.5 rounded up. This well written novel could have easily been titled "Charley Utter-- His life and times" since the stories of Deadwood, Wild Bill Hickock, Calamity Jane, et. al. all flow through this character.
Pete Dexter did a fine job portraying these well known figures as deeply complex and clearly flawed humans. To some degree, his story is sad and full of melancholy, but he usually manages to interject some humor or sex (often simultaneously) just when it's needed most.
Like many others,
Mar 10, 2012 rated it liked it
And “NO” it’s not that on which the HBO series of the same name was based.

Before you reach the table of contents, you do get a word from the author, saying:

“The large events and the settings of this novel–the fire that destroyed Deadwood, the assassinations of Bill Hickok and the China Doll, the weather, the life and travels of Charley Utter–are all real.
The Characters, with the exception of Malcolm Nash, are also real, and were in Deadwood at the time these events occurred.”

I know I read severa
Dillwynia Peter
Feb 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
I'm a little confused over this one when I consider the ratings. It's not a true 4, but there you go. I will point out the personal niggled later.

Who is the main character here, I thought?? Initially, I thought it was Wild Bill Hickock, but then he up & dies. None of the others seemed strong enough to carry it for me, I felt adrift. Then I realised there where TWO main characters: Deadwood town itself, & Charley Utter was carrying the narrative in his gentle way.

A great book about an imp
Jan 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: dexter
finished this one this afternoon. good story. i really liked it. dunno if it helped that i visited deadwood...and nearby well as other locations there and abouts maybe ten years ago. never thought to look for a graveyard, cemetery.

i like how dexter writers a scene, plays it out some...and then he returns to and tells it again from the viewpoint of another character in the story. have seen him use the same technique in other stories...this i think is number 5 or 6 from him. doesn't do
Mar 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
it's seems pretty obvious that this book had to play some role in the creation of the tv series of the same name. I have seen online that the producer of the series, David Milch, says that it didn't, but there is something about the attitude of this book that suggests to me it did, particularly the similar characterizations of Charley Utter, the main character of the book and a prominent character on the tv series, Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickock. That being said, many of the other familiar ...more
Mar 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Wow that was truly a surprisingly good read! I saw a quote by Jonathan Franzen on the book cover and as I didn't know what else to read I gave this one a try.

Pete Dexter manages to show you on the very first page what this book is going to be like. He really knows how to set the tone straight away. It is full of masculine, dark humour, lots of violence and so many weird, but vivid characters. The thing is that I've never watched a single Western movie or read a book like this one before so I am
Nov 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
After reading a history of Annie Oakley, Wild Bill, and Buffalo Bill Cody I picked up this book and wasn't disappointed with the research or insight into the characters and historic detail. Dexter draws on actual events and people to paint a portrait of the American West that is neither romanticized or based solely on violent drama. The demise of the town of Deadwood, a real place in the West, and Wild Bill Hickock's death are used as metaphors for the changes that came to America during the 180 ...more
Feb 25, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: westerns-2009
Yee haw! It's western number 3 for 2009!

This novel takes us to Deadwood, South Dakota circa 1876. Deadwood is a town of debauchery and gun-slinging. Folks in Deadwood are not pretty and not polite. The language is bawdy, and the details are gritty.

Along the way, we meet Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane, amongst others. We meet men who manage whorehouses and men who preach. It's all very western.

While this novel starts out slowly, the story really does pick up nicely. The author paints a vivid
Sep 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
There's a quote in the movie Vanilla Sky (a film which I have always enjoyed, and not only due to the phenomenal Good Vibrations scene) in which a character who has just lost his job with a publishing company drunkenly exclaims, "People will read again!" This scene has always stuck with me, perhaps due to his impassioned slurring british speech pattern, but it feels appropriate to mention after my extended Goodreads hiatus.

In truth, the quote is far from appropriate as I have continued reading (
Dec 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
In an enticing mix of historical verisimilitude and wild conjecture, Pete Dexter provides a compelling portrait of a wild west town in Deadwood, one that more than lives up to the famous HBO television show of the same name (and in fact, the book predates the show by quite a few years, leading one to believe that David Milch gleefully pilfered from Dexter's excellent novel as he saw fit).

The Franzen pull-quote on the book's cover claims that you oughtn't refer to Deadwood as a Western, but I beg
Jan 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Arriving in Deadwood in 1876, was a bit like gate crashing a never-ending party whose hosts had left for good. The raucous Deadwood townsfolk let off steam every night amid wild gunshots, fuelled largely by gin, whiskey, and the powerful force of their nether regions. And that's just the women!
This novel contains some of the most colourful characters in fiction, and yes for the most part they were real legends of the West.
Dexters deceptively straightforward style blends truth and fiction to gre
May 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I know that I read this novel not long after it came out, back in the eighties, when I was much, much younger, and I had no inkling that a series would appear on HBO decades later based on the same factual town and the same general historical events that occurred there (but not this specific novel). In fact, I consider myself a fan of Pete Dexter's, as I've read all of his books, and even had him sign a few. (They're long gone, alas.)

And, like my return to Ron Hansen's Assassination of Jesse Jam
Tom Quinn
Nov 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's intriguing that Deadwood was published in 1986, yet has been called "the best Western ever written."

More intriguing is the plot summary, which reads like a Law and Order treatment. It's even got the introductory "based on true events" epigram.

And, my god, what events they were. Gunsmiths, outlaws, frontiersmen, gambling, liquor, and grit. Hell of an opening line, too. The book is tight and cinematic. And while it's exciting, it's also somber and soaked in foreboding. You can't have very man
Sep 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Yup, there was a very successful HBO series by the same name. Other than the characters and the setting, there were few similarities that I could remember. If you weren't a fan of the series, don't let that stop you. If you were a fan, prepare to be entertained all over again. This book is great.

It's the characters stupid, it's the characters. From Wild Bill Hickok, the book's centerpiece, to Calamity Jane, who's looking for love in all the wrong places. From Charley Utter, Bill's best friend to
Corey Vilhauer
Feb 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
Excerpt from What I’ve Been Reading - November 2008

"Regardless, as a fan of the television show, the book was welcome reminder of the power of the characters involved. While Sheriff Bullock takes a smaller role, and some of Swearengen’s best developed cronies failed to even show up, the partnership between Utter and Wild Bill was just as you imagined it – complicated, honoreable and filled with envy. Even the friction between Utter and Calamity Jane was reminiscent of the television show.

I am sitting in the middle of the road on this one. It is a nicely written, well researched historical western that I was excited to start reading. The story revolves around the true life account of Wild Bill Hickock's time in Deadwood. There were some great characters, the most colorful being Calamity Jane. So, I guess I don't know how this story could be as dry and dull as it turned out to be! I had to force myself to keep reading at times. 3 stars because of Calamity Jane and some excellent h ...more
Fred Shaw
Apr 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Pete Dexter is an excellent writer and story teller. This novel is about the mining town of Deadwood in the 1870's. At that time, J.B. "Wild Bill" Hickok and his friend and "pard" Charley Utter ended up there. Dexter tells what happened. If you'd like to understand what the real old west was like, I believe it's described here. Oh, by the way, "Calamity Jane" was there too. Enjoy!
Aug 17, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dieses Buch war ein Ritt ... und was für einer ... voller typischer Klischees des Western Genres. Ich weiß nur nicht, ob mir das so richtig gefallen hat. Ich schaue mir lieber Western als Film an mit schönen Männern, die hübsch angezogen auf der Leinwand sterben. Ja, ich habe komische Gelüste. Das macht dann 3 Sternchen. ;)
Ryan Tagg
Dec 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Well written, funny and exciting at times. one of those books I feel like I appreciate after the fact more so than during the reading. Felt like it dragged but in retrospect I should have taken a moment to appreciate just how beautiful the writing was.
Jun 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A dark, cruel, but also humorous view of the old West. The writing style is so sparse, yet he somehow manages to create vivid images of the characters and their surroundings. Lovely, simple, profound.
Wes F
Jun 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Some pretty interesting history rolled into a fictive narrative on various characters who populated the historical Deadwood area of the Badlands
Deborah Sheldon
Feb 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is quite possibly the most perfect book I have ever read.
Feb 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Solid in every way. Funny in one paragraph and downright sad the next, it captures every detail of life in the west and the legends that made it famous.
Apr 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has taken me entirely to long to read, and that's my own doing. I have recently moved and I made the cardinal sin of packing up a lot of my novels which somehow included this one that I was reading. I'm not sure how I made that egregious error, but I did and it has taken me a while to get everything unpacked and to then find this book. Such time had passed, and my OCD prevented me from starting another book, that I pretty much had to start this one over again. Luckily it was very worth ...more
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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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“In the beginning the stories were long and colored, but as he grew old and his eyes clouded, the stories were told in only a few words, and she came to understand that all the colors had fallen away from him, leaving only the moments. A woman who performed tricks in the air, an animal pulling a boat under water, dead children who spoke in bones. A man who loved bottles.” 4 likes
“Charley wondered how it happened that men of the cloth always seemed to misunderstand the ways of the Lord. If you wanted protection you had to ask for money or love, and He would give you protection instead. Prayer was a study in misdirection...” 0 likes
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