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The Bible Salesman

3.07 of 5 stars 3.07  ·  rating details  ·  1,089 ratings  ·  261 reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 238 pages
Published August 11th 2008 by Little, Brown and Company (first published January 1st 2008)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,003)
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Coffeeboss
In 1950, Henry, a rather guileless 20-year-old Bible salesman (who sleeps in barns, and finds much to question in the Bible) is scooped up by a mysterious dapper gentleman to be his new literal partner in crime. Except Henry honestly believes that his new partner works for the FBI, and the cars they are stealing are from hardened criminals. Flashbacks profile Henry's wide-eyed childhood in small-town Bible-thumping North Carolina. The tone of the book is actually quite sweet and very often funny ...more
Karina
It looked interesting, the synopsis indicated it would be funny. In actuality it was boring. The part that was praised as funny on the back of the book? *yawn* I didn't see anything good coming out of the book, what with the scams here and there... I felt bad for the Bible Salesman guy in that he couldn't get good answers to his questions about God (he was punished for asking questions in school, and while at home he was told it's okay to ask questions, I didn't see anyone explain the issue at h ...more
Chuckell
Sep 20, 2008 Chuckell added it
Recommends it for: no one much
Recommended to Chuckell by: The New York Times Book Review, I think
A dim religious doofus is conned by a murderous car thief in the South of the early fifties. Brief but pointless. The backstory parts as especially inessential, but really, there's just nothing on offer here.

I should point out that though this book is being presented as a comedy: the jacket sports a quote from David Sedaris--and nobody knows humor like David Sedaris! . . . or, at least, so every hipster I've ever met has told me--and the flaps assure a potential reader of "hilarious and scary a
...more
Sterlingcindysu
You know what I'm going to remember about this? How the cats "talked" in character, especially Judas. It's not too often you think of a cat saying, "if I had a gun I'd shoot myself." See that orange tabby on the cover? It has a fight with a copperhead.

Edgerton has some clever thoughts here and some do have to do with the Bible. A quick, enjoyable read that wraps up nicely at the end.

But here's one thing I didn't get, plotwise. If the idea was to sell Bibles that Henry got for free, then why di
...more
Valerie
The characters were interesting, but this novel missed the poignancy of Edgerton's other works. There were some very funny moments, but ultimatly they were not enough to carry the novel.
Miriam
Amazing. Obviously, we must all buy this and read it and tell the world about Clyde.
Erin
Three stars is generous, and it is only because the last book I read was so mediocre that I felt this one was slightly better than mediocre.

There was a time when Edgerton spoke to my being with his folksy way of weaving a story. His characters had a depth which engaged me to some degree. This isn't the case anymore, and it is safe to declare that I am officially done with my forays into his novels.

You know, on reflection, I am downgrading this book to two stars.

Summary: Naive, folksy youth gets
...more
Laura
I think I may have had higher expectations for this book than I should have, because it largely had a flat feel to me and no real breakthrough characters or insights on the part of Henry, the protagonist.

Henry is in his early 20s and despite being a Bible salesman -- kind of, sort of -- he struggles with contradictions in the Bible. He also isn't much of a deep thinker, or perhaps he just appears that way because it's a good strategy to avoid conflict. (Like knowing who you're really dealing wi
...more
Jason McKinney
Aug 28, 2008 Jason McKinney rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jason by: David Sedaris
I couldn't get past the first 50. Simplistic-seeming tale of a young man who's trying to figure out the Bible and falls in with a car thief. A folksy, Southern snooze.
Judy Vasseur

It's possible to get an advanced college degree in Old Testament. I know this because the daughter of a co-worker has decided to do just that.

The bible doesn't seem to be a good book that people can freely discuss without sharply contrasted and heated opinions with a measure of fear mixed in. Within this sacrosanct literature you will find confusing contradictions, shocking activities and lots of killing.

In his innocence the bible salesman poses some questions which I've found myself wondering a
...more
Trin
I think David Sedaris is hilarious, but I should try to remember that whenever he blurbs a book as being the funniest thing he's ever read or whatever, I will at best find it quietly amusing. That was all right in the case of Jincy Willett's Jenny and the Jaws of Life--which, despite not being uproarious as Sedaris claims (it's actually kind of depressing), has other redeeming qualities, such as being really, really interesting. This book...not so much. It's an ambling Southern tale, set in the ...more
Lori
I think the author wanted to write a screenplay, except it was for a movie that you've already seen, but his would have included a lot of "Southern" sentimental moments that only vaguely connect to the story and are totally ineffective in building the characters into anything more than caricatures. I was actually annoyed from the preface on (more about the preface later), but it was a quick read so I just finished it anyway so I could get to the totally cheap, unsatisfying ending where the prota ...more
Tyler
Synopsis: Henry Dampier is a 20-year-old naive Bible salesman traveling around the south when he is picked up by Mr. Clearwater, who claims to work for the FBI in the post-WWII era. His is allegedly infiltrating a car theft ring and using Henry to help him transport the stolen cars.

My Review: This book is a folksy story where everyone came across as a little dim-witted. As one review from Goodreads reads: "A dim religious doofus is conned by a murderous car thief in the South of the early fiftie
...more
Snem
Lots of subtlety and scattered bits of humor dropped in. Henry is likeable in his cluelessness and I did root for him. In general it's a solid coming of age tale and the cat burial scene was pretty amusing. It was odd that this quick witted guy was the same naive guy. The plot was a little thin, the characters were a little thin. It all just felt a little flat to me, I was waiting for a big wow moment. I think I had higher expectations because I heard it was so funny and while there were many hu ...more
Laura C.
David Sedaris gave the book a great one line review, so I was hoping for more that I got in this book. I concluded Mr. Sedaris may have read only the first couple of chapters... It is a coming of age story about a young Bible salesman. He has many adventures in the rural south, including hooking up with a truly horrible criminal and loosing his virginity. He reads the Bible in a most literal way, and asks questions we Mormons would love to take a crack at answering, so that part was fun. Cleanly ...more
Michelle
I had a hard time getting into the book, even though it's short! I don't know if it's because I just read a slew of super-plotty books or what. The characters were definitely interesting; Marleen cracked me up. Henry was very well drawn. But this was one of those times I was reading just to get to the end and not really enjoying the ride.
Bonnie
I expected more from this book because the premise sounded so interesting: an innocent young Bible salesman gets caught up in a car theft ring thinking that he's working undercover for the FBI. Frankly I got bored quickly of all the flashbacks that seemed to do nothing for the story line. Still, it was entertaining.
Tamara
I got it because David Sedaris said it was great. While I didn't laugh out loud at the part he loved, I did really enjoy it. Easy to read and an interesting look at southerners in the 1930's-50's. I loved the main character's fascination with Bible inconsistencies.
Jane
With a front-cover David Sedaris blurb, I expected high hilarity on the level of Raney. What I got was a mildly funny and entertaining novel, with an ending that seemed just a little too pat. I'm glad I read this, but it's not Clyde Edgerton's best effort.
Sarah
May 05, 2010 Sarah rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Toni
Shelves: general-fiction
Though not my favorite of his novels (that distinction goes to Raney and Walking Across Egypt) I did find Edgerton's latest work vastly better than some of the others. Full of southern charm and humor, albeit a bit slow in places.
Jennifer
A fast, funny read, with quirky characters and situations. Pokes a little fun at religion, but gently, the same way it pokes fun at all our little human oddities.
Kathy
Loved this little novel about a con artist and his gullible young accomplice, Henry Dampier,a Bible salesman who, at times, claims to have a heart condition and who sometimes wears yellow socks (an obvious nod to Flannery O'Connor's memorable Manley Pointer of "Good Country People" fame. Given this O'Connor overlay, the con artist, Preston Clearwater, becomes The Misfit of "A Good Man is Hard to Find," especially when he both seduces Henry's sister and murders several people. A good read all aro ...more
Marylu Sanok
This is an okay book, I was told it was funny but I saw little humor in it. I found the story confusing as it travels between time periods.
Phillis
I didn't like it. Unfortunately this is my book club's book for this month. This is why I read it all the way through. If it was a book I picked up on my own to read I would have stopped after about 50 pages. If there was a specific story line I missed it. The characters were bland and uninteresting. There wasn't anything to keep me wanting to find out what was going to happen. It was predictable and a waste of time. The flipping back and forth from past to present, (in this case present was 195 ...more
Nancy (NE)
3.5 if I could... This book was unexpected by page turns, and would possibly have the potential to be offensive to some. Fair warning. I'm not even sure what prompted me to read it. There were several times I was shaking my head at how incredibly stupid the characters were. "Preston Clearwater" is part of a car theft ring. He hires himself an assistant when he cons a gullible, young man he picks up hitchhiking. Henry, a poor country hick, comes from a very conflicted religious family. He is rais ...more
Kate
Written by Wilmington author clyde Edgerton, this book captures a slice of Southern life from the 1930's through the 1950's with great attention to detail and dialect. It follows in a tradition of the Biblical narrative while poking fun at the hypocrisy of the culture. Henry, the main character with deep Baptist roots, can't reconcile the different versions of the Bible he encounters as a young man, makes a profit off of selling "free" bibles, and approaches life with a naivete that is humorous ...more
Lawrence
A must read. I read this on the fly because my wife said I'd love it and because I'd also loved "Walking Across Egypt". I guess I didn't realize till now that there was more Edgerton to read.

Mr. E. has a gift. He is a great storyteller. His people are just full, full, full of love and decency --- no matter how strange they may be and no matter what scarey thing approaches.

In this book, a naif with a skewed eye for the main chance and an innocently larcenous heart (!) sells bibles door to door. H
...more
Debbie
Set in 1950 in the Southern U.S., The Bible Salesman tells the story of a few months in the life of Henry Dampier, 20-year-old door to door bible Salesman. Henry is a ‘good boy’, intelligent but oh-so-naïve. Preston Clearwater, a key figure in a large auto theft ring, hires Henry for a small job and manages to convince him that he is undercover FBI and Henry can be too.

Edgerton does a brilliant job of conveying Henry’s intelligence, even though his naïveté causes him to unquestioningly trust thi
...more
Emily C.
I loved Clyde Edgerton's hilarious, insightful novel, The Bible Salesman. In the first page of the author interview in the back of the book, Edgerton says "I grew up in a postwar fundamentalist Baptist church. Those who have been there will understand." Though the Baptist church of the nineties that I went to was in some ways, a kinder, gentler fundamentalism, Edgerton's praises and criticisms that come out over the course of the book ring true. Like the Olive Garden, it can be said of the Bapti ...more
Christa Avampato
Sep 07, 2008 Christa Avampato rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Christa by: Miriam Parker
If you're looking for a quirky, off-beat adventure, Clyde Edgerton's new book, The Bible Salesman, is for you. My contacts over at Hachette Book Group sent me an advance copy to read through and at first I was skeptical. I'm not a religious person so I had a hard time imagining that I'd enjoy a book about a Bible salesman. However, I trust the insight and taste of Hachette so I gave it a shot.

To be fair, the book gets going a bit slowly, despite the fact that it is a slim 238 pages. For much of
...more
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Clyde Edgerton is widely considered one of the premier novelists working in the Southern tradition today, often compared with such masters as Eudora Welty and Flannery O'Connor.

Although most of his books deal with adult concerns--marriage, aging, birth and death--Edgerton's work is most profoundly about family. In books such as Raney, Walking Across Egypt, The Floatplane Notebooks, and Killer Dill
...more
More about Clyde Edgerton...
Walking Across Egypt Raney The Floatplane Notebooks Lunch at the Piccadilly Killer Diller

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