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, just the associate he needsone who will believe Clearwater is working undercover for the F.B.I.; one who will drive the cars Clearwater steals as Clearwater follows along in his own car at a safe distance. Henry joyfully sees a chance to lead a dual life as a Bible salesman and a G-man.
During his hilarious and scary adventures, Henry grapples with doubts about the Bible's accuracy, and we learn of his fundamentalist upbringing, an upbringing that doesn't prepared him for his new life. As he falls in love with the captivating Marleen Green and questions his religious training, Henry begins to see he's being usedthat he is on his own in a way he never imagined.
Edgerton's novel is reminiscent not so much of Faulkner or Flannery O'Connor as of Charles Dickens's The Pickwick Papers, which is far more memorable for its character sketches than for its plot. In the same way, there are immense pleasures in the tales patched together in The Bible Salesmantales that could have been spun on the front porch of a late summer North Carolina night.