There's something beguiling about faith healers. Exuberantly larger than life, they are a jumble of warring contradictions--prophet, entrepreneur, miracle worker, con man. No one knows for sure just how much is supernatural, how much psychosomatic, how much magic and sham. Harrell keeps a safe historical distance, letting doctors and theologians hassle what finally comes down to faith-claims. He chooses simply to chronicle the bizarre story of the healing and charismatic revivals in mid-century America. He traces the leaders' roots to early Pentecostalism, recounts in lush detail the miracle boom from 1947 to 1958, and charts the movement's transition into the kaleidoscopic ministry of today, ranging from hillbilly snake-handlers to Jesuit Ph.D.s. Rightly, the tale's told mostly in capsule biographies, for it's more about remarkable individuals than ideas or institutions. Though the figures of William Branham, who got the crusade rolling, and Oral Roberts, who snowballed it into a million-dollar industry, dominate, the supporting cast steals the show. One Bible-banger had to call off a campaign to raise the dead when people started sending corpses; another issued semiliterate scrolls linking doomsday and rock 'n' roll. Harrell's book will doubtless be the definitive work on the subject for a long while--who else will wade through Healing Waters and Miracle Magazine with such fastidious care?