The Paperboy (with Spoiler)

PaperboyDexter, Pete. The Paperboy. New York: Random House, 1995.

For the longest time I have been concentrating on books that begin with the letter ‘A’ such as About Time, Animal Dreams, and Awakening. As if getting through the A titles would be the most reasonable thing to do first. When The Paperboy by Pete Dexter showed up at my library I felt it was a sign to read it. Especially since it’s on The List and academics don’t keep books like The Paperboy around. I listen to signs.

The Paperboy is an intriguing first-person tale about two brothers working to prove the innocence of a man convicted of murdering Moat County Sheriff Thurmond Call. As Hillary Van Wetter sits on death row, looking as guilty as a child with his hand caught in the cookie jar, Jack James and his journalist brother Ward investigate the events leading up to the murder. They get help along the way from Van Wetter’s girlfriend – an apparent death row groupie – as well as other interesting characters.
All the evidence leads towards Van Wetter’s innocence until one day it doesn’t. Instead of all hell breaking loose purgatory unfolds, unwinds for the brothers, slow and sinister like a boa constrictor unfurling itself from a tree limb. Things go from bad to worse until dark becomes death. I couldn’t put it down for three days straight. Even though I saw Ward’s suicide coming the instant he wanted to know more about swimming it still took me by surprise when it finally happened. 

BookLust Twists: From Nancy Pearl’s Book Lust and More Book Lust. In Book Lust in the chapter “First Lines to Remember” Pearl draws attention to Dexter’s first line, “My brother Ward was once a famous man”‘ (p.86) and in More Book Lust in the chapter called “O Brother!” (p180).

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