Detroit: An American Autopsy

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Detroit: An American Autopsy

by Charlie Leduff

Penguin Press (HC) | February 12, 2013 | Hardcover

4 out of 5 rating. 2 Reviews
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A New York Times Bestseller

“A book full of both literary grace and hard-won world-weariness... Iggy Pop meets Jim Carroll and Charles Bukowski" –Kirkus, STARRED REVIEW


Back in his broken hometown, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Charlie LeDuff searches through the ruins for clues to its fate, his family's, and his own. Detroit is where his mother's flower shop was firebombed in the pre-Halloween orgy of arson known as Devil's Night; where his sister lost herself to the west side streets; where his brother, who once sold subprime mortgages with skill and silk, now works in a factory cleaning Chinese-manufactured screws so they can be repackaged as “May Be Made in United States."

Having led us on the way up, Detroit now seems to be leading us on the way down. Once the richest city in America, Detroit is now the nation's poorest. Once the vanguard of America's machine age—mass production, blue-collar jobs, and automobiles—Detroit is now America's capital for unemployment, illiteracy, dropouts, and foreclosures. It is an eerie and angry place of deserted factories and abandoned homes and forgotten people. Trees and switchgrass and wild animals have come back to reclaim their right¬ful places. Coyotes are here. The pigeons have left. A city the size of San Francisco and Manhattan could neatly fit into Detroit's vacant lots. After revealing that the city's murder rate is higher than the official police number—making it the highest in the country—a weary old detective tells LeDuff, “In this city two plus two equals three."

With the steel-eyed reportage that has become his trademark and the righteous indignation only a native son possesses, LeDuff sets out to uncover what destroyed his city. He embeds with a local fire brigade struggling to defend its city against systemic arson and bureaucratic corruption. He investigates politicians of all stripes, from the smooth-talking mayor to career police officials to ministers of the backstreets, following the paperwork to discover who benefits from Detroit's decline. He beats on the doors of union bosses and homeless squatters, powerful businessmen and struggling homeowners, and the ordinary people holding the city together by sheer determination.

If Detroit is America's vanguard in good times and bad, then here is the only place to turn for guid¬ance in our troubled era. While redemption is thin on the ground in this ghost of a city, Detroit: An American Autopsy is no hopeless parable. LeDuff shares an unbelievable story of a hard town in a rough time filled with some of the strangest and strongest people our country has to offer. Detroit is a dark comedy of the absurdity of American life in the twenty-first century, a deeply human drama of colossal greed and endurance, ignorance and courage.

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 304 pages, 3.65 × 2.48 × 0.47 in

Published: February 12, 2013

Publisher: Penguin Press (HC)

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 1594205345

ISBN - 13: 9781594205347

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– More About This Product –

Detroit: An American Autopsy

by Charlie Leduff

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 304 pages, 3.65 × 2.48 × 0.47 in

Published: February 12, 2013

Publisher: Penguin Press (HC)

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 1594205345

ISBN - 13: 9781594205347

About the Book

With the steel-eyed reportage that has become his trademark--and the righteous indignation only a native son possesses--LeDuff sets out to uncover what destroyed his city. What he reveals is that Detroit is, once and for all, America's city: it led the way up, and now it is leading the way down.

Read from the Book

Prologue I reached down the pant cuff with the eraser end of my pencil and poked it. Frozen solid. But definitely human. “Goddamn.” I took a deep breath through my cigarette. I didn’t want to use my nose. It was late January, the air scorching cold. The snow was falling sideways as it usually did in Detroit this time of year. The dead man was encased in at least four feet of ice at the bottom of a defunct elevator shaft in an abandoned building. But still, there was no telling what the stink might be like. I couldn’t make out his face. The only things protruding above the ice were the feet, dressed in some white sweat socks and a pair of black gym shoes. I could see the hem of his jacket below the surface. The rest of him tapered off into the void. In most cities, a death scene like this would be considered remarkable, mind-blowing, horrifying. But not here. Something had happened in Detroit while I was away. I had left the city two decades earlier to try to make a life for myself that didn’t involve a slow death working in a chemical factory or a liquor store. Any place but those places. But where? I wandered for years, working my way across Asia, Europe, the Arctic edge working as a cannery hand, a carpenter, a drifter. And then I settled into the most natural thing for a man with no real talents. Journalism. It required no expertise, no family connections and no social graces. Furthermore, it seemed to be the only job that paid you to travel, e
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From the Publisher

A New York Times Bestseller

“A book full of both literary grace and hard-won world-weariness... Iggy Pop meets Jim Carroll and Charles Bukowski" –Kirkus, STARRED REVIEW


Back in his broken hometown, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Charlie LeDuff searches through the ruins for clues to its fate, his family's, and his own. Detroit is where his mother's flower shop was firebombed in the pre-Halloween orgy of arson known as Devil's Night; where his sister lost herself to the west side streets; where his brother, who once sold subprime mortgages with skill and silk, now works in a factory cleaning Chinese-manufactured screws so they can be repackaged as “May Be Made in United States."

Having led us on the way up, Detroit now seems to be leading us on the way down. Once the richest city in America, Detroit is now the nation's poorest. Once the vanguard of America's machine age—mass production, blue-collar jobs, and automobiles—Detroit is now America's capital for unemployment, illiteracy, dropouts, and foreclosures. It is an eerie and angry place of deserted factories and abandoned homes and forgotten people. Trees and switchgrass and wild animals have come back to reclaim their right¬ful places. Coyotes are here. The pigeons have left. A city the size of San Francisco and Manhattan could neatly fit into Detroit's vacant lots. After revealing that the city's murder rate is higher than the official police number—making it the highest in the country—a weary old detective tells LeDuff, “In this city two plus two equals three."

With the steel-eyed reportage that has become his trademark and the righteous indignation only a native son possesses, LeDuff sets out to uncover what destroyed his city. He embeds with a local fire brigade struggling to defend its city against systemic arson and bureaucratic corruption. He investigates politicians of all stripes, from the smooth-talking mayor to career police officials to ministers of the backstreets, following the paperwork to discover who benefits from Detroit's decline. He beats on the doors of union bosses and homeless squatters, powerful businessmen and struggling homeowners, and the ordinary people holding the city together by sheer determination.

If Detroit is America's vanguard in good times and bad, then here is the only place to turn for guid¬ance in our troubled era. While redemption is thin on the ground in this ghost of a city, Detroit: An American Autopsy is no hopeless parable. LeDuff shares an unbelievable story of a hard town in a rough time filled with some of the strangest and strongest people our country has to offer. Detroit is a dark comedy of the absurdity of American life in the twenty-first century, a deeply human drama of colossal greed and endurance, ignorance and courage.

About the Author

CHARLIE LEDUFF was a staff writer at the New York Times and a reporter at the Detroit News, and is now a television journalist for Detroit's Fox 2 News. He contributed to a Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times series and has received a Meyer Berger Award for distinguished writing about New York City. He is the author of US Guys and Work and Other Sins. LeDuff lives with his wife and daughter on the edge of the Detroit city limits.

www.charlieleduff.com

Editorial Reviews

"LeDuff returns, by the books end, to the bar where his sister was last seen, only to find it unrecognizable. A black man outside explains the changes. ''they trying to put something nice up'' in this hellhole he says, speaking of the bar specifically, though his words spread across the city and pay tribute, in equal measure, to its dreamers, its pessimists and to those, resigned and wrung out, who love it despite all. ''Can''t say it''s working. But what you gonna do? You ain’t gonna be reincarnated, so you got to do the best you can with the moment you got. Do the best you can and try to be good.'' LeDuff has done his best, and his book is better than good." —Paul Clemens, New York Times Book Review "One cannot read Mr. LeDuff''s amalgam of memoir and reportage and not be shaken by the cold eye he casts on hard truths... A little gonzo, a little gumshoe, some gawker, some good-Samaritan— it is hard to ignore reporting like Mr. LeDuff''s." — The Wall Street Journal “Pultizer-Prize-winning journalist LeDuff ( Work and Other Sins ) delivers an edgy portrait of the decline, destruction, and possible redemption of his hometown… LeDuff writes with honesty and compassion about a city that’s destroying itself–and breaking his heart.” — Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW “A book full of both literary grace and hard-won world-weariness …. Iggy Pop meets Jim Carroll and Charles Bukowski” — Kirkus “
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