Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Paperboy” as Want to Read:
The Paperboy
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Paperboy

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  2,847 ratings  ·  338 reviews
The sun was rising over Moat County, Florida, when Sheriff Thurmond Call was found on the highway, gutted like an alligator.  A local redneck was tried, sentenced, and set to fry.

Then Ward James, hotshot investigative reporter for the Miami Times, returns to his rural hometown with a death row femme fatale who promises him the story of the decade.  She's armed with explosi
Paperback, 336 pages
Published January 1st 1996 by Delta (first published 1995)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Paperboy, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Paperboy

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.58  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,847 ratings  ·  338 reviews

Sort order
CV Rick
Jan 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
From now on I'm just going to call Pete Dexter the atmosphere writer. He paints a picture of the backcountry of Florida, the swamps and the small town, and a Miami and its competitive newspaper world in such detail that I can close my eyes and be there. He re-creates the 70s with its attitudes and quirks in such a way that you can taste and smell the hotel rooms, the stately houses, and the dingy shacks.

Hillary Van Wetter was tried and sentenced to death for the murder of the sheriff of Moat Cou
Oct 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Could not put this one down....that is all!
William Prystauk
Aug 22, 2009 rated it did not like it
This book has the personality of a carcass. Long, drawn out and convoluted, Dexter paints a lame picture in white-washed colors. Brought to us in first person from Jack, who’s father owns a Moat County, Florida paper, the book is slow, tedious, long-winded and reserved to the point of absolute boredom.

Though the first person narration is consistent, Jack, our storyteller, is lackluster and doesn’t seem to have a pulse. The only part of the novel I enjoyed was the attack on Ward, Jack’s brother.
Jan 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
I wish that this writer had given at least one of his female characters the dimension and depth that he developed with the father and sons in the story. While they are complex men with imperfect, but redeamable, relatable personalities, all of his women are vain and/or misguided. The one woman who had gumption and intelligence was constantly described as "overweight," and "fat," and, like all the women categorized by her physical appearence rather than her personality. Had he chosen to represent ...more
Jul 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Thank you Pete, wherever you are, for getting this tarnished gem, out of your head.

Dexter never fails to disappointment me, and this was no different. I found myself needing to read it all the time, staying up too late, sneaking away during social gatherings, and bringing it clandestinely in my coat at inappropriate venues. Set in small town Florida, with forays into seedy Miami during the 1960s, it brings forth the worst of man’s inclinations to deception, obsession and hopelessness. Sounds gre
Sep 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-1999
In 1965, Thurmond Call was the Sheriff of Moat County and had been since before our 20 year old narrator, Jack James, was born. Sheriff Call "even by Moat County standards, had killed an inappropriate number of Negroes in the line of duty" not being clear what he was allowed to do and not do. In fact he was beginning to step over the line of excusable behavior when earlier that spring he had stomped a handcuffed man to death. This time the man was a drunk named Jerome Van Wetter, a relation of t ...more
Jan 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
I liked it. It reminded me of Larry Watson's stuff in that it was dark and creepy, rather brutally honest.

The story is not so much a who done-it, but rather a study in motivation. Each of Dexter's characters are complex creatures who do nothing for altruistic reasons, but everything for their own satisfaction. Yardley and Hillary are the most similar (if only because they are both so egotistical and greedy). Jack is lustful, but lonely; he is always trying to make connections. Ward is clearly tr
Apr 01, 2013 rated it liked it
A very strange book. I can't quite put my finger on what was so unsettling! The characters are dark, the story is pretty dark, and there's some quite scary parts to it. Not scary as in frightening, but the author paints a vivid picture of some scenes that stay with you for a while after - unsettling is the word!

I wasn't very happy with the ending, no spoilers, but it follows the theme of the book - most things are left up to the reader to decipher. So I had to make my own conclusions, and I did
Josiah Hawkins
Aug 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-and-noir
Whether its films like Ace in the Hole, The Sweet Smell of Success, or the recently released Nightcrawler I've always been interested in the more seedy side of the news media. I've always thought that the prospect of individuals who are in charge of informing the public are actually misleading them, there is something very science fiction about the idea and I think that it can lead to the creation of some really interesting story-lines.

The Paperboy first came to my attention when Lee Daniels ad
Kenneth P.
Feb 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lgbt

This is a riveting if disturbing novel that takes place in North Florida in the late 1960's. North Florida has it all, the beautiful beaches of St. Augustine, the gator-rich St. John's River that is home to numerous colorful, if inbred, swamp families; it has the State Penitentiary in the town of Starke that harbors the infamous electric chair known as "Old Sparky." Indeed Old Sparky was the demise of many a villain including Ted Bundy before it became sluggish, bereft of juice. With too many sp
Dec 09, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: hmmm I dunno.
I picked this book up because a blurb on another book I read compared the two. I went in with no expectations and came out with...well I'm not sure. It's a good read but I'd be hard pressed to tell you why that is. I didn't particularly identify with any of the characters and there's really no big reveal at the end. But having said all that I still think it's definitely worth taking a look at. Pick it up if you can find it used. Maybe then you can tell me why it was good.
Stephanie Karaolis
May 01, 2013 rated it did not like it
‘Bleak’ isn’t always a bad thing when it comes to books. I’ve read several books that I’d describe as bleak but that I really loved: Never Let Me Go and The Woman Before Me are two that come to mind. I’d put The Paperboy in a slightly different category, perhaps alongside The Virgin Suicides – its bleakness made it hard to really love, but something in the craft of the writing and the integrity of the story kept me reading.

I had no idea what The Paperboy was about before reading – I knew it was
Sep 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
This novel is a spare, gritty depiction of the unpleasant nature of journalism and the depths of immorality to which some of its practitioners will sink in an effort to win recognition. But it’s also far more than that. It’s also the story of a young man’s maturation—that young man is our narrator, Jack James, who tells many stories in the course of this novel. He tells the story of Thurmond Call, a local sheriff who was murdered in cold blood on a dark country road. He tells the story of Hillar ...more
Dec 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
Haunting. This was the feel. The author is masterful in his pacing of this novel which adds to the suspense, the unfolding and consequently the haunting I felt throughout. Investigative journalism leads to a controversial article and thus alters the life of its authors and their families. Fantastic descriptions of southern Florida, conflicted familial relations, swamp living, newspaper journalism and the fragile human psyche. Dexter leaves you deciding a few things for yourself. Great storytelli ...more
Mar 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I savored every word. The writing is haunting, and I agree with Adam about the final sentence of the book. There are many "final sentences" in this work. I'll be reading more by Dexter.
Aug 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
To be honest, I kind of hated this book and loved it at the same time. The blurb offers the readers a whole different story from what the book is actually about. I mean, It does have the 'Story' but the main issue isn't about it at all. It's more on the side of journalism than the story itself. Which I did end up liking eventually.

I'm giving it 4 out of 5 star only because I wanted more out of it. There were characters I loved and hated. And characters that I thought were bland and needed comple
Ashley Andrews
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed it... it moved nicely, and always with a dark tone of foreboding... as if the entire book was leading to a conclusion we all knew was inevitable (i mean, once we got to that conclusion, whatever that conclusion might be). There was also that first-person-narrator-is-looking-WAY-back-in-time thing going on... IE, we see the narrator as his younger self, but get the feeling that he's older and wiser as he narrates, while still in that shadowy place that the darker story exhibits.

A sad and disturbing family tale. The father is a newspaper man, his son Ward is a newspaper reporter, his second son Jack is a swimmer and drives a delivery truck for his father's newspaper. All of them are troubled and drink too much. The story revolves around a man accused of murdering a local Sheriff. The accused is in jail where a woman he doesn't know has been writing him love letters. She wants to save him and marry him. She convinces this team of reporters from Miami to look into his cas ...more
Luis Ortiz
Jan 26, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: especifico
The last words of the novel captures its theme: "There are no intact men". Beneath the appearance of a simple story of journalism, the novel deals with Truth and Weakness. There is something interesting in this respect: although those may be the themes that give interest to the story, the narrator does not make any explicit moral reflection on them. It is up to you, reader, to draw your own conclusions.

It is the story of a gifted journalist, as honest and talented as his father, an editor of a l
Mar 05, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jennifer Doyle
Aug 13, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook
This may be the most tactile book I've ever read, which is a weird way to describe a book, but I could feel the heat and the humidity of Florida. I could feel and see the swamps, the dirty apartments, the newsroom, and the Van Wetters. I could smell Charlotte Bless's perfume.

The story flowed about as quickly as molasses, which made it a challenge to get into. It meanders along and doesn't go where you expect it to, until about 3/4 of the way through the book when I thought I knew what the event
B George
Feb 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Spectacular novel that covers a very long period of time. I love when a writer leaves concepts open and doesn't have to spell out every theme or message he tries to convey. Admittedly the movie version brought me to this title ,nay, this author. After reading this book first I have become hooked on the novelists way of writing. Taking careful time to flesh out characters without being overly descriptive, but allowing the scenes (situations) and the characters reaction to them to create developme ...more
Karie Lee
Jul 20, 2012 rated it it was ok

I was waiting for a great culmination.... That didn't happen. The ending was rushed and disappointing in the fact that there were too many questions not resolved, which I know is what led to the ending, but would have been appreciated after spending hours waiting for said resolution. The language was a little crass for me and not significant to the storyline. Pertaining to grammar, the author's incorrect use of pronouns often kept me guessing to whom "he" was referring; I had to re-read a few p
Amy Dala
Feb 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is well-written. And it made me angry. So angry sometimes that I couldn't sleep. And I'm not a "Princess and the Pea" kind of girl. If you like fairy tale endings, or simply stories where injustices are set right, then you'll want to rip this book in two like you're training for the Lumberjack World Championships. If you like reading gritty uncomfortable stories about enigmatic characters struggling to make things right in a fractious world, The Paperboy is worth taking to bed.
May 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Writing so evocative I could feel the sweat, inhale the mosquitos, taste the melting ice cream imagined with mute animal longing by the silent woman in the swamp. I didn't feel these characters were stereotypes: they all acted true to their natures, some predictable, some inscrutable. I saw the story unfurl driven by human action, as opposed to human actions manipulated to serve the story. I plan to read everything I can find by this author.
Feb 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
The title "The Paperboy" refers not only to young Jack James, expelled from college and working at his father's small-town Florida newspaper, but also his tenacious older brother Ward, a Miami star reporter. The murder case that brings Ward back to his hometown has repercussions not only for the James family but everyone pulled into their sphere. The novel is more melancholy than sensational. The pervading theme is one of loss; as the closing line points out, "There are no intact men".
Barbara Tiede
Feb 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
This is a beautiful work of fiction. Dexter's writing is concise and poetic. The imagery of the swamplands is so vivid you can feel the mosquito bites. But it’s a lot more than a great mystery / suspense novel. Obviously it’s about justice in a small southern town. It's also about brothers and fathers and love. It is young Jack's coming of age story, and it's a story of hypocrisy and betrayal.
Nov 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Terrifyingly graphic and well-written. The story and characters are consuming and incredibly realistically-drawn. I devoured this book. I enjoyed "Paris Trout" which was the first Pete Dexter book I'd ever read, but I was consumed by "The Paperboy."

Thanks, Pete! Also, ice cream grossed me out for a while afterward.
Garrick Jones
Jun 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Just loved the evocative writing in this book. I felt part of the swamp and the newspaper office all the way through. The characters were fleshed out enough for me to understand them and to want to live their journeys with them.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Excellent use of setting. 1 5 Jan 24, 2015 10:17AM  
  • Gone 'til November
  • Butterfly Weed
  • Cogan's Trade
  • The Barefoot Mailman
  • The Flamingo Rising (Ballantine Reader's Circle)
  • July 7th
  • Panic Attack
  • When Lightning Comes in a Jar
  • Gotham Writers' Workshop Fiction Gallery
  • Hershey's Fractions
  • Numbers
  • The Sexes
  • Vanished
  • Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future
  • The Last Best Place: A Montana Anthology
  • Cry Me a River
  • In the Shadow of the American Dream: The Diaries of David Wojnarowicz
  • Tell Me 30 Stories
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
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“I was tired in ways that had nothing to do with sleep. It occurred to me, sitting in the car with her, that I had been trying to hold too many things together that were meant to fall apart.” 18 likes
“Nothing looks more foolish than tradition to those who have none.” 4 likes
More quotes…