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Devil's Night: And Other True Tales of Detroit Paperback – October 1, 1991

90 customer reviews

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--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Chafets interviews Detroiters about the Motor City's decline and shows how "Devil's Night," the night before Halloween, evolved from an evening of pranks into one of rampant arson. "An enormously unsettling read and a tragically accurate picture of a dying metropolis," said PW but criticized "the author's penchant for sweeping generalizations and his tendency to shy away from tougher issues."
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Chafets, the Israeli-based author of Members of the Tribe ( LJ 11/15/88) and Heroes and Hustlers, Hard Hats and Holy Men ( LJ 4/15/86), has drawn a bold sketch, already excerpted in the New York Times Magazine , of his hometown Detroit. Abandoned and hated by whites, with a people and mayor seething because they cannot turn political control into economic self-sufficiency, Detroit is America's first Third World city, Chafets asserts. Lacking the scholarly precision and analysis of Sidney Fine's Violence in the Motor City (Univ. of Michigan Pr., 1989) or the inside access of Wilbur Rich's biography of the mayor, Coleman Young and Detroit Politics (Wayne State Univ. Pr., 1989), Chafets's account instead relies on "close approximations" of the truth from his various interviews with Detroit inhabitants. Because of this, Chafets can only provide a partial, often faulty picture of the city, but one that is nevertheless compelling. Recommended for larger urban studies and city library collections.
- JoEllen Vinyard, Eastern Michigan Univ., Ypsilanti
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 45 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (October 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679735917
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679735915
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,899,260 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Zev Chafets is the author of eleven books of fiction, media criticism, and social and political commentary. He is a frequent contributor to The New York Times Magazine and a former columnist for the New York Daily News.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

70 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Michael A. Messina on April 14, 2009
Format: Paperback
It's twenty years old, but this is the best and most accessible nonfiction account of Detroit's traumatic postwar decline I have read. The writer, a white Israeli-American, approaches the subject without too much sensationalism, and does a good job of explaining how the race and class wars of the sixties and seventies led to political solidification of Coleman Young's machine, for better or for worse.
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75 of 77 people found the following review helpful By stoic VINE VOICE on August 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The quote above sums up Ze'ev Chafet's view of Detroit. Chafets grew up in suburban Pontiac, but left Michigan to live in Israel in 1967. About 20 years later, Chafets returned to find that white flight had transformed Detroit. Devil's Night is the story of what he found.

To Chafets, Detroit was the first major city in which black Americans were firmly in charge of their own destiny. Detroit, then, is a model of what the rest of America could become. Chafet's picture is relentlessly depressing. Even Detroit's Chief of Police says "This city is just one big ghetto..." (p. 41).

A large part of the book focuses on Detroit's first black mayor - Coleman Young - who served five terms from 1973 to 1993. Young's popularity reveals both the anger and ambitions of Detroit's black residents. White suburbanites and Young share a mutual contempt.

Chafet's story is also personal. He relates that his grandfather was murdered while running a small grocery in Detroit. As a youth, Chafets had a black friend named Charles, who taught Chafets about black culture. The two men parted on bad terms and Chafets wonders what became of Charles.

Devil's Night is fascinating in its depiction of Detroit as a Third World city in the U.S. (For a starkly different view of Detroit, read Coleman Young's entertaining autobiography Hard Stuff). Devil's Night "grabs" the reader and won't let go - find a copy and read it.
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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Lindsey Fairbrother on August 1, 2013
Format: Paperback
The "Editorial Reviews" are a good of example of how political correctness, and fear of speaking the truth, harms this country. The review from Publishers Weekly, is simplistic, talking about merely one symptom, not even one cause, of Detroit's decline. The review from Library Journal is like a sharpshooter aiming 180 degrees off the target, mainly criticizing the author. It fails to mention the word "black" while talking about "white hatred."

Both of the reviews say he misses the mark, and fails to address the issues, but then these "scholarly reviews" don't bother to mention what the "issues" are.

Both of the reviews are 100% politically correct. Who knows, maybe if more people had read this book, instead of being chased out of the discussion room, Detroit could have been saved.

"I see that he really doesn't get a good grip on the root of the city's problems, that being corruption, affirmative action, divisiveness toward the suburbs, and tax policies that drive away those that might otherwise be Detroit residents."

Well, "affirmative action" is RACISM, okay?

And "divisiveness toward the suburbs" is also racism.

You can call a "cat" a "horse," but it won't pull a wagon, and it won't eat oats. All the "scholarly reviews" by "learned social scientwits" won't make a cat into a horse

If you want to call Coleman Young's "black racism" something else, like "tulips of all colors" or "sweet sugar oats" or "affirmative action," fine. You will still, in the end, have all the problems of black racism.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Robert K. Levy on May 29, 2013
Format: Paperback
I read the book about 20 years ago when it came out. The one thing that I really remember was the way he searched and searched to find out why young girls in Detroit kept getting pregnant. He finally found the answer - it was because they wanted to have kids. Sounds obvious, but to "social experts" it was the last thing they would ever consider. To them, it's lack of access to birth control, lack of sex education, peer pressure to have unprotected sex, etc. It never occurs to our experts that maybe, just maybe, these high school girls really want to have a child. That's what he found out, when one girl, who hadn't had a child, said to him how she wishes so hard to join her friends' mommy club - in other how badly she wants a child. He knew that having kids that young really messes up the chances for what otherwise could be successful adult lives - but there was nothing he could do, beyond document the situation.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Nina Alter on December 9, 2008
Format: Paperback
So: I'm constantly reading research studies for work, and can very much appreciate the critique lodged at this book by the first 2 reviewers. It doesn't begin to scratch at the surface to find comprehensive problem/solution relationships between Detroit's demise & possible causes, a rich history of events, and/or possible solutions ahead.

As a native of the area who was born in Ann Arbor and ceased all residence in the area at 22, I just darn enjoyed the book- a lot. One area where I do feel it succeeds wildly, is providing a glimpse into the area's bizzare-ish folklore and fractured social fabric.

I love the city of Detroit (proper), and if I didn't have a creative thing established in the Bay Area, I'd likely move back. I frequently recommend this book to folks in search of a quick-read piece to offer some clarity into quirks, that history books and more deeply-analytical critical writings, don't. There are dozens of books that critically examine race relations, economic impacts, industry movement, etc., but this one simply tells some stories- and stories that imho, are important to consider, in assessing the cultural/human impact, abreast the critical & academic readings.

As with many books: this is a great one to compliment a stack, if you're looking to read a few to get a good perspective... but it's not "the one," though I don't think was ever intended to be.
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