The novel’s protagonist, Cuffy Lambkin (whom everyone calls “Sportcoat,”) is an old deacon who attends the Five Ends Church and acts as the Cause’s community baseball coach. He is also a notorious alcoholic who often… read analysis of Sportcoat
Deems Clemens is a former baseball player who has since become a vicious drug dealer who sells heroin in the Causeway Projects. Deems is capable and intelligent, and he believes selling drugs will allow him… read analysis of Deems Clemens
Tommy Elefante is an Italian man who runs a smuggling ring out of the docks at the Cause. Tommy inherited his business from his father, whom people call Mr. Elefante. Although Tommy can be… read analysis of Tommy Elefante
Hettie is Sportcoat’s deceased wife. She died after getting up in the middle of the night and walking into the harbor. Although Sportcoat says she was simply “following God’s light,” it becomes clear that… read analysis of Hettie
The Governor is an old friend of Mr. Elefante. He comes to Elefante and tells him about the Venus of Willendorf, a rare object that could make the two of them rich. The Governor… read analysis of The Governor
Sister Gee is one of the nuns at the Five Ends Church. She is an intelligent and compassionate woman who looks out for her community and dedicates much of her time to the church. When… read analysis of Sister Gee
Potts is a middle-aged police officer who works in the Cause. Although he’s white, he’s more sensitive to the concerns of the Cause’s predominantly Black residents, and he is assigned to investigate Deems’s shooting… read analysis of Potts Mullen
Melissa is the daughter of the Governor. She is a plump woman who is reserved, yet caring and trustworthy when it counts. She is the boss of the bagel shop the Governor owns, and… read analysis of Melissa
Joe Peck is an Italian mob boss who is responsible for introducing heroin to the Cause. He is highly successful, even though (or perhaps because) he lacks a moral compass. Elefante dislikes him because of… read analysis of Joe Peck
Bunch Moon is a man who works for Joe Peck and takes care of any problems that would prevent the flow of drugs through the Cause. Bunch is ambitious, crude, and cruel, although Deems thinks… read analysis of Bunch Moon
Sister Paul is one of the founding members of the Five Ends Church, as well as the oldest. She is the only living person who knows the location of the Venus of Willendorf, which she… read analysis of Sister Paul
Macy is the Governor’s brother. He has a love of fine art. While fighting in World War II, he finds a lot of valuable artifacts in Italy, which he ships home to himself. At… read analysis of Macy
Haroldeen, also known by her alias, Phyllis, is a young assassin Bunch Moon hires to kill Deems. Her assassination attempt fails, but she returns to Bunch anyway under the guise of collecting her payment… read analysis of Haroldeen/Phyllis
Jet Hardman is an African American police officer who takes pride in breaking down racial barriers. He goes undercover to spy on Deems because he wants to be the first Black undercover agent in the Cause. It is Jet who warns Deems that Sportcoat is about to shoot him.
Mr. Elefante is the deceased father of Tommy Elefante. A stoic and determined man, Mr. Elefante formed a smuggling ring in order to support his family. He hides a valuable artifact known as the Venus of Willendorf in the Five Ends Church, knowing Tommy will one day find it.
Earl is Bunch Moon’s right-hand man. He is an intelligent man who avoids violence when he can, though he is ultimately at the whim of Bunch’s demands. After Sportcoat shoots Deems, Earl is the man Bunch assigns to kill Sportcoat, though Earl repeatedly fails to carry out the hit.
Rufus Harley is one of Sportcoat’s oldest friends and one of the founding members of the Five Ends Church. He is also known for the strong and delectable moonshine he makes, which he calls “King Kong.”
Bumps is one of the original members of Deems’s gang. While in prison, he brutally beats Deems after Deems refuses to share food with him. After Bumps gets out of prison, Deems brutally beats Bumps.
Lightbulb is a member of Deems’s drug dealing circle. Although he claims to care about Deems, he sells him out to Joe Peck in an attempt to take over Deems’s flagpole.
Pudgy Fingers is the son of Sportcoat and Hettie, though not biologically. When he was an infant, his mother left him with Hettie and never came back.
Mrs. Elefante is Tommy Elefante’s mother. She is a spirited old woman who likes plants and employs Sportcoat to help her with her garden.
Mr. Itkin is an old Jewish man who owns a liquor store. He occasionally employs Sportcoat to unload crates for him.
Soup Lopez is a man from the Cause who returns from prison early in the novel. Everyone is happy that Soup is back, and they throw him a big party.
Sister T.J. Billings
Sister T.J. Billings, also known as “Bum-Bum,” is the head usher at the Five Ends Church.
Pastor Gee is the husband of Sister Gee. He is known for his philandering and for making inappropriate remarks at church.
Rooster is Deems’s cousin and the person who introduced Deems to drug dealing.
Sugar is one of the original members of Deems’s gang.
Beanie is one of the original members of Deems’s gang.