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King of the West Side

William Heuman – Eerdmans – 140 pp. – $2;50

Getting young people to read books is difficult.  Getting them to read good books is more difficult.  But the most difficult project of all is writing them.  Few works of Christian fiction on the young adult level are interesting enough to command attention.  Fewer still, portray life that is recognizably Christian.  Essential to a Christina’s life are the powers of sin and grace.  Neither element is powerfully present in this novel.

West-side toughian, Danny Britton, is a fast-rising boxer.  He is saved (from what, is anybody’s guess) by the powerful eyes of revivalist, Dan Britton (no relation.)  Danny quits boxing for a time, so as to have more time to hand out tracts and hunt for a church which is “his style.”  When his brother is injured, the “King of the West Side” resumes boxing.  In a weird twist, his Christianity affects his boxing in that he now attempts to knock everyone out in the first round so as not to hurt him.  Along the way, a girl inevitably is tossed into the picture but since she is totally colorless, the intrusion fails to hide the lack of theme.

When writers cease exploiting the gaudy and sensational (we are bracing ourselves for a follow-up entitled I was Al Capone’s Christian Body-Guard) and begin realizing what Christianity is scarcely touched, much less defined, in terms of passing out pamphlets and “feeling good,” the possibility of Christian fiction is attained.  And not until.