While inevitably this will be compared with Waterfront -- it has a fresh approach to the problem of waterfront crime and its consequences. It manages to avoid the stereotype of black and white- good guys and bad; the priest of the title is himself so deeply involved in a past of crime that his agony lies in his inability to solve his people's problems because they are his own. Father Scarpi was born and bred in poverty, son of a Sicilian fisherman working out of Boston. His life is an endless round of violence and trouble; before he entered the priesthood he was a huge bruiser, violent and passionate, his life crippled with conflict. He had committed many of the sins his Sicilian waterfront parishioners committed; he was himself eternally the penitent, whose moral honesty moves his parish to loyalty and selfsearching. The basic plot is concerned with his efforts to free a condemned man from punishment for a sin he had not committed; a racketeer has confessed the murder to Father Scarpi. That his search for justice brought on fresh tragedy shook his faith profoundly and this internal struggle is part of the novel's power. An unusual first novel.