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Reviewed by Ray Simmons for Readers' Favorite
I don’t usually read stories in the crime genre. Not because I don’t like them, but because there are so many on television. And to be honest, a lot of them are really good. But I was attracted to Father Divine’s Bikes for one simple reason. I know who Father Divine was. I had a feeling this book would be a window into a time, place, and people that we don’t read or even hear about much anymore. I was right. Father Divine’s Bikes is a brilliant snapshot of America right after World War II. It is the best portrait of Newark, New Jersey during that time when African Americans were pouring into the industrial North as they fled the Jim Crow South. This is the America we are heirs to and there are few books that get it so realistically right.
The writing in Father Divine’s Bikes is superb. I have only passed through Newark once, but I feel author Steve Bassett got it right. I have known quite a few people from there, and what they say, and how they act is what I see in this novel. The characters are so real, almost painfully real in some cases. The priests, the cops, the altar boys, and the prostitutes, they all ring true. The plot is as real as life in that time. Gangs and gangsters divided into ethnic armies, all vying for their piece of the American pie. I love the raw reality, the incorrect political speech, and the passionate writing that may very well push Father Divine’s Bikes into the ranks of the great American classics.