Father Divine's Bikes

Steve Bassett
Narrator: George Kuch

CRIME:  There is an entire cast of characters populating this book set in Newark, New Jersey circa 1945.  The title comes from a con-man bookie who runs numbers for the mob under the guise of managing teenagers' paper routes.  There is a turf war brewing between the Clarion and the Beacon newspapers — with the money to be made from the routes and from the numbers game.  Two young teens are caught in this ‘war’ by being pulled in under the noble guise of wanting to help their families.  There are numerous stresses working in this town:  veterans are back from the war needing increasingly scarce housing; black Americans are seeking a better life away from the Jim Crow laws of the South and squeezing white Americans out of their neighborhoods; and crime bosses want to expand their lucrative territories.  

There are multiple protagonists and various story lines to follow.  It is often difficult to distinguish the different voices from each other, because there are so many characters to track. This audiobook is set in the 1940’s and the stereotypes, bigotry, and corruption from that era are on dramatic display here. As this story centers on gangsters, hustlers, pimps, and cops, there is a strong foul language component, which may be offensive to some listeners. The dark world building in this story is very vivid and believable; fortunately, many of the nicknames add humor to the gritty setting.  The reader encounters characters named Darn Good Disciple, God’s Tall Timber, Profanity Pump, and Righteous Reckoning.  

The narrator does a decent job of conveying the various voices in this cast of characters.  There were no noticeable differences in some of the voices, mostly because there were so many.  The sound quality was good and there weren’t any obvious extraneous noises evident.

Carey Sullivan