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Serpent And The Spirit: Glenn Summerford'S Story Paperback – Jun 4 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Univ Tennessee Press; 1 edition (June 4 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1572332468
  • ISBN-13: 978-1572332461
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.5 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 386 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,128,190 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Book Description

“A snake handler convicted of the attempted murder of his wife by means of serpent bite is serving ninety-nine years in prison. The reader is gradually pulled into an increasingly complex story as Thomas Burton allows the many individuals involved in this event to tell their stories. Readers are less likely to find themselves concerned with what “really” happened than with larger issues they too will become involved in. this is more than a story about the headline ‘preacher tries to murder wife – with rattlesnakes!” it is a story of individuals struggling with their faith and their fate under the steady gaze of their God.” —Ralph W. Hood Jr., winner of the American Psychological Association’s William James Award in the psychology of religion

In this comprehensive, multilayered set of narratives, the story of Glenn Summerford’s fall from grace is told by its participants, through interviews, court documents, and other primary sources. Free of either prejudice against or romanticizing about the snake-handling Holiness religion, this book presents an absorbing story of a fascinating group of people, while allowing the reader to draw his or her own conclusions about Summerford’s guilt or innocence. The Serpent and the Spirit is a startling commentary on truth and its representation, religion and its expression, humanity and its flaws.

Thomas Burton is professor emeritus of English at East Tennessee State University. He is the winner of the Appalachian Consortium Laurel Leaves Award.


About the Author

Thomas Burton is professor emeritus of English at East Tennessee State University. He is the winner of the Appalachian Consortium Laurel Leaves Award.

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Amazon.com: 5 reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
The Serpent and the Spirit July 26 2004
By MLD-TN - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
By employing a non-traditional, storytelling technique making use of court records and transcriptions of taped interviews, Thomas Burton has told a documentary-like tale of people whose lives are as confusing and bizarre as any that Flannery O'Conner's fiction could have created. Glenn Summerford, a serpent-handling, Holiness preacher was accused of attempted murder, convicted, and sentenced to ninety-nine years in prison. His wife Darlene alleged that he forced her at gunpoint, while he was in a drunken rage, to put her hand into a box of poisonous snakes that Glenn kept at home for use in his church services. She was, according to medical attendants, bitten and hospitalized, but "the truth" of the matter is clouded from the outset. Some of those interviewed claim the whole court procedure was rigged in an attempt to rid Jackson County, Alabama, of Summerford and the practices of his congregation -- which church members sincerely believe is a way for them to show their obedience to the Word of God. Glenn's two wives, as well as his children by both women, all have differing accounts of what could have happened -- and for the motives of those involved.

No matter what the reality of the situation, Burton has tried to unravel, as Robert Browning did with his verse monologues in The Ring and the Book, the immensely complicated, and ultimately unfathomable mess that life can be for all of us, and the writer has done so in a highly entertaining and readable fashion.--Michael Davenport
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
The Best Non-Fiction Mystery You Could Ask to Read July 30 2009
By Boomer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Read this book cover to cover--even more than once, as I have--and you still won't know if he did or didn't do it. This book grabs you by the collar and shakes you from its very first page and doesn't let go, even after you've finished the book.

The characters are as complex as any Agatha Christie every created, and Burton's characters are very, VERY real! They are as rural as people can be in the USA, but that does not make them simple, certainly not, as stereotypes would have it, simple-minded. They calmly stand their ground and let you know (1) that they are every bit as right in their beliefs about handling poisonous snakes as Native American medicine men (my words, not theirs), and (2) they do not believe Glenn Sommerford made any effort to murder his wife. And if you think they are just delusional followers of a fanatical religious cult figure, then you haven't read the book.

Even Glenn's son by the wife he is accused of trying to murder says...well, I think you need to read it for yourself.

One fair warning is in order: Don't tackle this book until you are sure you are ready to have all your beliefs about rural indiginous Appalachian mountain dwellers, snake-handling fundamentalist Christians and justice in American courts shaken to their very foundations. This book sends a torando right through your comfort zone.

One reading, and you'll be on the "Free Glenn Summerford" bandwagon in two shakes of a rattler's tail!
I loved it but I think Glen Summerford is innocent Aug. 6 2014
By wendell jenkins - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I loved it but I think Glen Summerford is innocent. From what I read & saw on tv about Darlene I would not believe her. I think it was a witch hunt. They were out to get Glenn & they did. There are murderers that get less time than he did. I hope he gets out someday & I would love to go to his church.
Religious/Sociology Dec 18 2014
By movie gal - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An interesting sociological study of fringe religion. Eric Hoffer's 'The True Believer' is a good accompanying work.
2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Game of Fools March 15 2012
By Stephen Sparks - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
i read this book and i also read summefords book he wrote from prison called game of foolswriitten by Sharon wooten,After reading both these books,You will see that Glenn Summerford never had a chance.That had him buried before the trial even started.As you read these books even if Summerford was guilty wish there really no proof that he was,he was never given a a fair trial,It was A sham.ASnd the time he got was only becos of the three strike rule.pastor Summerford had two flonies befor he got saved and living for God.i have written 48 hours tv show and also dateline to read this book and do a story omn the case.it kind of reminds you of the hurricane carter book and story.please read Game of Fools wich Summerford wrote in prison under a different name.you can order it from amazon.


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