Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Certainty by Victor Bevine

Newport, Rhode Island, transformed during World War I.  Always a training center for the Navy, the sailor population exploded topping twenty-five thousand men, up from the normal five thousand.  As the war came to a close, those men who had escaped death in the war had to face the pandemic Spanish flu and many died.  Then there was the boredom of demobilization, waiting to be discharged and trying to find ways to occupy the time.

With so many unattached men, crime exploded.  Prostitution and drinking were common.  The crime the Navy found the most disturbing was gay sex, although it wasn't called gay at the time, but depraved, unnatural and an indication that a man had no moral fiber.  Determined to stop the crime, the Navy set up an investigative team to discover those engaged in it.  The team were sailors who were tricked or agreed for the perks to entice other men to engage in sex, and then to turn them in to military justice.

Caught up in this witch hunt was a local clergyman, Samuel Kent.  Reverend Kent was beloved for his work ministering to those sick and dying of the flu, and for his unending kindness to all he met.  But when he was lured into the trap, the government was quick to try to make an example of him.  A local attorney, William Bartlett, agreed to represent the reverend and his faith in  the man's innocence made him willing to take on what was considered an unsavory case.

Victor Bevine has written a compelling novel that outlines the true events that became known as the Newport Navy Vice Scandal of 1919.  Franklin Roosevelt was an Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and many regard the court cases as his darkest decision and hour.  It is difficult to realize that it was less than a hundred years ago that gay sex was considered so wrong and those who were different were ostracized and penalized for who they chose to love.  Many readers will only have experienced the more tolerant atmosphere found today, and reading about these cases will seem unbelievable.  This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction and those interested in a dark side of the American experience. 

1 comment:

Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

This certainly is the darkside but unfortunately it is a part of our history. Hopefully we as a society have learned from our mistakes!

Thanks for being a part of the tour.