Dreams Bigger Than Night

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Set during the Great Depression, when fascism was looking increasingly attractive to many, Paul M. Levitt’s latest novel surrounds attempts to boycott the 1936 Berlin Olympics and the counterforces at work: the American Nazi Party, Avery Brundage, a German assassin, and those American athletes—eighteen of whom were the first black athletes hoping to compete—wishing to show the world their superb talents. When a young woman in the employ of Abner “Longie” Zwillman, the Don of New Jersey, goes missing, Jay Klug and his friend T-Bone Searle try to find her before she falls victim to a brutal Nazi killer. Their journey leads them to the man who reputedly killed the famous gangster Arnold Rothstein (the Big Bankroll), to Jean Harlow, Dreamland, Cape May, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Amarillo, and even Los Angeles.


Dreams Bigger Than the Night deals with toxic times, at the violent intersection of politics, sports (the 1936 Berlin Olympics), sexual passion, and the clashing cultures and races of 1930s’ America. Richly woven, Levitt’s historical novel never drops a detail and makes of language a dazzling index of personal and social identity. Sometimes brutal, without illusions, it nonetheless finds hope—in love, of all places.

—Ralph G. Williams

In Dreams Bigger Than the Night, Paul M. Levitt paints a caustic portrait of urban life in New Jersey in the 1930’s, detailing how the conflicting sides of a stressed society are brought to a sharp point; from the recovery from the Great Depression, to the many immigrant groups striving for the American dream, to the rising gangster underworld, and the political-religious struggle over American participation in the 1936 Olympic Games in Nazi Germany.

—Berel Lang

Paul M. Levitt is a master at rescuing tales from the shadows of history. His exuberant new novel, superbly crafted and the result of prodigious research, is a luge ride through the 1930s world of Jewish gangsters, Nazis, Communists, Hollywood, and more. A mix of history and fantasy, Dreams Bigger Than the Night strikes off sparks of brilliance in a story told through dialogue that is racy, musical, and street-tough.

—Alan Wald

Dreams Bigger Than the Night is a deft murder mystery, a nifty history lesson, an insightful moral fable, a captivating love story, and a terrific, fun book. A veritable who’s who of famous mobsters pirouette through a story that swirls around the campaign to boycott the 1936 Berlin Olympics, but we soon see they are not the real criminals of the years leading to World War II.

—H. Bruce Franklin

What a startling novel! Few writers can bring off a book like this—and with such a distinct voice. Facing one of the most difficult challenges that novelists can set themselves, drawing on real events and characters from life, Paul Levitt weaves an enthralling page-turner that manages to contain huge metaphor and elegant ideas. Confirming our suspicions about villains, understanding lesser folk who fight the odds, Dreams Bigger Than the Night becomes, within the first pages, writing bigger than the spirit, and in its relentless but always perceptive drive forward, answers the question: ‘is plot character or is character plot?’ This is just excellent writing, where we ‘see’ everybody and turn with every twist.

—Frank Delaney