Certainty by Victor Bevine
A superbly written fiction wrapped around an historical event.
When you’re fighting an injustice, can it be wrong to do what’s right?
Inspired by the scandalous true story that shocked a nation at the close of WWI.
With America’s entry into World War I, the population of Newport, Rhode Island, seems to double overnight as twenty-five thousand rowdy recruits descend on the Naval Training Station. Drinking, prostitution, and other depravities follow the sailors, transforming the upscale town into what many residents—including young lawyer William Bartlett, whose genteel family has lived in Newport for generations—consider to be a moral cesspool.
When sailors accuse a beloved local clergyman of sexual impropriety, William feels compelled to fight back. He agrees to defend the minister against the shocking allegations, in the face of dire personal and professional consequences. But when the trial grows increasingly sensational, and when outrageous revelations echo all the way from Newport to the federal government, William must confront more than just the truth—he must confront the very nature of good and evil.
Certainty recalls a war-torn era when the line between right and wrong became dangerously blurred.
Review by Gerry Burnie
Certainty, by Victor Bevine [Lake Union Publishing, October 21, 2014] is at once a war story, a discourse on morals and morality, and a courtroom drama rolled into one beautifully written novel.
It is based on the “Newport Navy Vice Scandal of 1919,” a 20th-century witch hunt that made headlines for its use of ‘sexual moles’ to identify and root out practicing homosexuals: i.e. Sailors would either be recruited or coerced into participating informants to entrap friends, colleagues, and civilians in homosexual activity.
Personally, I love this type of fiction that is wrapped around an actual event. Well done, it can add flesh and blood to the characters, as well as speculative dimensions not allowed in formal biographies.
In this regard, Bevine has done a masterful job of character development, from the Reverent Samuel Neal Kent to attorney William Bartlett, so that the mindset of both are readily understandable. Likewise, the mindset of the times has, I think, been properly represented.
Another note to his credit is that Bevine never attempts to moralize. Rather, he is content to tell the story as it is, and let the reader add his/her moral adjudication.
Having found nothing but plusses on the side of Certainty, I award it a full five bees on the bee’s scale. A superb read.
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