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The Bible Salesman by Clyde Edgerton

The Bible Salesman

by Clyde Edgerton

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Review: The Bible Salesman by Clyde Edgerton.

I thought this book might be a good humor story when I read a comment on the cover from David Sedaris--”How good it feels to throw back one’s head and howl with a great comic novel. The “burial luck” alone should make The Bible Salesman a classic.” Well, I have read David Sedaris work and I feel he is really off base with this one. It’s kind of a sluggish, straight dry humor and it’s not organized or developed to stay focus to any one plot at all.

The story revolves around a devoted Baptist young man named Henry Dampier who’s career is a traveling Bible salesman in the 1950’s. He is a nerdy sort of person, hardworking, and grew up in a family of religious people. Henry, posing as an itinerant preacher would send away in the mail for free Bibles and then he would sell them to housewives or to anyone who was interested an order to earn a living and spread the good Christian language while he traveled around. The novel seems to loss steam for a while until he meets Preston Clearwater. Preston is a car thief posing as an undercover FBI man that he uses to scam Henry into becoming his accomplice. So, now I thought this is going to get better but even with all the crime and cover-ups, which half didn’t make sense, there still was no ump or humor to the story.

As the story unfolds, more crimes being committed, Henry meets a young girl named Marlene working at a vegetable stand and becomes smitten with her. However, he had two problems, Preston wanted him to stay away from her and he was struggling with his consciences about not having sex before he was married. However, his mind kept haunting him and he kept asking himself, “Why Not”? Marlene seemed to be the ready type and a crazy-bonkers kind of girl and he liked her. When he got chances to see her without anyone’s knowledge everything went alright but he never had long enough or hesitated to long to make the moves on her. He thought if God wanted them together, it would happen….At this time he also figures out Preston is duping him.

There are more small episodes along the way, like a relative’s attempt to semi-invent bumper stickers, a pair of elderly sisters who show true southern hospitality, more family dynamics and Henry’s struggle with understanding the contradictions of the bible. For me it was just more added padding to manifest more to the length of a slow readable story but it lacked a glitter of flame to enhance the novel.
( )
  Juan-banjo | May 31, 2016 |
It's 1950 in South Carolina (in the book, I mean). Henry Dampier is a friendly twenty-year-old who writes to bible publishers, requesting copies to be given away to poor folks, and then sells the bibles to support himself. He ponders the truths to be found in the great book and wonders about many of them. While hitchhiking, he is picked up by Preston Clearwater, who explains that he is an undercover FBI agent and needs a bright young protege like Henry. Henry helps Clearwater, falls in lust/love with a young lady at a fruit stand, and eventually begins to understand what's been going on around him. We see a bit of Henry's southern upbringing. It's a quick read and a pleasant enough story, with wry humor underpinning almost all of it, but I didn't enjoy it as much as some of Edgerton's other novels. ( )
  Jim53 | Apr 17, 2016 |
The burial of the cat toward the beginning of the book is well worth the price of admission (David Sedaris gives a plug for the "burial tuck" on the cover of the book). It's not often that words on a page make me laugh at loud, but Edgerton is one of the folks who can do it (Sedaris is another). Add to that the character of the Bible salesman who muses on the disturbing inconsistencies of the Scriptures he's hawking and...well...I'm sold! ( )
  bibleblaster | Jan 23, 2016 |
This book had potential and there were good parts, just not worth it in the long run. Stick to Flannery O'Conner. ( )
  viviennestrauss | May 10, 2015 |
Meh. The reviews that I read said it was 'hysterical'. I didn't find anything funny about it, and I have a pretty dry sense of humor. The story is dull and the writing is poor. ( )
  steadfastreader | Mar 18, 2014 |
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mostly the novel rides like the cars Clearwater steals, bouncing gently over the bumpy back roads.
added by doomjesse | editNew York Times, John Leland (Aug 29, 2008)
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A man driving a new Chrysler automobile along a dirt road near the North Carolina mountain town of Cressler saw a boy up ahead, dressed in a black suit, white shirt, black tie, with a suitcase and valise by his feet. The boy was standing in front of a grocery store, thumbing a ride.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 031611751X, Hardcover)

Preston Clearwater has been a criminal since stealing two chain saws and 1600 pairs of aviator sunglasses from the Army during the Second World War. Back on the road in post-war North Carolina, a member of a car-theft ring, he picks up hitch-hiking Henry Dampier, an innocent nineteen-year-old Bible salesman. Clearwater immediately recognizes Henry as just the associate he needs--one who will believe Clearwater is working as an F.B.I. spy; one who will drive the cars Clearwater steals as Clearwater follows along in another car at a safe distance. Henry joyfully sees a chance to lead a dual life as Bible salesman and a G-man.
During his hilarious and scary adventures we learn of Henry's fundamentalist youth, an upbringing that doesn't prepare him for his new life. As he falls in love and questions his religious training, Henry begins to see he's being used--that the fun and games are over, that he is on his own in a way he never imagined.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:42 -0400)

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In post-war North Carolina, a member of a car-theft ring picks up an innocent nineteen-year-old Bible saleman and recognizes the young man as just the associate he needs--one who will believe he is working as an F.B.I. spy, one who will drive the cars he steals.… (more)

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