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The Bible Salesman

3.1  ·  Rating Details ·  1,307 Ratings  ·  289 Reviews
Preston Clearwater has been a criminal since stealing two chain saws and 1,600 pairs of aviator sunglasses from the army during the Second World War. Back on the road in postwar North Carolina, now a member of a car-theft ring, he picks up hitchhiking Henry Dampier, an innocent twenty-year-old Bible salesman. Clearwater immediately recognizes Henry as smart but gullible, j ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published September 23rd 2009 by Back Bay Books (first published January 1st 2008)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Sara
Apr 09, 2017 Sara rated it liked it
This story about a young Bible salesman accidentally getting involved in an organized crime ring was supposed to be laugh-out-loud funny, judging by the back cover and all the many reviews in the opening pages.

It was amusing at times, but I never laughed out loud. The story was good, especially with the flashbacks of Henry's life so you learned how Henry became Henry. The story takes place in North Carolina between 1930 - 1951. Henry has been raised a fundamentalist Christian and if you have ev
...more
Karina
Nov 02, 2008 Karina rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Chuckell
Sep 17, 2008 Chuckell added it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 11, 2014 Sterlingcindysu rated it really liked it
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
Laura Belgrave
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
Miriam
Jun 09, 2008 Miriam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing. Obviously, we must all buy this and read it and tell the world about Clyde.
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.
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
Erin
Dec 23, 2008 Erin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Snem
Oct 31, 2012 Snem rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jason McKinney
Jun 26, 2008 Jason McKinney rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Faith Justice
Actually more like 2.5 stars. It was a little better than OK, but I won't be picking up anything more by Edgerton. I got this because of the blurb by David Sedaris (one of my favorite humor writers) which promised "a great comic novel." Sorry David, it was mildly amusing, but it did not engender laugh-out-loud guffaws or even faint chuckles. I did smile occasionally. That said, humor is tricky, so I would hesitate to condemn with faint praise. If you're looking for a comic novel do the "Look Ins ...more
Judy Vasseur
Jul 28, 2008 Judy Vasseur rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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
Lori
Dec 17, 2008 Lori rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 30, 2010 Tyler rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Nov 03, 2008 Michelle rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 19, 2008 Bonnie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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.
Sarah
Jun 27, 2008 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Tamara
Sep 13, 2008 Tamara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 01, 2008 Jane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: southern-lit
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.
Vivienne Strauss
This book had potential and there were good parts, just not worth it in the long run. Stick to Flannery O'Conner.
Jennifer
Jan 03, 2013 Jennifer rated it really liked it
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.
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.
Bill Sanwald
Jun 01, 2017 Bill Sanwald rated it it was ok
Shelves: owned
I had never read any Clyde Edgerton. I had seen a lot of good reviews of his books. This book just did not grab me the way most books written by Southern authors do. Maybe it wasn't the best choice as a first read. I'll give Mr. Edgerton another chance, probably "Raney". If I like it I'll read more, if not, as least I read him.
Juanita
Jan 31, 2016 Juanita rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1950s, car-thief
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-- 1DHow good it feels to throw back one 19s head and howl with a great comic novel. The 1Cburial luck 1D alone should make The Bible Salesman a classic. 1D Well, I have read David Sedaris work and I feel he is really off base with this one. It 19s kind of a sluggish, straight dry humor and it 19s not organized or developed to stay focus to any one plo
...more
Emily C.
Nov 02, 2010 Emily C. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Alan
Jun 10, 2009 Alan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This pleasant book evokes a simpler time in the South, spanning the late 1930s to the early 1950s. In a way, it's a song of praise to the virtues of innocence and ignorance before we were all corrupted by too much knowledge and infected by cynicism.
Henry, a young man who has been brought up by his aunt and two uncles after his father died and mother abandoned him, is trying to make his way in a world he barely understands. His idea is to send away to churches for free Bibles and then sell them
...more
Cheryl Gatling
Henry Dampier is a 20 year old Bible salesman working his way across the South. He hitches a ride with Preston Clearwater, who is a car thief. Clearwater tells Henry he will hire him to do a little work for him, driving some cars. He tells Henry that he is working for the FBI, undercover, and is working to break up a car thief ring. Henry believes him.

The story that follows is somewhat rambling. The pair travel around on their various jobs, doing shady things that are obviously criminal to us, b
...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...

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