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Warren Spooner was born after a prolonged delivery in a makeshift delivery room in a doctor's office in Milledgeville, Georgia, on the first Saturday of December, 1956. His father died shortly afterward, long before Spooner had even a memory of his face, and was replaced eventually by a once-brilliant young naval officer, Calmer Ottosson, recently court-martialed out of service. This is the story of the lifelong tie between the two men, poles apart, of Spooner's troubled childhood, troubled adolescence, violent and troubled adulthood and Calmer Ottosson's inexhaustible patience, undertaking a life-long struggle to salvage his step-son, a man he will never understand.
What can you do when your twin brother, dead at birth, is your mother's favorite? This is only one of the burdens placed on young Warren Spooner, the hero of National Book Award-winner Dexter's calamitously funny and riotously tragic new novel. Spooner, who tends toward a life of criminal mischief, turns out to be a baseball phenom, but after an elbow injury puts an end to his pitching career, he ends up a newspaper reporter in Philadelphia, where he's so universally disliked that firing him is at the top of his editor's to-do list. Spooner eventually settles down, becomes a columnist and published novelist, and starts a family. He is dogged, though, by a combination of bad luck and bad judgment, and eventually retreats to Whidbey Island, off the coast of Washington State, where he learns that good fences don't necessarily make good neighbors. Spooner's story is juxtaposed with that of his stepfather, Calmer Ottosson, a naval officer turned high school principal, whose dedication to his family is in direct contrast to his stepson's bellicose adventures. Although raggedly plotted, the rambunctious narrative is filled with hilarious scenes, including a naval burial at sea that goes horribly awry, a literary luncheon featuring Spooner and Margaret Truman that ends with a stampede of little old ladies, and a misguided act of vengeance that backfires and puts Spooner in the hospital. The novel's premise-that life is one big vale of tears and that writing about it wittily and exuberantly is the best one can do-might not work in real life, but it pays off in spades for Dexter and his tragicomically conflicted alter ego. (Sept.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a divisionof Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"[Dexter's] is a voice like no other, though James Ellroy and Elmore Leonard may be counted among his distant literary cousins...So, this book is different! Not exactly what Pete Dexter usually writes, but madly interesting in what it sets out to do. I freely admit to a bias: As far as I'm concerned, Dexter can do no wrong."—Washington Post
"In his latest book, newspaper columnist turned novelist turned screenwriter Pete Dexter has taken the literary-psychoanalytic bull by the horns and — with characteristic and stylish aplomb — blown smoke in its formidable face. His new novel, Spooner, essentially is an autobiographical roman a clef — not really true, except in its major incidents; not quite wholly fictional, except, of course, where it is. It's a book that probably will perplex — and then delight — Dexter's longtime fans, since it really is a memoir thinly disguised as a novel, and, as such, it's a lot like his life: a big, sprawling mess of a book that's nonetheless nearly always entertaining and, in significant parts, genuinely touching. It's also a wonderful reminder that Dexter's journalistic eye for the tellingly instructive detail, particularly as it evokes character, still is second to none."—Los Angeles Times
"A story about a man's struggle to help his troubled stepson by a novelist who writes about trouble better than most anyone."—USA Today
"Lucky for Dexter, the consequences of the tardy, yet (in his judgment) unfinished release of Warren Spooner's wonderful, terrible life are less fraught, even felicitous.... In some 500 pages, Dexter brings Spooner to life with uncharacteristic expansiveness and tenderness. Spooner is a family epic that digs out the emotions packed in memory's earliest bonds - guilt, resentment, loyalty and love.... In Spooner, he unearths the experiences that underlie this nuanced sensibility, exposing the familial archetypes that shade his characters and directly engaging the potent emotions that emerge obliquely in his other books. It's a conversational novel, roving and inclusive, packed with Southern color and Northeastern grit, with rueful reflection and the contretemps of daily life that can't be avoided even on a remote island in Puget Sound. With Spooner, he demonstrates the impulse that keeps writers at their task; the longing to reassemble the whole; to see, however belatedly, who a person was, or could have been."—New York Times Book Review
"Dexter's crowd-pleasing wiles are razor-sharp in this long-awaited novel, the madcap and touching, assured and (ahem) dexterous story of a very Dexter-like Warren Spooner."—Publisher's Weekkly