Sunday, November 9, 2014

Bad Preacher

About ten years ago, I became fascinated by the frightening figure of J. Frank Norris. He was America's first mega-church preacher--with thousands of followers, two separate churches (one in Houston and one in Detroit), a radio show, and a newspaper. In the 1920s, Norris was a pioneer in the Fundamentalist movement that would eventually take over much of American Protestantism. In short, J. Frank Norris was one of the most important religious figures of the 20th century.

He was also ruthless, fanatical, and more than a little shady. He spent almost as much time on the witness stand as he did in the pulpit. He was tried for perjury. He was tried for burning down his own church and for setting fire to his own house. He killed an unarmed man in his church--shot him dead--and was put on trial for murder.

There's more to this story. At one time, I thought I might write a book about Norris. It never came together, but I have new essay about him over at Criminal Element. It's called Fire, Brimstone, and a Loaded .38. Comment on it and you can enter a sweepstakes to win a copy of my new book THE BIG UGLY. That book, by the way, features a preacher who would have made J. Frank Norris very proud...  

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