Handling Snakes in Crime Fiction

A Land More Kind Than HomeThe practitioners of snake handling have always fascinated me.

Not in an “I’d like to try that” kind of way, but in a “why would they do that” kind of way.

When a star of the reality television show “Snake Salvation” (which I’ve never seen) — a man described by NPR as “a 42-year-old Pentecostal preacher and third-generation snake handler from Middlesboro, Kentucky” — died this weekend from a snake bite, it caused me to wonder again.

If you’re at all interested in the strange world of snake handling, I highly recommend two novels which incorporate the practice as a plot point.

Last Call for the LivingIt’s a key element in Wiley Cash’s wonderful A LAND MORE KIND THAN HOME and plays a smaller — but still quite important — part in Peter Farris’s excellent LAST CALL FOR THE LIVING. (Here’s an interview with Farris about his book.)

Both novels are tremendous and well worth reading whether or not you have any interest in learning more about snake handlers.

Are there other good novels, crime fiction or otherwise, that feature snake handling? Please let me know by leaving a comment below.

And for your snake-handling soundtrack, there’s no better choice than Tonio K.’s “I Handle Snakes”:


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