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Detroit: An American Autopsy [Hardcover]

Charlie LeDuff
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 12 2013
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.

Frequently Bought Together

Customers buy this book with Lost Detroit: Stories Behind the Motor City's Majestic Ruins (MI) CDN$ 17.50

Detroit: An American Autopsy + Lost Detroit: Stories Behind the Motor City's Majestic Ruins (MI)
Price For Both: CDN$ 36.00

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Review

"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

“This is our pick for a sleeper nonfiction hit next year. Charlie LeDuff is a remarkable journalist, and this book is filled with incredible writing as he witnesses his home city crumble through neglect and corruption.”
Huffington Post

“What to do when you’re a reporter and your native city is rotting away? If you’re LeDuff, you leave The New York Times and head into the wreckage to ride with firemen, hang with the corrupt pols, and retrace your own family’s sad steps through drugs. Others have written well about the city, but none with the visceral anger, the hair-tearing frustration, and the hungry humanity of LeDuff.”
Newsweek


Advance Praise for Detroit:

"You wouldn't think a book about the stinking decay of the American dream could be this engaging, this irreverent, this laugh-at-loud funny. But not everyone can write like Charlie LeDuff. I'm tempted to say he's the writer for our desperate times the way Steinbeck and Orwell were for other people's desperate times, except he's such an original he's like no one but himself."
—Alexandra Fuller, author of Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness and Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight

"Charlie LeDuff is a drunkard, a blowhard, a Fox News Reporter -- and a brilliant writer. Detroit is full of righteous anger and heartbreaking details. It's also funny as hell. Hunter S. Thompson would've loved every page of this book."
—Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation and Reefer Madness

"In Detroit: An American Autopsy, Charlie LeDuff brings alive the reality of our beloved city. The city where I was shot at eight times during my twenty six year police career. Yet, Detroit has survived in spite of corruption, political ineptness, poor education, and decades of unemployment. Detroit: An American Autopsy is a must read for all of America."
—Detroit Police Chief Ike McKinnon (retired); Associate Professor of Education, University of Detroit Mercy
 

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

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read! Sept. 6 2013
By FJM
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A excellent read. Charlie LeDuff is a great storyteller. If you want to get a feel for how bad things in Detroit are read this book!
How many other cities in the US or parts of them are in as bad a shape as Detroit. It seems that politicians at all levels fiddle while cities burn.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book. Hard hitting but so real Dec 10 2013
By Mike
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Sad book in a way but so real. Leduff really captures detroit and it's fall. He also explains it's downfall so well. No fancy words. It reads like he is talking to you directly. Awesome.
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Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have lived on the border of this great city in my youth. I found the authors writing to be very illuminating on how far that this once great city has fallen. If you ever loved Detroit you should read this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Gritty and Prosaic Sept. 3 2013
By Richard
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Those two words don't often go well together - gritty and prosaic. But with 'Detroit: An American Autopsy,' they merge easily into a very entertaining and important work of non-fiction. The topic is a gloomy one, the impending death of a once great metropolis. But it is ultimately a story of redemption. The city can come back. It can resurrect itself. It also serves as a reminder that Detroit can happen to any city.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting book, well written July 30 2013
By mpfg
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
tons of facts, anectdotes.. very timely with what is happening to the city at the moment. Recommended read to anyone interested in history
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5.0 out of 5 stars Detroit with guts May 2 2013
Format:Hardcover
This non-fiction book about Detroit was written with spirit and honesty by Charlie LeDuff, a journalist who does not stand at arms length from what he chronicles. This is the city through the eyes of a man born and raised in a rough and tumble working class Detroit neighborhood. The author is irrepressible, honest and a bit of an attention seeker. His book is a highly personal account of the changes that Detroit has undergone in the past several decades, written by a man who did go home again. The only criticism I have is that sometimes the author tries too hard to write memorable lines. Highly recommended. Read as a companion piece alongside "313: Life in the motor City" by John Carlisle. And be sure to catch Charlie LeDuff's videos on YouTube!
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