Thursday, August 18, 2016

Heard a bit ago: "Paperboy" by Pete Dexter

Heard a bit ago: Paperboy by Pete Dexter, 1995, download.

Dang. I got all confused, I was thinking Pete Hamill wrote this novel. An odd thing to think since I as I listened to this novel I was recalling some of Dexter's Paris Trout.


Short: 20-year-old U of Florida dropout is driving a delivery truck for his small town newspaper owning father. Dropout's brother reports for the Miami Herald and comes to town to investigate the arrest, trial and conviction of a local no-goodnick convicted of murdering the local sheriff. Dropout is hired to help out and many things happen. This was a good book.

Long: It's the late 1960s and Jack James is driftless after getting kicked off the Gator swim team and expelled for emptying the team pool. Jack has been getting up at 4AM each morning to deliver the daily papers around Moat County, FL for his father, W.W., who owns the paper.  Jack has looked up to his older brother, Ward, who is now a star reporter in Miami. Ward lost his license in a DUI and he hires Jack to drive Ward and Ward's writing partner, Yardley, around Moat County.

Moat County county is rural with small cities and plenty of swamp. Rocking the boat by questioning the local police and court authorities is a risk but Ward does not care. Ward's only life is work. He is a research and interview fiend. Ward is naturally withdrawn and quiet but he does not back down; he'll stake out the Sheriff's office for a week until he gets an answer. Ward is a reporter.

Yardely is a entitled douchebag in love with himself and looking to climb the ladders at work and society. He considers himself writer. An auteur. A artist. He regularly cheats on his fiancee and starts drinking at 10AM. He's no reporter, he is a journalist.

Things happen as Ward and Yardley investigate the death row case of Hillary. Hillary's court case was a sham with poor legal representation, missing evidence, no attempt to contact witnesses or corroborate alibis. But, Charlotte is a 40-year-old mail clerk from New Orleans who regularly exchanged letters with several death row inmates. (Yeah, she's got a problem.) Charlotte is now in love with, and engaged to, Hillary and convinces Ward and Yardley to look into the case.

Hillary himself is a very scary dude. He is exudes menace and the reporters's prison visits are tense. Hillary does not care about an appeal. To him Ward and Yardley are effeminate, soft handed, paperboys. Hillary just wants to stare at Charlotte during their visits. Hillary wants Charlotte to wear dresses. To cross her legs, To lick her lips. During the first visit Hillary orgasms inside his pants in front of all four visitors.

More things happen with family dynamics of Jack, his father and Ward. Charlotte and Yardley carrying on. Longtime bachelor W.W. takes up with a younger employee. Jack does not know how to relate or talk to women and has frustrated sexual needs. The 1960s newspaper business and W.W.'s loss of ad revenue. Daily and weekly newspapers were everywhere. Papers looked for front page scoops and W.W.'s Moat County paper has financial trouble when advertisers withdraw their support after Hillary is released from prison.

The newspaper business is an integral part of the story. The importance of investigative journalism. The importance of personal integrity by the reporter. Publishers who adhere to the story no matter who is hurt - even Jack himself is embarassed when he has a short, nationwide byline after a jellyfish poisoning.

1. For years the publisher of my local paperwas good pals with a local manufacturer. The manufacturer seems to have quite a history as a polluter and lousy employer. I wonder what stories never made the paper because of that relationship.
2. Creepy swamp trash families and brutality.
3. This is the third novel I read where a character has eye damage or eye loss. City of Heretics has the protagonist slashed across the face and over the eye. 361 has the protagonist lose an eye. Paperboy has Ward lose in eye in a vicious beating.

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