Baby Moses

Fiction - Southern
297 Pages
Reviewed on 11/13/2020
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

John Cowlin’s second book is Baby Moses. His previous book was Monster City.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite

Baby Moses by John Cowlin is a historical fiction novel set in rural Claiborne County in the South. After seven years away, getting an education and serving in the military, Moses takes the Greyhound home to his adopted granny, Miss Clio, a woman who raised him after he'd been found abandoned as a baby. As her health deteriorates, Moses prepares for the worst, devoting his time, energy, and love to Miss Clio, even as a crime spree rages around them. Harve and Enos have found that robbing a black church is a simpler way to make money than they'd initially thought and they carry on, despite having taken what they needed on the first shot. But when the two fall out and a child taken hostage from the church is beaten, raped, and left for dead, Moses and Deputy Boone refocus their efforts to make the perps pay.

John Cowlin delivers an absolute treat of a novel with Baby Moses, pressing forward a character-driven plot with a cast that comes to life. Cowlin achieves this almost entirely through dialogue, foregoing the usual information dumps in favor of the authentic voices of his characters, their emotional and physical responses, and trusting them to carry his narrative as we get to know them ourselves. The effect is wholly engrossing and accounts for one of the very best books I've read this year—which means more in 2020 when we've all been locked up for months. There's an incredibly visual element that Cowlin is able to create as we navigate the segregated American South, one where casual racism is more persistent than its overt partner, commingling in the community. A black pastor sitting on an empty bench at a gas station is told to move. A librarian calls the police when Moses reads quietly. A white cafe owner speaks of death at the hands of the Klan but then asks for quiet acceptance without retaliation. These are as deafening as the shockingly brutal crimes that fuel Moses's actions. Well done, John Cowlin. Very, very well done.

Tammy Ruggles

Baby Moses by John Cowlin is an entertaining work of historical fiction about an African American named Moses and Southern church-robbers in the 1950s. Card-playing pals Enos and Harve think they need to rob African American churches in order to pay back their poker buddies at the VFW, which will allow them to keep playing. This well-paced story takes you to a place, time, and circumstance that are unique, and touches on historical events and people, both flattering and unflattering. The author builds memorable characters--some quirky, some honorable--fit for a Tarantino tale. First, we are introduced to Harve and Enos, and although you understand their situation, you don't really root for what they're about to do. And when Moses enters the picture, things gradually begin to change.

Cowlin has a screenwriter's ear for dialogue (even though the racist language used by the characters can be triggering), and a director's way of storytelling. There is a lot going on in this plot, including a little humor and a lot of poignancy, and you become invested. The character of Moses is what this book is all about, mostly, and he is the reason I wanted to keep reading to find out what he was going to do. His relationships with Clio and Maggie are also nice. The similarities between the origins of this Moses and the biblical Moses are obvious, and it's a good character tool to tinker with. He is someone you'd want to know in your life. This is more than a raucous tale with lots of colorful characters. It's a story of race and justice too. Baby Moses by John Cowlin is entertaining and thought-provoking.

Lesley Jones

In Baby Moses by John Cowlin, Eno needs $19 dollars to pay his debt to the Colonel so he can play cards in the back room of the VFW. His cousin Harve wants to rob a bank but when that seems too risky, they decide the safer option will be the Sunday service at the local church filled with a black congregation. The robbery goes to plan perfectly and is far more lucrative than working a job. Luckily, the Sheriff doesn't seem to want to find the culprits, especially when the evidence suggests they are white. But the Sheriff doesn't count on Moses returning to town to visit the woman who raised him after he was discovered abandoned in his crib by a creek. Moses is determined to see justice served and if the Sheriff is unwilling to stop the attacks and robberies, then he will. One by one, Moses seeks retribution on those who have brutalized his community and settles some personal scores of his own.

From the outset, Baby Moses by John Cowlin is a riveting page-turner. The plot is multi-layered with many sub-plots which are as compelling as the main storyline. The dialogue is fast-paced and flows beautifully. In my opinion, it is absolute perfection and reveals so much about the character's personality. The brutality of many of the white characters towards the black community will send shivers down your spine. Their vile, racist comments, and views on the black community are hard to read because they are so realistic. I loved Moses as a protagonist; his bravery, intelligence, and calm demeanor were superb. I also enjoyed seeing his character develop as he settled many scores from his past. The relationship Moses shared with Miss Clio stirred my heart. There are many scenes of violence and racist references but this was essential to give the story depth and realism. The scene with the Klan and The Chicken Shack was brilliant and filled with so much suspense and tension. The characters and plot in this amazing novel will stay with you long after the final page is turned.

Susan Sewell

When a man comes home to stay with his dying granny, he starts searching for the men who stole her precious family heirloom in an armed robbery and inadvertently causes a bloodbath in the stunning novel Baby Moses by John Cowlin. Two men rob the local black church on Sunday morning and take a young girl hostage to persuade the congregation to hand over everything of monetary value they have on them. When the crooks realize it only took them a few minutes to obtain more than two weeks' pay, they decided to repeat their offense. The pastors of the victimized churches report the crimes, but the law is no hurry to solve them. When Moses comes home to be with his ailing granny and discovers that her ring was stolen, he takes it upon himself to find it. While hunting for the robbers, things go awry, and the KKK takes revenge on the black population. Now Moses is not only looking for a stolen heirloom, but he is now also seeking reparation for his family and friends.

Realistically portraying the precarious life of the black population in the south, Baby Moses by John Cowlin is a riveting and unforgettable tale. Set in the southern United States after World War ll, this intense and suspenseful story is a mesmerizing depiction of the offensive and dramatic racial issues taking place during that time. Superbly written, the book captures the essence of the era perfectly. The characters are so real that I felt I knew them, and I heartily admired the protagonist, and vehemently had an aversion to the antagonists. With a thrilling plot filled with suspense, apprehension, and a hint of horror wafting beneath the surface of the storyline, along with an enigmatic main character, I found it impossible to put the book down. Amazingly breathtaking! It is an incredible story with remarkable characters and I recommend it to everyone who relishes authentic historical era novels filled with suspense. Due to explicit language and violence, the book is more suitable for a mature reader.

Anne-Marie Reynolds

Baby Moses by John Cowlin is a crime drama set in the Deep South in the 1950s. Moses has been away for a while but now he’s coming home. Coming home to Miss Clio, the woman who took him in and raised him as her own. Enos and Harve are losers, earning minimum wage at the Grain & Feed. They owe the VFW $19 and must pay it back before they can rejoin the card game. Instead of earning the money honestly, they take a shotgun and head to a black church on Sunday, robbing it at gunpoint. It's so successful that they decide to carry on. Seven church robberies on, they come face to face with two unknowns – Moses and what he carries in his trusty duffle bag. Moses has a problem that he needs to solve and he will stop at nothing. Harve and Enos may come to rue the day they crossed his path.

Baby Moses by John Cowlin made for an interesting read. Set in the 1950s in the American South, it follows the self-made misfortunes of two losers who decide that robbery is the easy answer to their prayers and Moses who decides that he will stop the boys from robbing anyone else. The language fits the era perfectly, the descriptive nature of the book takes you right there and you get to live in a time when blacks were treated very differently, see it all first hand so to speak. The story itself is unique, running a steady course with some twists and turns. It isn’t a high-action story but it has enough to keep you interested, with some colorful characters thrown in for good measure. Those characters are developed into people you come to know well, relate to, and, in many cases, feel some empathy for. All in all, a great story with some violence that will keep you entertained for hours.

Amika Press

Thank you to everyone at Readers' Favorite for the enthusiastic responses to Baby Moses. We're very proud to be releasing this book.

Patricia Arno

Wonderfully written.
Hard to put down.
Characters are so realistic.