The Shooting Salvationist chronicles what may be the most famous story you have never heard. In the 1920's, the Reverend J. Frank Norris railed against vice and conspiracies he saw everywhere to a congregation of more than 10,000 at First Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, the largest congregation in America, the first "megachurch". Norris controlled a radio station, a tabloid newspaper and a valuable tract of land in downtown Fort Worth. Constantly at odds with the oil boomtown's civic leaders, he aggressively defended his activism, observing, “John the Baptist was into politics.”
Following the death of William Jennings Bryan, Norris was a national figure poised to become the leading fundamentalist in America. This changed, however, in a moment of violence one sweltering Saturday in July when he shot and killed an unarmed man in his church office. Norris was indicted for murder and, if convicted, would be executed in the state of Texas' electric chair.
At a time when newspaper wire services and national retailers were unifying American popular culture as never before, Norris' murder trial was front page news from coast to coast. Set during the Jazz Age, when Prohibition was the law of the land, The Shooting Salvationist leads to a courtroom drama pitting some of the most powerful lawyers of the era against each other with the life of a wildly popular, and equally loathed, religious leader hanging in the balance.
©2011 David R. Stokes (P)2011 David R. Stokes
"This excellent book chronicles [a] court case that captivated the nation - even if it's barely remembered today - and makes its central player, Norris, as compelling and multilayered as any charcter from fiction.... The book is engagingly written, in an immediate, you-are-there style, and the story is as compelling and surprising as any Grisham thriller. Top of the line." (Booklist)
“Readers will enjoy this oversize tale—a snapshot of a fascinating time in American and Texas history—that reads like fiction. It will appeal to those interested in true crime, the history of fundamentalism, and the early days of Texas” (Library Journal)
"Through rich and compelling narrative, a sharp eye for the quirky as well as the profound, rigorous research, and a commanding sense of the big picture, Stokes offers his reader a rare, exhilarating look at this notorious individual. In the process, he opens up fresh ways of understanding the local culture that vaulted Norris and his Texas-style fundamentalism onto a national stage." (Darren Dochuk, author of From Bible Belt to Sunbelt: Plain-folk Religion, Grassroots Politics, and the Rise of Evangelical Conservatism)
The religious history of this period in the southern U.S. was very interesting. Both the author and the reader presented the story in a suspenseful way, and because there was so much detail in the story, even if you already know the history of the religious 'battles' in the early 20th century, you will still be engrossed.
No extreme reactions. The book was very informative and very captivating. Good read.
The story itself. I believe it's dubbed as the most interesting true story you've never heard. You got that right.
I am not used to hearing a Non-fiction book 'acted' out.
He put voices to everyone involved in the case, outside of the case, even those unnamed that had a random quote here and there. It definitely helped bring the people, Ft. Worth, and era back to life. Especially Rev. J. Frank Norris.
Out of curiosity I found some old audio of a few of his sermons to see if Mr. Bray was even close - turns out... he was almost spot on. The delivery of the sermons especially. Firey and passionate. It was hard not to feel like I was in the pews!!
Very well done
This was absolutely great. I'm a fan of the shows they put up on A&E and Bio and am always enthralled when a 'new' old story rears its head. (I actually saw the author speak of the book on Book TV before or just after its release). The Shooting Salvationist is one of the most interesting ones I've come across in a long time. Thanks so much to Rev. David R. Stokes for his obvious passion for this part of American history and for his incredible research to bring it to light for the rest of us.
I am an avid eclectic reader.
The book opens with the ending of the Scopes trial and the sudden death of William Jennings Bryan. Apparently the Fundamentalist Christian movement was at its peak in the 1920s. J. Frank Norris was a Baptist pastor and a social activist fighting to “clean up” Fort Worth had helped obtain the services of Bryan to prosecute Scopes. The First Baptists Church of Fort Worth had a huge membership the church could hold 5000 people and was full for every service. Norris also published a Church Fundamentalist newspaper and Radio program which brought in nationwide membership and donations. In late 1926 Dexter Eliot (D.E.) Chips, a divorced Lumberman walks into the Church office. He was there to warn Norris against continuing his attacks on the Fort Worth mayor and his political cronies. What exactly happened in that office is a matter of dispute, but what isn’t in dispute is Norris shot and killed Chipps. The second half of the book in about the famous trial. It was as famous and notorious as some of today’s trials such as Casey Anthony or O. J. Simpson. The author tells a remarkable story filled with religious and political conflict and Stokes does his best to milk it for all its drama. People famous and infamous as well as institution and organization, such as the Ku Klux Klan have faded and disappeared, the modern reader needs a good deal of information to understand what is going on and why it is happening. This kind of back ground is necessary but it stalls the narrative. Stokes is careful to fit the story in its historical, cultural context. He describes the political infighting in the city of Fort Worth and in the State of Texas in the 1920’s. The author used the actual trial transcript and looked at the attorneys strategies; he describes the press coverage of the trial. Norris claims self defense and the State is asking for the death penalty for murder. I will not spoil the ending but you will enjoy the exciting courtroom drama. It is a book that will both keep you reading and teach you something’s you may not have known about the opening decades of the 20th century. R. C. Bray did a good job narrating the book.
The narrator insists on channeling Foghorn Leghorn when reading quotes from the subject, who is a Southern preacher. He also mispronounces various words including, "Bowie". It's "Bowie" like the knife, not David.
Despite the narration, this book would be of interest to anyone who wants to know more about the beginnings of the Fundamentalist movement, the history of Fort Worth and parts of North Texas or anyone who enjoys a good story.
Author Stokes leaves out or downplays 1) the threat against J Frank Norris; 2) the fact that J Frank Norris' assailant was armed; and 3) where J Frank Norris got his gun. Stokes appears to have had an agenda to disparage Norris and he conveniently stresses the facts that make Norris look bad and leaves out the facts that exhonerate him.
Stokes tries to make it seem a miscarriage of justice that Norris was acquitted, but he was acquitted because the evidence did not warrant a conviction. Stokes does not give an accurate picture.
No. I enjoy reading historical works, but I try to always look for the author's agenda. In this case Stokes' agenda was to disparage J. Frank Norris.
I might try another book from David R. Stokes, but not by R. C. Bray. Too many ridiculous voices.
I would have selected a different narrator, or told this narrator to turn it down a notch with his caricatures...oops, I mean characterizations of the people in the story.
I don't know, but l not R. C. Bray.
It is a factual story, so none of them.
The audio quality could have been better. The volume level would go up and down, especially when the narrator switched to one of his ridiculous and unnecessary voices. Also, the book seemed biased against Norris, and seemed surprised that the defense legal counsel would have the gall to actually defend their client. So strange.
I grew up in Fort Worth, am a history buff, but had never heard of J. Frank Norris. I ran across this book and listened to it. The first part of the book was fascinating for me - the history of Fort Worth in the early 1900's through the 1920's, but I'm not sure how interesting this book would be to those not familiar with Fort Worth.
The story of J. Frank Norris is certainly interesting, and the murder itself and the resulting trial are somewhat interesting, but there was something missing in the story.
Sometimes it seemed the author strayed into details that weren't really relevant, and the case itself as a legal matter was not that interesting compared to others. The only real unique aspect about it was Frank's notoriety at the time and the others in Fort Worth that were peripherally involved in the case. - for example, the victim was a good friend of Mayor Meacham and Mayor Meacham hired some special prosecutors to help prosecute Norris.
I applaud the author for his work because I certainly learned a lot I did not know. If you are from the DFW area, you will find this book interesting. If not, I am not so sure.
In 1924 a preacher - probably the country’s first megachurch leader - shoots an unarmed man in the office of his 10,000 member church. Heartbreaking story of the power of a paranoid narcissist with excellent oratory skills.
An old broad that enjoys books of all types. Would rather read than write reviews though. I know what I like, and won't be bothered by crap.
This was a fun listen, I would rank it in the middle of the books I have listened to since joining Audible.
I would have to say J Frank Norris, because he dominates the book. However, I didn't like him much. I believe he believed what he said, but I don't like people who use the Bible to get away (literally) with murder.
He was just perfect for the preacher's voice. Reminded me of a real go to Sunday meetin'.
"John the Baptist was into politics!"
A fun way to learn about fundamentalism and old Ft. Worth.
Reenactments of Norris' preaching was great.
He captured the full range of personalities.
The way Norris by his church was moving.
The story is not particularly shocking our surprising given when or where it is set, but it is very well written and worth a read.
The real joy is the narration, excellent delineation of characters that makes this audio book top notch. I will probably listen to this book a few times.
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