Book Review: KILLER DILLER Raises Humorous Religious Questions

When a friend introduced me to the works of Durham, NC resident Clyde Edgerton last spring, I enthusiastically read all three of his novels available at that time. I anxiously awaited the release of Killer Diller in the winter of 1991. Edgerton's humor and his excellent portrayal of North Carolinians win over Southern readers consistently.

Killer Diller picks up five years after the conclusion of Edgerton's second novel, Walking Across Egypt, with the story of Maggie and Wesey. The story is set largely in Summerlin, NC, home of Ballard University, a Baptist college, and situated just a few miles down the road from Maggie's hometown, Listre.

Due largely to Maggie's influence, Wesley is Born Again. He has stopped swearing and requests that his roommate use an "n" in front of curse words in his presence.


Maggie paid for the dental work to repair Wesley's bad teeth, and if it hadn't been for someone leaving his keys in his car, he would be settled down into a good brick-laying job, or maybe playing in a blues band, instead of doing time in the BOTA (Back on Track Again) Halfway House.

Wesley has also fallen for all 231 pounds of Phoebe, a patient at Nutrition House, the Christian diet center affiliated with Ballard. In spite of constant prayers, scripture reading, and considering a call to the pulpit, Wesley can't get lustful thoughts out of his mind. He explores the Song of Solomon and Genesis in search of direction, and in so doing, he finds two versions of the creation story, and a few other contradictions.

Edgerton's treatment of the conservative/moderate debate in the Baptist church is critical if not borderline irreverent, but his humorous storytelling talent ensures that readers will discover the good in people, especially in the not-so-obvious places.

Wesley's questions are comical, but sincere. Of the relationships between Old Testament men of God and various concubines, he asks, "Why hadn't they read all this in the Sunday school class at Listre Baptist, or down the street at Mt. Gilead!?"

Through Project Promise, a community outreach program for which Ballard University is taking credit but not responsibility, Wesley is teaching mentally handicapped Vernon Jackson how to lay bricks, cook and shake hands. Wesley gets involved on a personal basis, and car thief or no car thief, his treatment of Vernon stands in stark contrast to the "thoughtful services" Ted Sears bestows on a "few elderly women who'll leave the university their houses and property."

Edgerton's characterization of Ted and Ned Sears, the President and Provost (respectively) of Ballard, has a slightly sharp edge. For this reason and because of the increased activity of Wesley's hormones, I did not recommend this novel to my grandmother as I did with Walking Across Egypt.

But considering what we call "literature" in this day and time, most will forgive Wesley's wishful thinking. And for readers who wonder if religious administrators sometimes get too caught up in their theological debates and in the process forget how to minister to the needs of regular folk, Killer Diller is an entertaining satire about small-town people living regular lives.

Copyright Dineane Whitaker 2008 - Please do not copy and paste this article, but feel free to post a link using this url:

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