Born in Durham, North Carolina, his books are known for endearing characters, small-town Southern dialogue and realistic fire and brimstone religious sermons. His books are full of humor, while still respecting the characters' integrity.
In 1962 Edgerton enrolled at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, eventually majoring in English. During this time he was a student in the Air Force ROTC program where he learned to fly a small plane. After graduating in 1966, he entered the Air Force and served five years as a fighter pilot in the United States, Korea, Japan and Thailand.
He decided to become a writer in 1978 after watching Eudora Welty read a short story on public television.
Publication of Edgerton's first novel, Raney, the plot of which revolves around the marriage of a Free Will Baptist and an Episcopalian, ultimately led to Edgerton's leaving the teaching staff at Campbell University in Buies Creek, North Carolina (a Baptist institution). His later work, Killer Diller, is a thinly-veiled satire of that university and its administration, with whom Edgerton clashed over Raney.
All of Edgerton’s works are influenced in some way by his personal experiences. While much of his prose feels like reading a slice-of-life narrative, there is one text that is less Edgerton, and more “life” – his novel Redeye. Inspired by a visit to the Mesa Verde and Anasazi cliff dwellings, Clyde Edgerton uses that as a central location for the events of his story. The text is set in 1890s Colorado, and required an extensive amount of research when compared to his other works.
Currently he is a professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
He has a street named after him in Kernersville, North Carolina.
- Raney (January 2, 1985)
- Walking Across Egypt (January 3, 1987)
- The Floatplane Notebooks (April 1988)
- Killer Diller (January 1, 1991)
- In Memory of Junior (January 10, 1992)
- Redeye (January 4, 1995)
- Where Trouble Sleeps (January 9, 1997)
- Lunch at the Piccadilly (October 1, 2003)
- Solo: My Adventure in the Air (September 9, 2005; non-fiction memoir of his fighter pilot career)
- The Bible Salesman (August 18, 2008)
- The Night Train (July 25, 2011)
- Papadaddy's Book for New Fathers: Advice to Dads of All Ages (May 7, 2013)
Two of Clyde Edgerton's novels have been adapted to film:
- Walking Across Egypt, a 1999 film starring Jonathan Taylor Thomas
- Killer Diller, a 2006 limited release film starring Lucas Black, in which Edgerton had a cameo as a faculty member.
- Five 'notable books of the year' awards from the New York Times
- Guggenheim Fellowship
- Lyndhurst Fellowship
- North Carolina Award for Literature
- membership into the Fellowship of Southern Writers
- Commentary on Edgerton's writing
- Clyde Edgerton Papers, 1918-2004 at the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill