Like Pete Dexter’s much-admired novel PARIS TROUT (1988), THE PAPERBOY is set in a small Southern town. This time, however, Dexter looks at what happens when journalists decide to second-guess the law.
Four years after the death of Thurmond Call, the unsavory sheriff of Florida’s Moat County, his murderer, Hillary Van Wetter, is scheduled for execution. Although she has never met Van Wetter, Charlotte Bless has fallen in love with the death-row inmate, and she is determined to get him freed and to marry him. When two investigative reporters from a Miami newspaper arrive in search of a good story, Charlotte enlists them in the cause. One of the reporters, Yardley Acheman, is motivated merely by ambition; the other, Ward James, is as idealistic as his father, the local publisher.
Unfortunately, as Ward’s younger brother soon realizes, idealists are easy prey for the unprincipled members of their own profession. W. W. James is victimized by a woman who pretends to want him when all she wants is his newspaper, and after Ward is badly beaten by homophobic sailors, Yardley rewrites the story, adding some useful lies, and publishes it. As a result, Hillary is released, and the story wins a Pulitzer Prize. Other reporters discover Yardley’s dishonesty. As a result, the reputations of both reporters are ruined. Undaunted, Yardley goes on to become an author. Charlotte is murdered by her new husband, and, unable to live with the results of his...
(The entire section is 357 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of The Paperboy Critical Essays. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!