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The Savage City : Race, Murder, and a Generation on the Edge [Paperback]

T. J. English
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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3.0 out of 5 stars A Savage Time in NYC Jan. 27 2012
By Jeffrey Swystun TOP 50 REVIEWER
The decline of New York makes for fascinating reading. The period this book overs from roughly 1963 to 1973 saw an incredible slide in the quality of everyone's life. Author English himself is astounded that the city now is able to bill itself as the Safest Big City in America considering the relatively recent history. It was only two decades ago that Central Park and Times Square were two places among many that people would avoid. Race, poverty, police brutality, corruption, and street crime were really off the charts quantitatively and qualitatively through the 1960's and 1970's. The root causes are interesting, such as, the great migration of blacks from the south, suburban white men dominance of the police ranks, the growing drug trade, and the rise of activism along with the simultaneous decline of trust in established institutions.

This is the backdrop provided for three people's lives covered in the book. There is George Whitmore, a young black man wrongly accused of certain crimes; William "Bill" Phillips, a cop on the take because that is what the system allowed and; Dhoruba Bin Wahad, whose outrage led him to leadership roles as a black militant. Whitmore's tale alone is surreal and undeniably horrifying.

On a side note, one crime Whitmore was accused of was sensationalized as "The Career Girl Murders". One of the girls was Janice Wylie whose father, Max, was an advertising executive with Lennen & Newell that produced some iconic advertising including "Hey Big Spender" for Muriel.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  78 reviews
52 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars powerful historical account of the Big Apple rotten to the core March 15 2011
By Harriet Klausner - Published on
In 1963, on the same day that Reverend King presented his "I have a Dream", in a Manhattan apartment, two white females were bound, raped, and brutally murdered. Nineteen year old vision impaired black laborer George Whitmore is arrested for the gruesome homicides that the media calls the "Career Girl Murders". NYPD obtained a forced signed confession from Whitmore. The convicted Whitmore spent the next decade trying to obtain justice from a system that refused to budge beyond locking away a scapegoat black male for a heinous crime against white females.

NYPD Bill Phillips was a second generation cop. He was corrupt and caught by the Knapp Commission looking into alleged illegal activity by law enforcement before testifying in the early 1970s about a department overwhelmingly white, bias and dirty. Many cops went to jail due in part to his testimony. In 1975 he was convicted of murdering The Happy Hooker and her pimp and spent years behind bars.

Dhoruba Bin Wahad was a founding father of the Black Panther Party who spent years in prison. He made enemies on both sides of the vast racial divide as rival Black groups including inside the Panthers and the white establishment through NYPD and the courts sought to silence him. In 1973 he was convicted of attempted murder of two cops in his third trial.

This is a powerful historical account of a brutal dark period in which T.J. English shines a spotlight on a New York troubled by racial tension as police brutality became a household phrase while the cops faced urban guerilla warfare with no psychological or combat training. The prime trio remains alive and free although each spent long period in jail; through them and their associates, Mr. English describes the Big Apple as rotten to the core.

Harriet Klausner
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply brilliant April 21 2012
By Tjc - Published on
In my own country (UK) we have a handful of journalistic crime writers - Ludovic Kennedy being perhaps the most eminent but T.J.English leaves them all standing. I couldn't put 'The Westies' down - same story with 'Paddywhacked' and this, 'The Savage City' is without doubt one of the very the best non-fiction book I have ever read. English takes three separate characters and skillfully weaves their lives together through events, circumstance and the all important common denominator of national shame. Each were players in a time and history of New York that very few writers (if any) have eluded to. An innocent black youth, unfortunate to be in the wrong place at the wrong time;a crooked cop who thought New York belonged to him and a former street thug who found his voice and released his anger as a member of The Black Panther Movement. The narrative moves along at seamless pace, flitting from the progress of each of the protagonists as their stories unfold.

Only by this book, can we sit back and gauge how far we have moved on from the cancer of institutional racism, and perhaps more crucially, apathy. English has broken the mould here. Daring, brave, and ultimately ground breaking, I challenge anyone to read this book and not feel ashamed, relviled and ultimately shell-shocked by the times that existed within our living memory.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Truth Shall Set You Free April 18 2011
By Beverly Jackson - Published on
In The Savage City by T.J. English, the author has written an impressive narrative that exposes the gritty side of New York City. Starting with two seemingly unrelated events that occurred on August 28, 1963, Mr. English explores the issues of race, class, criminal justice, and corruption in one of the most volatile periods in New York City history, allowing the city to earn the name, The Savage City. One event is the Martin Luther King Jr. "I Have a Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, which inspired action and hope in many Americans to initiate change to make the nation a better place. The other event is the murder of two young white, professional women in their Manhattan apartment, a gruesome crime given the name, The Career Girls Murder case, which put fear in the hearts of many New Yorkers who felt they were no longer safe.

The Savage City unravels this painful tale through the lives of three diverse men - who never met each other, yet each was part of this landscape and had very public faces/roles. The most tragic figure of the three is George Whitmore Jr., who is 19 years old when he is arrested and charged in the Career Girls Murder, not because he is guilty but because he is naïve and the police is all powerful and only wants to check this case off the list. Bill Phillips is a second-generation cop, who cannot wait to get to shake down businesses and police to supplement his measly police salary, but will his brazenness and police honor code allow him to avoid public scrutiny. For Dhoruba bin Wahad finding few opportunities for a young, black male turns to petty crime and is incarcerated where his introspectiveness leads him to militant activism and one of the founders of the New York Black Panthers party. Through the vibrant voices of the three men, and the well-written narrative, I was able to be caught up in the swirl of police brutality and the racial unrest that were so part of the lives of many black Americans that lived during this time. Change is always difficult, and unfortunately, usually involves violence to make the necessity of change understood. All three of the men did spend time in prison and are alive today, and it would be interesting to hear their voices and views today on how much change has taken place, as cases of uncalled for police brutality have surfaced over the last couple of years.

I recommend this book for anyone who is interested in the history of this era, and especially for those who thought that the battlefields of the Civil Rights and black militarism were taking place in the South and West.

This book was provided by the publisher for review purposes.

Reviewed by Beverly
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars English does a great job with The Savage City April 14 2011
By E. Craig - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Book opens great, yet lacks some background information that may have been beneficial to you story. English lays out the stories in such a vivid manner allowing the reader to vision the story as it happens. I personally am not old enough to remember any of these events but reading this material prompted me to do some searching regarding the murders, the panthers, and Phillips. I personally enjoyed the story and the way English laid it out and have recommended it for others to read and learn just a portion of the history of the "safest city in America".
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A true masterpiece July 18 2011
By A. Tegtmeier - Published on
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
This book is about police corruption, prosecutorial malfeasance, civil unrest, and institutional racism in the New York City of the 1960s and 1970s.
It tell the stories of a corrupt and racist policeman, a black militant, and an innocent young black who is pulled into a maelstrom of injustice and unfairness by the white judicial system.
Although the fates of these three men are not directly related, they happen towards the same backdrop, within the same corrupt and racist system, in the same times of civil rights struggle that characterized New York City and the rest of the country back then.
It is a meticulously research book, written without any political bias, but with sympathy for the fate of the underprivileged, the beaten, the men and women at the bottom of society.
Its narrative is riveting, the facts are astonishing and the events it describes leave you breathless at times.
I grew up knowing New York as the murder capital of the world, and reading this book I now understand why it could come to that. It also sheds a bright spotlight on the black civil rights struggle of the time, and especially the gradual militarization of the frustrated black minority, which was helpless against the extortion, the brutality and the blatant racism brought towards them from the police.
It is not a dry history book, but a book that should be mandatory reading material in each class about US history. well, strike that - there are too many f-words in the police transcripts the author uses here, and also a picture of a naked woman.
But the most shocking thing about this book is that the history it tells, the wrongdoings that occurred way back then, are still not overcome yet. The underlying currents that made all that possible are still there, covered by the veneer of modern comfortable life, but all this could come back in a hurry. Not with the black part of the population perhaps; maybe this time it's the Hispanics turn. And that makes this book so relevant today, even if it just tells an old story from an era long gone.
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