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Michael Halperin
Black Wheels
Inspired by a true story. Fifteen-year-old African-American Nat Fowler, raised on his family farm in predominately white Missouri in the late 1800s, runs away from home and joins the army when accused of murdering a white man. He ends up at Fort Missoula, Montana immersed for the first time in his life in all-black culture with the 25th Infantry. A white officer, Lt. James Moss, convinces the War Department to test the modern bicycle as a replacement for the horse. Nat, an avid bicycle rider, joins the Bicycle Corps as the Department of War orders Moss and 19 black soldiers to prove his theory. They must complete a journey of 1900 miles in forty days from Missoula, Montana to St. Louis, Missouri over the most rugged territory in the United States. During the journey he falls in love, discovers bigotry and hatred, finds friends, betrayal and comrades but also grows up as the 20th century approaches.
Dr. John A. Davis Chair, African-American Studies Loyola Marymount University

It was heart wrenching for me to 'feel' the struggle of these Black men in 1897 struggling to demonstrate to whites that they were equal human beings… [as] seen through the eyes of a Black teenager…The story also angered me because it is a struggle that still continues today…I enjoyed reading the novel.

Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, Montana

"I thoroughly enjoyed it… [it] handled the whole racist issue in the West and…the changing and unchanging attitudes…the men's travails made fascinating reading…" 

Robert M. Brown, Executive Director


National Education Association African American Booklist

Great read: BLACK WHEELS, YA novel available in print/on Kindle  at Amazon. 

A perfect book for teens 13-19.  Inspired by a true story.  In 1896 a fifteen year-old African American farm boy joins the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps on a searing 1900-mile bicycle trek across the American heartland to prove the bicycle as a weapon of war.  During the journey the boy learns about bigotry, comradeship and love.  

Voice of Youth Advocates Young Adults Library Magazine

Nat Fowler, a fifteen-year-old African American, thought he would spend his time working on his father’s farm and riding his bicycle with his white friend, Colin.  A chance meeting with a group of gun-wielding mule skinners changes that.  One of the men is shot, and because Nat had been hassled by them, he is an immediate suspect.  Fearing for his life, he runs off to join the Army.  Nat finds himself in the Twenty-fifth Infantry stationed at Fort Missoula, Montana.  The group is unique because it is a bicycle unit.  The lieutenant in charge is convinced that bicycles will replace the horse.  His determination and grit results in the War Department challenging them to prove their “stuff” by cycling from Montana to St. Louis, a journey of 1,900 miles.  The trip is long, arduous, and eye-opening for the sheltered Nat.  He is confronted by hate, prejudice, and ignorance.  

Based on a true story, this novel is a gem.  The preface and epilogue tell of the actual Twenty-fifth Infantry.  The story is well told, and the characters are varied and real.  There are nuggets of irony throughout, such as when the corps turns over a traitor to the authorities.  The telegraph operator thinks it is “peculiar to jail one of your own kind.”  Nat’s response is “Mister, if you mean on account he’s colored, then I guess ever time a white does something wrong, we ought to say ‘that’s funny, after all, he’s one of your kind!’ ”.   This book will become popular. – Susan Allen