Johnny Randle is ten years old when his dad is killed in a railroad accident. His mother marries Reverend Phillip McCrea, a psychotic, who beats Johnny because he can't control him. In high school, Johnny attacks two bullies who are terrorizing his friends. He is convicted of assault in Tombigbee County Mississippi, and sentenced to Parchman prison where he becomes an accomplished con-artist. After Parchman, Johnny and Lynn Brookes, a beautiful part-black girl have the most romantic summer of their lives. He leaves Gatlan, Mississippi, for Orlando, Florida, changes his name to Prophet, and becomes the richest, most charismatic, televangelist in America. Visiting Gatlan, he and his friend Harlan, are drawn into a gun-fight with two convenience store robbers. Johnny kills both robbers, and is charged with first degree murder. Dan Barker, is the prosecutor. Dan is one of the bullies Johnny was convicted of beating in high school. . .he seeks the death penalty. . .