For Pete’s Sake

22 Oct

He runs the Cassidy crime family. Little people with enormous heads, every one if them. And they’ve all have been shot in the head, and they never die They believe it’s the luck of the Irish—they walk around thinking they were all born lucky—and it never occurred to any them yet that if they were that fucking lucky, they wouldn’t keep getting shot- Pete Dexter

Pete Dexter [photo: Robert Birnbaum]

Pete Dexter [photo: Robert Birnbaum]

If you enjoy the fiction of Pete Dexter,who came to some prominence for his 1988 National Book Award winning novel, Paris Trout, it has been a too long since the publication of his last novel —the splendidly humorous near autobiographical Spooner.Dexter’s ouevre ranges from the hard scrabble working class Philadelphia (God’s Pocket) to the still somewhat untamed of (Deadwood)* of Wild Bill Hickcock and Calamity Jane to the steamy back woods and death row of Florida (The Paper Boy) to the noir atmospherics of 1953 Los Angeles. Before he took up writing novels, Dexter was a popular columnist for a major Philadelphia daily who in 1981 was severely beaten by a mob in the neighborhood of Schuylkill (upset by a recent column} suffering a broken back, pelvic bone, brain damage, and major dental damage.This incident is fictionalized in God”s Pocket**

The good news is that Pete Dexter is offering his trenchant view of our current state of affairs at the Daily Beast— on subjects such as serial woman beater Floyd Merriweather, the short fingered vulgarian running for president, police violence,shelter dogs,Norman Mailer and more:

…You may remember Mailer—at one time America’s most famous living writer—a man fascinated by violence who stabbed one of his wives and bragged about sparring with former light-heavyweight champion José Torres. Who directed a movie called “Tough Guys Don’t Dance” and once used his considerable literary standing to convince a parole board to release a violent killer named Jack Abbott, whose undeveloped literary talent in Mailer’s judgment made his release from prison worth the risk to society. Mailer could make this call because he was the most talented novelist of his generation, or so said Norman Mailer.

Thus Abbott got out and for six weeks, mostly on Mailer’s say-so, was New York’s newest hot literary property, and then stabbed a 22-year-old kid named Richard Adan to death outside the diner where Adan worked, this in an argument over insurance regulations that prohibited customers from walking through the kitchen to the bathroom.

Abbott went back to prison and eventually hung himself in his cell. A good idea but too late to do anybody any good. Mailer never admitted to second thoughts, if any existed. Literature, he said, was worth the risk. The fact that Adan was trying to make something of himself on the stage—both as a playwright and an actor—didn’t matter. Novels, Mailer famously said, could change the world….

By the way, if you haven’t read Spooner and now are so moved by my encomium I would wear diapers while reading it as so high is the hilarity quotient that bladder control may be difficult…

* Producer of the HBO series Deadwood David Milch clims he did not read Dexter’s novel of the same name

** There is a film version of God’s Pocket with Phillip Seymor Hoffman

One Response to “For Pete’s Sake”


  1. Our Man in Boston interview w/ Robert Birnbaum | Richard Hoffman - May 28, 2016

    […] For Pete’s SakeIn “”short fingered vulgarian”” […]

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