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PARIS TROUT by Pete Dexter (Penguin: $7.95)

August 27, 1989|CHARLES SOLOMON

Anger hangs like a pall over this brooding story of interracial murder in a small Southern town during the '50s. The coldly amoral Paris Trout feels no remorse when he inadvertently shoots a black teen-ager and wounds her guardian, but his trial releases tensions hidden within the social fabric of Cotton Point, Ga.

As his problems intensify, Trout darkens the lives of everyone unfortunate enough to come in contact with him: his abused, sensual wife, Hanna; his lawyer, Harry Seagraves, a prominent, civic-minded hypocrite, and Carl Bonner, an earnest young man, burdened with the fame he earned when he became the youngest Eagle Scout in the state's history.

As an evocation of the claustrophobic, racist society of the rural South before integration, Pete Dexter's National Book Award-winning novel is matched only by Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird."

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