The Cross and the Switchblade

Book rating: ****
By David Wilkerson
Published 1963

Review: February 2015

“The tortured face of a young killer, one of seven boys on trial for a brutal murder, started country preacher David Wilkerson on his lonely crusade to the most dangerous streets in the world. Violent gangs ruled by warlords, drug pushers and pimps held the streets of New York’s ghetto’s in an iron grip. It was into this world that David Wilkerson stepped, armed only with the simple message of God’s love and the promise of the Holy Spirit’s power. Then the miracles began to happen…The Cross and the Switchblade is one of the most inspiring and challenging true stories of all time. It has sold millions of copies throughout the world and has been made into a feature film.

The Cross and the Switchblade tells the story of David Wilkerson’s first five years in New York. It’s the true life story of gang warfare in New York and the lives of gang members, such as Nicky Cruz, who find their lives dramatically transformed by Christ. It was Preacher David Wilkerson himself who finds himself in their lives and showing them another way, through Christ to live their lives and relate to other human beings.”

The gripping story often reads like fiction and often I found myself pinching myself to remember that this is not fiction at all, but is actually based on real life events.
The impact of the book and spin off film has been huge. The book has sold more than 15 million copies and been distributed in over 30 languages. The film has been viewed by an estimated 50 million people in over 30 languages in 150 countries, according to World Film Crusade. They also report that it is one of the most viewed films in the world and is credited with drawing millions to Christ.

With all that’s going on with knife and gang related crime in our big cities I would say this book is as relevant today as when published in 1963. If young people leading a life of crime could read it and/or view the film, who knows what transformations may be possible.

After all the battle against knife crime is not going to be won by tougher sentences or unsubtle mandatory sentences for carrying a knife as some of our politicians would have us believe. Instead, the victory will go to whoever wins over the hearts and minds of young knife carrying young men. Books and films such as this one are ones they can probably relate to as they seem to depict a real understanding of life on the streets, what it means to be in a gang and what opportunities may open up to young people if they choose to look for alternative lifestyles. This is one vital strategy through which the war on youth crime will be won.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

Thank you for reading our book review. We hope you enjoyed it and that if you did, will share it with others who may be interested in this book and may also appreciate the chance to read it.

David Wilkerson (1931-2011) was the founder of Teen Challenge and World Challenge and long time senior pastor of Times Square Church. He authored more than thirty books, including the bestselling The Cross and the Switchblade and Knowing God by Name. He ministered to people worldwide, and on the day of his death, he was still ministering.


Further information and world challenge books – Cross and Switchblade
Cross and Switchblade and other books by David Wilkerson – Store
Team Challenge – Team Challenge UK 

Enough is Enough – Battle against knife crime – Tiemo Blog, 3rd February 2015


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9 Responses to The Cross and the Switchblade

  1. Pauleen says:

    Excellent book which I read some time ago. “Run Baby Run” is also great which gets you into the head of a notorious gang member and how he turned his life around.

    Is this the start of a virtual book club?

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