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The Bible Salesman: A Novel Paperback – September 23, 2009

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (September 23, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316117579
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316117579
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,581,137 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this rollicking, rambling road novel of the post-WWII South, Preston Clearwater, a dead ringer for Clark Gable, steals cars and passes himself off as an undercover FBI agent. His mark is naïve 20-year-old Bible salesman Henry Dampier, whom Preston convinces to drive the cars to various paint shops (telling Henry that they have infiltrated a car-theft ring), while Preston follows in his own legally registered Chrysler. Preston undertakes more audacious forms of crime, while earnest Henry has a reunion with his fundamentalist family, listens to his cousin's scheme to market a new ad gimmick (called the bumper sticker), falls in love with roadside fruit-stand proprietor Marlene Greene and even manages to sell a few Bibles along the way. The hitch is his involvement with Preston: Henry will have to get wise to preserve all he has gained. Too many flashbacks to Henry's Baptist roots slow him down on the way to the novel's suspenseful climax and moving epilogue, but the result is one of the better takes on Southern Bible salesman buddy stories since Moses Pray and Addie Pray of Paper Moon. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Bright, innocent, and naive, 20-year-old Henry Dampier embarks on a career as an itinerant Bible salesman. On the road in rural North Carolina, Henry encounters car thief Preston Clearwater, who instantly recognizes Henry’s personal qualities. Clearwater convinces Henry that he is an undercover FBI agent who steals stolen cars back from car thieves—and he offers Henry a job as his assistant. Thrilled at becoming a G-man, Henry sells his Bibles in his off hours, falls in love, and ultimately realizes that Clearwater isn’t an FBI agent and that he, Henry, is guilty of criminal acts. North Carolina native Edgerton has been writing winningly about the rural South, slyly skewering the place he loves, for more than 25 years. The Bible Salesman skillfully employs all the devices its author has honed over the years—a fine ear for dialogue, a love for the South and its people, and a gently modulated wit—to produce another winner. --Thomas Gaughan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Clyde Edgerton is the author of ten novels, a memoir, short stories, and essays. He is a member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers and teaches creative writing at UNC Wilmington. He lives in Wilmington, NC, with his wife, Kristina, and their children.

Customer Reviews

I tried very hard to like this book.
Lilia S. Lima
This background is all established with some folksy tales and flashbacks, but the story doesn't really get moving until he gets involved Preston Clearwater.
A. Ross
Edgerton has a Mark Twain sense of humor.
Janis E. Harrington

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Roy E. Perry on August 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Clyde Edgerton, "a Southern tale-spinning master" (Rocky Mountain News) has put his finger on the pulse of the mid-20th century rural South, where religion and sex revolve madly around each other--where hallelujahs and hucksterism, hosannas and hormones, duel in antiphonal counterpoint.

Henry Dampier, 20, having found Jesus at the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, is on a mission to spread the Word of God to the fundamentalist denizens of the Bible Belt.

Trouble is, Henry, now reading the Bible for himself for the first time, discovers what he perceives to be troubling contradictions in Holy Writ. For example, Genesis, chapter 1, portrays God's creation of animals, then people; Genesis, chapter 2, portrays the order as people, then animals. Henry is confused.

Our hitchhiking Bible salesman is picked up by Preston Clearwater, who bills himself as an undercover agent for the FBI. He convinces Henry to assist him in stealing cars from a car-theft ring, which, hye assures Henry, is destined for a government sting. Clearwater has found his mark, a naive, gullible innocent who soon finds himself in way over his head.

Henry's innocence is put to the test when he meets nubile Marleen Green, who sells fruits and vegetables at a roadside stand. Henry's infatuation complicates his ambition to become a G-man like Clearwater.

Edgerton's narrative wanders all over the map, with numerous flashbacks describing Henry's family relationships. The plot finally returns to the young man's conflicted situation--to a denouement that may end in violence or the consummation of love.

About the author: Clyde Edgerton is a professor of creative writing at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Gail Cooke HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
There are a handful of authors who might be rightly described as national treasures. If I were to compile such a list Clyde Edgerton's name would be there in bold and underlined. He is a generous, guileless, if you will, writer, completely without artifice. His prose flows freely, his words are well chosen. Reading Edgerton is both relaxing and absorbing, very much like listening to a tale told by a julep oiled spellbinder on a lazy summer afternoon. You're captivated by his words, the verbal pictures he paints, and lean forward to catch every inflection.

Edgerton has been dubbed a regional writer, not so, although his settings are often the South. His understanding of the frailties of human nature spans state lines. Edgerton's characters are frequently quite eccentric even in today's ever surprising citizenry, yet he treats them with affection and respect. These imagined people can be both laugh out loud funny and endearing. Who but this author would introduce an older woman who lives with a house full of talking cats? (She throws her voice so that the biblically named felines seem to speak even when company hasn't come). Or, when someone has gone to his heavenly rest, one of the mourners approaches the casket, looks at the departed and says, "I like that red tie. It gives him a little color in his complexion." Then adds, "They do get pale at a time like this." Vintage Edgerton.

Twenty-year-old Henry Dampier has grown up in the postwar South tended to by Bible believing Aunt Dorie and, for a while, by fun loving Uncle Steve. He is inexperienced in the ways of the world or of women and a graduate of Bible- selling school. Good Book stocked valise in hand he starts out, hitchhiking on a road near Cressler, North Carolina.
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Format: Hardcover
The story starts off on a dirt road in North Carolina in 1950, when a new Chrysler car driven by Preston Clearwater pulls over and picks up a young hitchhiker by the name of Henry Dampier, who is attempting to make a living selling bibles door-to-door. Preston see's some possible future potential that would surely benefit him... more than the boy himself... in the twenty-year-old Henry. The qualities that Preston holds in high personal regard are the "sensing" of gullibility and innocence, that's imbedded in the youthful bible salesman. Clearwater tells Henry that he is working undercover for the FBI, and he will pay Henry for each car he helps him drive away from car theft rings, which will eventually aid a larger FBI operation. Of course Henry can't tell anyone what he's doing, and even gives him a secret code word to tell the cops if he gets arrested.

Though Henry comes from a loving, nurtured, bible-based upbringing, he's not exactly free from sin... as his entire bible selling business is built around a scam. Henry writes a different religious organization every month, with a form letter asking for free bibles to hand out in his attempt to "support widows and orphans as directed by the Holy Scripture." When he receives the deliveries of bibles, he uses a razor to cut out the front pages of the new bibles that say: "COMPLIMENTARY COPY FROM THE CHICAGO BIBLE (ETC.) SOCIETY." Throughout the story the reader is informed via "flash-backs" to Henry's youth, which included his Father dying tragically young, and then his Mother abandoning Henry and his sister, and thus being raised by his Aunt and Uncle.
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