By Clyde Edgerton
256 pages. Little, Brown.
Tired of $4 a gallon gasoline, food riots in poor nations, climate change, the sniping of the presidential race, the subprime mortgage meltdown, and the tangled interconnectedness of all the world's problems? For relief, pick up Clyde Edgerton's new novel, The Bible Salesman (Little, Brown), which takes place between 1930 and 1951 in a rural white American South so innocent and self-contained it doesn't include even a hint of racism. Henry Dampier, a 20-year-old Bible salesman, has no troubles beyond his worries about certain inconsistencies in the biblical text and his keen desire to get laid, when he is conned into moving stolen cars by a man named Preston Clearwater, who says he works for the FBI. The plot is a simple clash of good and evil, and the suspense comes from wondering when good—a little dopey, a little too pious—is going to recognize evil. Despite all the Southern Gothic touches—poor Henry has to bury the same dead cat twice—The Bible Salesman is really just an escapist romp at heart, perfect for a lazy summer's afternoon.