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Prior to that he worked for what is now The Palm Beach Post in West Palm Beach, Florida, but quit in 1972 because the paper's owners forced the editorial page editor to endorse Richard Nixon over George McGovern.
He began writing fiction after a life-changing 1981 incident in which a mob of locals in the neighborhood of Schuylkill, armed with baseball bats and upset by a recent column about a drug deal-gone-wrong murder, beat the writer severely. The brother of the homicide victim was a bartender at a local bar in the Schuylkill neighborhood and Dexter went to the bar to talk to him because the family had called the newspaper to complain. Dexter was roughed up at that meeting and later returned with his friend heavyweight prizefighter Randall "Tex" Cobb. In the fight that occurred outside the bar in the street, Cobb received a broken arm that helped end his professional boxing career, and Dexter was hospitalized with several injuries, including a broken back, pelvic bone, brain damage, and dental devastation.
Paper Trails, published in 2007, is a compilation of columns he wrote for the Philadelphia Daily News and The Sacramento Bee from the 1970s to the 1990s.
- God's Pocket (1983)
- Deadwood (1986)
- Paris Trout (1988) — winner of the National Book Award for Fiction
- Brotherly Love (1991)
- The Paperboy (1995) — 1996 Literary Award, PEN Center USA
- Train (2003)
- Spooner (2009)
- Paper Trails (2007)
-  NPR Weekend Edition. - February 10, 2007. - "Pete Dexter, Writing 'True Stories'"
-  Harper Collins. - Pete Dexter
-  Seattle Post-Intelligencer, seattlepi.com. - "P-I Writers in Residence for 2007"
- "National Book Awards – 1988". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-27.
(With essay by Harold Augenbraum from the Awards 60-year anniversary blog.)
- Rosenberg, Amy S. (April 10, 2007). - "Journey BACK". - The Philadelphia Inquirer.
- Bolle, Sonja (July 24, 1988). "Pete Dexter". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 20, 2013.
- a "How does a Sacramento Bee columnist come to write a novel..." — ¶ 1.
- b "He likes Sacramento, where his boss is an old friend from Florida." — ¶ 7.
- Eyman, Scott (November 23, 2003). - "The Return of the No-Nonsense Writer". - The Palm Beach Post.
- Hiltbrand, David (November 4, 2003). - "A Return to His Old Stomping Grounds". - The Philadelphia Inquirer.
- Pete Dexter at the Internet Movie Database
- Interview with Dexter at Powells.com
- Pete Dexter at Library of Congress Authorities — with 14 catalog records