The Bible Salesman
~ A Capsule Book Review by Allen Kopp ~
The year is 1950. Henry Dampier is a twenty-year-old traveling Bible salesman, living in the Southern United States. He was raised in a small town by a loving aunt and uncle. His father was killed when he was hit in the head by a tree limb on a passing truck. His mother is…well…she’s unavailable. Henry sells the Good Book because he believes in its message. He is innocent, gullible and too young to know what the world is really like.
When Henry meets Preston Clearwater (not his real name), Henry is taken in by him. Preston tells him he’s working undercover for the FBI, while in reality he’s working for an auto-theft ring. Preston offers Henry a job. Henry is the perfect dupe for a professional criminal like Preston because he believes what he is told and doesn’t ask too many questions. He accepts Preston’s job offer, believing he is entering into an honorable profession that involves the FBI. He will travel around with Preston from place to place, always on the go, driving stolen cars to wherever Preston wants them. He will, however, continue to sell Bibles.
In his travels, Henry meets a girl named Marlene Green, working at a fruit-and-vegetable stand in a little country town. He is instantly attracted to her, as she is to him. After a couple of dates, he decides he wants to marry her. That won’t be so easy, since he is a criminal and doesn’t know it yet.
One a brief vacation with his family, Henry introduces his attractive sister to Preston Clearwater. Preston is taken with the girl’s beauty and grace, even though he is about forty and she is considerably younger. (People say he looks like Clark Gable, with his stick-out ears.) The sister already has a fiancé, but she falls in love with Preston and is willing to forget about the boy she has said she will marry.
Henry always seems to be protected in life by his innocence and goodness, regardless of what criminal practices he is (unknowingly) engaged in. Life will be good to him because that’s the kind of book this is.
Clyde Edgerton (born 1945) is one of America’s best writers. His novels are decidedly “light” reading, but that doesn’t diminish their literary merit. They are breezy, fun to read, and beautifully written. When you see Mr. Edgerton, tell him I’m a big fan and have read all his books and most of them more than once.
Copyright © 2022 by Allen Kopp