New Thriller Book Release Father Divine’s Bikes

FATHER DIVINE’S BIKES exposes the dark underbelly of 1945 Newark, New Jersey; a city that boomed during World War II but finds itself unable to cope with the peace that brings joblessness, despair and crime. As deeply-entrenched white enclaves are squeezed by the mass migration of blacks, escape routes for poor ethnic whites rapidly close. Two Catholic altar boys living in a world ripe for grifters, like Father Divine, soon learn that his promise of heaven on earth has hellish consequences.

In the autumn of 1945, a battle erupts when the city’s competing mobs end their truce. When it gets bloody, other criminal forces poise to move in. Black bookies, using Father Divine’s controversial International Peace Mission Movement as a front, recruit Joey Bancik and Richie Maxwell to run numbers under the guise of newspaper routes.

The boys’ families welcome the few bucks they can put on the table. Meanwhile, their parish priest and two homicide detectives fear the numbers racket will entrap the boys in a world of crime.

Turf wars, murders, and a corrupt police department in bed with the mob form a dark and gritty backdrop against a story of post-war Newark and the violence that permeated it.

EXCERPT #1 – from Chapter 1

It was almost nine o’clock on a Monday morning when Police Lieutenant Nick Cisco and Sergeant Kevin McClosky pulled up in their unmarked cruiser in front of the Broome Street tenement. The meat wagon from the morgue was already there, its rear doors wide open to accept the latest human jetsam to be scraped from the Ward’s streets.

The stiff, a Negro man probably no more than twenty-five, was sprawled across the pavement, feet on the lower tenement step, his head a few feet from the gutter. The killing was not high profile enough for Coroner Walter Tomokai to handle so an assistant was given the thankless task of collecting the necessary forensic evidence.

A brown wooden handle above the man’s chest stood strong against the mid-morning breeze indicating where an ice pick had skewered his heart. Blood that had pooled around the body had already begun to harden at the edges. About a dozen onlookers, young and old alike, displayed the indifferent curiosity common to those who have seen it all before. A uniform cop stood between them and the body.

“Jesus Christ, it’s Frank Gazzi. So this is where they buried him,” McClosky said as he switched off the ignition and stepped out to the street.

“He’s still got his badge,” Cisco said. “Come on, let’s get started.”

Editorial Reviews

Review

Father Divine’s Bikes by Steve Bassett is a story about murder, mob wars, and the journey of two altar boys struggling to rise above the poverty line — consumed by the desire to experience “heaven on earth.” It’s Newark in 1945, a place where danger lurks around every corner. With the truce between two powerful gangs ended, violence becomes the order of the day. The boys, Joey and Richie, are hired by the black bookies. Their parish priest as well as the police fear for their lives — they could be embarking on a path of no return, getting absorbed into a world of crime. While Lt. Nick Cisco and Sgt. Kevin McClosky investigate three murders from the Third Ward, there are clear signs that there could be a connection between the mob war, the murders,and a police captain.

I was pulled in from the very beginning by the beauty of the prose and Steve Bassett’s gift for plot. The author manages to weave different stories into a narrative that will have readers spellbound as they follow the memorable characters through a setting that is socially decaying and politically tense. The figure of Fr. Divine, the black evangelist, and his promise of “heaven on earth” is reminiscent of what happens when people become disenchanted, with poverty weighing on their shoulders and violence on their doorsteps.The setting is strong and it reflects the conflict that is skillfully developed throughout the narrative.

The author injects life and realism into the narrative,evoking images that readers will quickly recognize. Here is fiction that reads like a real crime story, with characters that are imbued with a realistic humanity –they are flawed, they are struggling, and they are conflicted.

The author weaves powerful themes into the narrative –religion and faith, crime and freedom, hope and despair, family and friendship,and a lot more — and these read like beautiful colors in the fabric of this tale. It’s fast-paced with interesting twists, suspenseful, and deeply satisfying. Father Divine’s Bikes is a riveting story told by a master storyteller.
Reviewed by Christian Sia 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.
Reviewed by Ray Simmons for Readers’ Favorite

Steve Bassett’s Father Divine’s Bikes starts with a gruesome murder. However,perceiving it to be a regular murder-mystery would be a mistake. As soon as we are made familiar with the case at hand, the story quickly turns its attention towards the more complex surroundings of post-war era Newark. The tale flows from one character to another, and we are introduced to their backgrounds and conditions. Starting from a teenager, Richie, who is caught in the network of illegal activities, the story comes full circle, encompassing the spectrum of a multitude of characters that are somehow connected in this complex world. It tackles various themes, ranging from social issues like racism to the struggles of poverty and the turmoil of teenagers.

To begin with, I was taken completely off guard by the manner of storytelling in this novel. It was unexpected but pleasant, and I loved it. There were so many shades in this story that if it had been told any differently perhaps, it wouldn’t have been so impactful. I loved the variety of the characters, and how the style of story altered with respect to their perspectives. Steve Bassett has done a great job in writing this book. I liked how the story trickled from one character to another, changing its viewpoint after a couple of chapters. It was like they were passing a baton of some sorts. It is certainly one of the best writing styles I have seen in any novel recently. The backstories of thec haracters were another thing that I thoroughly enjoyed. Rest assured, Father Divine’s Bikes is all good things packed into one book.
Reviewed by Diksha Sundriyal for Readers’ Favorite

Father Divine’s Bikes by Steve Bassett is a compelling crime novel with a powerful setting against the backdrop of 1945 Newark, a society just emerging from the war. The reader is thrust into a world run by mobsters, where the conflict gets bloody. Now, the competing mobs have ended their truce and things get tense,with other players ready to get into the game. It’s against this backdrop that Joey Bancik and Richie Maxwell are recruited by the black bookies under the cover of newsboys. The reader follows the protagonist, Richie, on a perilous quest to achieve the promise of Father Divine’s “heaven on earth,” but Father Terry Nolan, the parish priest, and two homicide detectives fear for the lives of the kids, and rightly so. Can the kids avoid being sucked into a world of crime and tragedy, just to bring a few bucks home to their families?

Steve Bassett creates a story that is utterly absorbing with characters that are compelling and believable. The handling of conflict is exceptional and readers can’t help but be thrilled at the complex plot that melds crime with corruption. I loved characters like Lt. Cisco and his clairvoyance, but his fear of the kids getting hurt turns out to be true. The array of characters,including mobsters, corrupt cops, and innocent kids irresistibly pulled towards a life of crime are elements of this novel that create the tension that propels it forward. The author’s use of contrast and humor are masterly and they add to the strengths of the narrative, arresting the reader’s attention. Readers follow a gritty investigation into murders while caring about characters whose lives are in grave danger. Father Divine’s Bikes is a mesmerizing tale of two compelling characters, deeply human and broken, which makes it easy for readers to connect with them. But it is also a tale of a changing community, a community that once flourished but that is about to sink into violence. A real page-turner!
Reviewed by Romuald Dzemo for Readers’ Favorite