Father Divine’s Bikes
By Steve Bassett
NOIR CRIME THRILLER EXPOSES THE DARK UNDERBELLY OF
NEWARK, NJ THROUGH THE EYES OF THREE GENERATIONS IN 1945
We live in a world torn apart by urban unrest, rioting, terrorist bombings, religious fanaticism, and military coups that have turned many cities into vast wastelands. The international questions arise time and time again, “How, and why, did all of this happen?”
Offering an extensive look inside the history and urban problems — and how they began — in post-World War II Newark, New Jersey like never before, author Steve Bassett releases the first in the trilogy, Father Divine’s Bikes [BookBaby, April 2, 2018]. In this noir crime thriller, Bassett melds character, time and place into a mosaic that uncovers the plight of a city on a downward spiral immediately after the war, a time when our nation was basking in the afterglow of victory.
A gangster war, three murders, a gun-toting paperboy, and the numbers racket lay bare a dark, compelling story in a world of poverty and hopelessness from which there is little hope of escape. In the autumn of 1945, a battle rages when the city’s competing mobs end their truce. When it gets bloody, other criminal forces are ready to move in. Citywide corruption is endemic. Bookies using Father Divine’s controversial International Peace Mission Movement as a front, recruit two Catholic altar boys, Joey Bancik and Richie Maxwell, to run numbers under the guise of newspaper routes. The boys quickly realize they are players in a dangerous game, but the easy money is too good to pass up. They are now petty criminals and being hauled into juvie court is a risk they’re willing to take. Two homicide detectives track Joey to a luxury apartment, but arrive too late to prevent the inevitable. Joey’s body lay in a pool of blood on the basement floor.
Father Divine’s Bikes offers a rare study of time and place that introduces the reader to a kaleidoscopic cast of disparate characters.
“It is an uncompromising, noir view of a city in agony, sparing no person or institution,” says Bassett. “At the same time, it retains a raw, sharp-edged compassion for the marginalized people who share their souls with the reader.”
A metaphorical work exploring the in-depth urban issues that arose in 1945 Newark, Father Divine’s Bikes reveals:
Contrasting themes of class and privilege, poverty and wealth, despair and hope
The growing lack of trust that communities – large and small – have for the police and local officials
The handmaiden of change is fear of the unknown – it was true in 1945 Newark, and is even more true today
Crime is in the eye of the beholder – how this is true in every level of society
Overwhelming acceptance of the status quo exists in every densely populated, crime ridden, poverty stricken inner city in our country
And, so much more!
EXCERPT #6 – from Chapter 8
Darn Good slapped him on the back. “It’s a deal, my little brother. Tonight you can bring Father Divine’s tidings home to your folks. That you are now a Star Beacon delivery boy with a route right in your own neighborhood. I can just see the big smile on your daddy’s face.”
The three men stepped aside to allow Richie to slide out of the barber’s chair. There were smiles all around as they shook hands. Richie felt as light as a feather as he headed out the side door. He didn’t notice that the back door to the betting parlor had been ajar.
They turned just as a trim, olive-skinned man, about thirty years old, pushed open the rear door, and with a twist of his right hand indicated that he wanted the front door locked. “And close the blinds,” he said.
With a shrug, he straightened his navy blue, pinstripe suit coat, fingered the Windsor of his silk, blue tie and pulled down the starched cuffs of his white shirt to expose two heavy garnet and gold cufflinks. He glided into the center chair, rested his Florsheims on the footrest, scanned the three black faces and smirked, “Really laid on that Father Divine bullshit, don’cha think?”
“Come on, Vinnie, give us some credit. We only use what works, and we’ve been working this kid for weeks now. You like what you heard?” God’s Tall Timber said.
About the Author:
Born and raised in Newark's crime-ridden Third Ward, although far removed during a career as a multiple award-winning journalist, Steve Bassett has always been the proud sobriquet Jersey Guy. He has been legally blind for almost a decade, but this hasn't slowed him down.
Bassett has written two nonfiction books, The Battered Rich and Golden Ghetto: How the Americans and French Fell In and Out of Love During the Cold War. Continuing with his newest fiction release, Father Divine’s Bikes, readers share in his insights that earned him three Emmys for investigative documentaries, and the California Bar Association's Medallion Award for Distinguished Reporting on the Administration of Justice. He now resides in Placitas, New Mexico with his wife, Darlene.
Father Divine’s Bikes is scheduled to be released on April 2nd, 2018 and will be available in paperback and e-book edition from and wherever fine books are sold.