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Mr. Dewlen hasn't written a book since Twilight of Honor and this one goes down the road a piece into the Texas Panhandle, past Elmer Gantry, past Billy Sunday, where a lot of hot oil and holy water are made to mix in the name and self-interest of the Christian Church manacled to the Birch Society. Brother Dorsey, lovable and canny -- he knew he couldn't compete with Bonanza -- has resigned as pastor in Cedar Park and in his place comes old-time soul-saver Billy Bob St. John, slugging for God and his ""going, growing, glowing Church."" Billy Bob's sermons are abstracted from brimstone and the Reader's Digest, his carnal lusts are barely contained in his slackening flesh, and his needs have been denied by his wife who lapses into glossolalia during the small hours when she has ""recurring engagements with the Holy Ghost"" rather than Billy Bob. There's a really fine spectacle of a countrywide convocation at Hell's Hills where Billy Bob is recruited into the cause of ""one nation under God,"" and it all ends with dirty pictures and a machine gun in the Church basement Boy Scouts' room. Redeeming all this is a nice young assistant and his wife as well as Mr. Dewlen's rowdy, comic, vigilant energy. The novel is flammably readable and hugely enjoyable, and it should do well and perhaps even good in proving Hazlitt's cautionary maxim that ""the garb of religion is the best cloak for power.

Pub Date: July 16th, 1971
Publisher: Doubleday