cover image Killer Diller

Killer Diller

Clyde Edgerton. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, $17.95 (264pp) ISBN 978-0-945575-53-5

Edgerton's trademark characters are country folks whose righteous intentions are comically undermined by their fallibility. Wesley Benfield, the mischievous delinquent introduced in Walking Across Egypt , is now 24, still honorary grandson of Mrs. Mattie Rigsbee, and a resident of BOTA (Back on Track Again) House, a halfway house near the campus of a Christian college in North Carolina. Beginning a bumbling romance with overweight, red-haired Phoebe, Wesley tries with limited success to reconcile his libido with biblical injunctions. He also participates in community projects including playing in a gospel band with other reforming criminals and teaching masonry to Vernon, a minimally retarded, musically gifted and outspoken teenager who eventually joins the band. Evolving into an amateur preacher who creatively updates Genesis and champions unorthodox gospel songs, Wesley unforgivably riles the band's straightlaced sponsors. Edgerton's latest is whimsical, warmhearted fare, easily visualized as a fast-moving film script, with an ending that conspicuously allows for another sequel by leaving more questions than it answers. Paperback rights to Ballantine; $100,000 ad/promo; BOMC alternate; author tour. (Feb.)