Frederick Barthelme Books In Order


  1. Second Marriage (1984)
  2. Tracer (1985)
  3. Two Against One (1988)
  4. Natural Selection (1990)
  5. The Brothers (1993)
  6. Painted Desert (1995)
  7. Bob the Gambler (1997)
  8. Elroy Nights (2003)
  9. There Must Be Some Mistake (2014)


  1. Moon Deluxe (1983)
  2. Chroma (1987)
  3. The Law of Averages (2000)

Non fiction

  1. Double Down (1999)
  2. Waveland (2009)

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Frederick Barthelme Books Overview


A chronicle of the divorces and recouplings of the author’s own generation, Tracer is a terse, surrealistic, and moving portrait of life in America . Martin, in the middle of a divorce, is seeking solace. Flying off to the neon lit south Florida coastline, he settles in for some rest and rehabilitation with his soon to be ex sister in law. Martin quickly settles into her bed too, creating a situation that is bound for trouble especially when his ex wife also appears on the scene. Cautiously, the threesome try to sort things out, engaging in varied rituals of mating, hating, forgetting, and forgiving. A funny and unforgettable novel about friends, family, and the kind of quirky, complicated relationships that will keep readers rapt through the final pages.

Two Against One

Frederick Barthelme’s most powerful novel to date, Two Against One is the portrait of a marriage gone awry. On Edward’s fortieth birthday, his estranged wife Elise appears unannounced at his door, triggering a series of events that will involve the couple in a bizarre triangle.

Natural Selection

Finally restored to print, Frederick Barthelme’s classic novel about love, marriage, and one man’s search for something more.. Peter Wexler is unhappy. He’s forty and obsessed with what’s wrong in the world, including his marriage, a ‘thirtysomething’ version of Ozzie and Harriet. Deciding a change of scenery might help put his life back in order, Peter leaves his wonderful wife and their ten year old son in search of a resolution to the confusion, estrangement, fatigue, and adultery that have confounded his life. Natural Selection is an intimate novel about a man getting smart, and getting there a little later than he should have. It’s caustic and subtle, slick and funny, charming, deeply melancholy, and more than anything else, true.

The Brothers

After Del Tribute almost sleeps with his brother’s sexually edgy wife, The Brothers sets out to trace and detail the intricate pattern of consequences of this near indiscretion. Del and Bud, two brothers whose middle aged adolescent antics have a way of messing up each other’s lives, both confront the bittersweet comfort of having too many choices. In a remarkable performance that extends the territory of Barthelme’s fiction, the love and desire of these brothers is laid open, explored, and experienced.

Painted Desert

In a sequel to The Brothers, Del Tribute, a junior college professor, and his girlfriend pry themselves from their television and computer screens and take to the road, achieving an epiphany in the Arizona desert.

Bob the Gambler

What I’d always liked about Biloxi was the decay, the things falling apart, the crap along the beach, the skeletons of abandoned hotels, the trashy warehouses and the rundown piers jutting out into the dirty water, so I wasn’t thrilled that in the last five years our d*inky coast town had been turned into an outlet mall version of Las Vegas, with a dozen cartoon casinos, lots of gussied up Motel 6 hotel rooms, an ocean of slicked back hair, and a big increase in unsavory tourists. On this Sunday, after the NFL preseason game, we were sitting on the porch quiet as mice when Jewel held up the newspaper and said, ‘Raymond. Let’s go here and do this,’ and ‘here’ was the Paradise casino, a dozen blocks away on the beach in Biloxi, and ‘this’ was gambling. So begins this crackball love story with a wonderfully dark underbelly, in which Ray and Jewel Kaiser try out the Paradise. What curious thing happens to them, and how they react to this trick of chance and through a procession of misadve

Elroy Nights

A generous and intimate new novel the first in six years from American literature’s premier chronicler of middle class angst in the new South. In Elroy Nights , Frederick Barthelme does a fresh turn on territory he’s made his own over the last two decades: a middle class America studded with characters maybe a little more wised up than not cautious, skeptical, private folks who would rather joke about their problems than complain about them. Elroy Nights is a reasonably successful artist and professor, fifty something, who is caught between the midlife crisis of his forties and the much anticipated sublime decay of his sixties. Elroy and his wife Clare, perhaps too comfortable with each other, elect to try living separately, a choice characteristic of their relationship fond and thoughtful, responsive, generous to a fault. So Elroy moves out, leases a condo, begins hanging out with his twenty something students, and experiences a splendid reenchantment with the world. But when an unforeseen tragedy throws his, and everyone’s, foibles and failures into high relief, he’s confronted with reordering, retracking and reimagining a world gone suddenly haywire. With his trademark precision and pitch perfect dialogue, Barthelme elegantly lays open this interweaving of twenty year olds with their fifty something fellow traveler, exploring the relationships that develop in a delicate display of the sweetness of privacy and the privilege of intimacy. The result is a lovely, lilting romance, a spare yet generous masterpiece from a writer at the top of his form.

Moon Deluxe

Frederick Barthelme’s wry and wonderful stories have given us a stunning, cautionary, funny, sometimes bleak, and often transcendent portrait of contemporary life in the sprawl of suburban America. Barthelme made his remarkable debut with these tender and affectionate stories, most of which were originally published in The New Yorker. Moon Deluxe received the high praise of such writers as John Barth, Raymond Carver, Ann Beattie, and Margaret Atwood, and earned Barthelme a permanent place in the pantheon of contemporary American writers. In these stories he delicately probes the peculiar corners of contemporary culture, capturing the fast and often touching ways we relate to each other and to the time in which we live.


Frederick Barthelme has been applauded as one of the finest fiction writers in America today. In Chroma, he offers fifteen odd, elegant, and heartbreaking stories in which wives give away husbands, lovers dispatch each other, and grown men steal stray dogs from parking lots at dawn. With his elegant, laconic style and his perfectly tuned dialogue, Barthelme creates an unforgettably wistful cast of characters, ordinary people moving carefully and curiously through a gently painful world.

The Law of Averages

A New York Times Notable Book for 2000

The Law of Averages collects twenty nine stories that rattle around in the fertile field of ordinary life in America; they embrace the plain, the drab, and the dull with the same warmth as the miraculous and exquisite. These sharp and touching stories strike at the heart of our time and reveal and reflect the sometimes funny, often bizarre details that routinely disrupt the delicate balance of our lives. This is a collection of ordinary, complex pleasures.

Double Down

‘So each night begins. One of us picks up the other and we drive into the Mississippi darkness, headed for a place where everything is different.’ This first nonfiction book by Frederick Barthelme, author of BOB THE GAMBLER, and his brother and colleague Steven is both a story of family feeling and a testimony to the risky allure of casinos. Within a year and a half, the authors had lost both of their parents, less than a decade after their brother Donald died. Their exacting father had been a prominent modernist architect in Houston; their mother, the architect of this family of seven, which she ‘invented, shaped, guided, and protected.’ ‘We were on our own in a remarkable new way,’ the Barthelmes write, ‘and we were not ready.’ What followed was a several year escapade during which the two brothers lost close to a quarter million dollars in the gambling boats off the Mississippi coast. They played to enter that addictive land of possibility. Then, in a bizarre twist, they were charged with violating state gambling laws, fingerprinted, and thrown into the surreal world of felony prosecution. For two years these widely publicized charges hung over their heads, shadowing their every step, until, in August of 1999, the charges were finally dismissed. Double Down is the sometimes wryly told, often heartbreaking story of how Frederick and Steven Barthelme got into this predicament. It is also a reflection on the pull and power of illusions, the way they work on us when we are not careful.


In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, mostly retired architect Vaughn Williams, who is beset by the routine but no less troubling difficulties of late midlife, is doing what he can to remain, as he says, viable. He scans the channels, reads newspapers and blogs online, Googles practically everything, teaches an occasional class at the local junior college, and worries perhaps overmuch about his late father. When his ex wife, Gail, is assaulted by her hot tempered new boyfriend, she asks him and his landlady/girlfriend, Greta, to move in with her. Perhaps a little too cavalierly, they agree, and complications distinctly Barthelme esque follow, including manly confrontations with the perp, lamentations of his father’s life and death, casual moonlight drives, gambling for money, adults playing with trains, and the eventual untimely arrival of Vaughn s annoyingly successful younger brother, followed closely by Vaughn s ex wife s invitation to remarry. The tattered landscape of the post hurricane Gulf Coast is the perfect analogue for these catastrophically out of order lives, and in this setting the players work into and out of almost all their troubles. In the process, and en route to a satisfying set of resolutions, Barthelme s acute eye and subtle wit uncover and autopsy an inner landscape of mortality, love, regret, and redemption. The result is his most emotionally resonant work of fiction yet and a new reason to celebrate him as an American master.

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