Author Steve Bassett breaks down the culture within nearby Newark, New Jersey in “FATHER DIVINE’S BIKES“, the first in his Passaic River Trilogy. Set in the time since World War II, a new war has begun; a turf war. Though Newark made out well during the war, the area became a realm of unemployment and increase crime. Once a peaceful town, it was now a dangerous area in economic decline.
As Newark gangs fight throughout the city, the area becomes a place of fear. Many African Americans escaped the south to be factory workers. Since they were considered cheap labor, white folks were losing those jobs and being replaced. This is when the turf wars began. When I got into the book, I expected a murder mystery type book since one of the first events was a murder. Boy, was I wrong…
Throughout the story, we meet plenty of characters of influence. Two of the most important are a couple of altar boys, Joey and Richie. They get jobs on a paper route to help get extra money for their families. Unfortunately, they are brought in by a black mob to run numbers for bookies in disguise. They are caught up in a new life of crime and people begin to worry about their safety. Though these two are a main storyline, many get a feature as well.
While police are investigating three murders, they think the police captain could be somehow involved. Father Nolan is the boys’ priest that cares for their safety and wants good in the world. Then, there’s also Father Divine himself, a black evangelist convincing people that there will be Heaven on Earth. With poverty looming over the town and constant violence, people will hold onto any shred of hope that things will get better.
With so many different aspects of life, from religion and hope, to crime and friendship, this was a complex novel. Steve Bassett has a talent for being descriptive, to say the least. The way he writes about the locations and people, and each individual circumstance is beyond lifelike. His delivery is just truly exquisite. One of my favorite techniques he used, was making protagonists and antagonists that flip-flopped. It kept me on my feet following who was becoming a good guy or a bad guy.
Steve Bassett’s writing is so raw and passionate. Much of what I read was oddly real to me. I felt like I was watching a news station, almost living in the story. Anyone interested in historical fiction should give this one a go.
A copy can be found at Penn Book Center.
Head over to Steve Bassett’s website to learn more about him and his novels, and to watch an interview about “FATHER DIVINE’S BIKES”.
Published by Smith Publicity.