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Little Pink House: A True Story of Defiance and Courage [Hardcover]

by Jeff Benedict
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 26, 2009 0446508624 978-0446508629 First Edition
Suzette Kelo was just trying to rebuild her life when she purchased a falling down Victorian house perched on the waterfront in New London, CT. The house wasn't particularly fancy, but with lots of hard work Suzette was able to turn it into a home that was important to her, a home that represented her new found independence.

Little did she know that the City of New London, desperate to revive its flailing economy, wanted to raze her house and the others like it that sat along the waterfront in order to win a lucrative Pfizer pharmaceutical contract that would bring new business into the city. Kelo and fourteen neighbors flat out refused to sell, so the city decided to exercise its power of eminent domain to condemn their homes, launching one of the most extraordinary legal cases of our time, a case that ultimately reached the United States Supreme Court.

In Little Pink House, award-winning investigative journalist Jeff Benedict takes us behind the scenes of this case -- indeed, Suzette Kelo speaks for the first time about all the details of this inspirational true story as one woman led the charge to take on corporate America to save her home.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Benedict (The Mormon Way of Doing Business) has taken a complicated court case centered on eminent domain and turned it into a page-turner with a conscience. In 1997, an EMT named Susette Kelo left her husband, bought a cottage and started over in the economically depressed Ft. Trumbull neighborhood of New London, Conn. In February 1998, the New London Development Corporation began trying to muscle the neighborhood into selling homes to make way for a Pfizer research complex. Benedict's passionate account is rife with heroes and villains—he delights in pillorying Kelo's foil, Claire Gaudiani, the president of Connecticut College who lured Pfizer to consider New London. The fight escalated when the city tried exercising eminent domain to seize the homes of Kelo and others who refused to sell, leading to the case, Kelo v. City of New London, reaching the Supreme Court in 2005. Raising important questions about the use of economic development as a justification for displacing citizens, this book will leave readers indignant and inspired. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

* 'Passionate...A page-turner with conscience...will leave readers indignant and inspired. PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; First Edition edition (January 26, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446508624
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446508629
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #96,859 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jeff Benedict published his first book - Public Heroes, Private Felons: Athletes and Crimes Against Women - during his first year of law school in 1997. At the time he was interning in the District Attorney's Child Abuse Unit in Boston and planning on becoming a prosecutor. By the time he earned his law degree in 2000, he had published three more books: Pros and Cons: The Criminals Who Play in the NFL (Warner Books, 1998); Athletes and Acquaintance Rape (Sage Publications, 1998); and Without Reservation: How a Controversial Indian Tribe Rose to Power and Built the World's Largest Casino (HarperCollins, 2000). By then he'd decided to be a writer instead of a lawyer.

His books on athletes and crime established him as the national expert on the subject. Plus, he was the lead researcher on two groundbreaking studies conducted at Northeastern University - one on student-athletes and violence against women and one on arrest and conviction rates for athletes. In addition to being a regular analyst on network and cable news programs, Benedict served as an expert witness on behalf of rape and domestic violence victims; consulted for law firms representing victims of violence committed by athletes; and frequently appeared as a keynote speaker for women's groups, victim advocacy organizations and law enforcement conferences.

But his revelatory book on the world's largest Indian casino took him in another direction. Without Reservation questioned the legitimacy of the country's most powerful Indian tribe, prompting calls for a Congressional investigation and contributing to the defeat of a 20-year member of Congress that had helped the tribe obtain federal recognition. Benedict's book became the subject of a 60 Minutes segment and the author went on to run for Congress in the district where the tribe and its casino - Foxwoods - are located. His platform was built on reigning in the casino industry. Talk about controversy! Despite earning the support of the Wall Street Journal, Benedict fell short of capturing the Democratic nomination.

But he didn't mind. He just forged ahead and formed the nation's first statewide non-profit corporation dedicated to stopping casino expansion. As president of The Connecticut Alliance Against Casino Expansion, he partnered with Connecticut's Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and led the lobbying effort to pass landmark legislation outlawing new casinos in Connecticut. In 2004 Benedict testified against Donald Trump and other casino moguls before the House Committee on Government Reform as part a congressional investigation into the undue influence of money and lobbyists on the tribal recognition process.

At the same time, Benedict kept writing. In 2005 he conducted a six-month investigation into the negative social and economic impacts of Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods - currently the two largest casinos in the world - and published his findings in a 2-part series in the Hartford Courant: Raw Deal and Losing Hand. He also testified before the Massachusetts legislature and the Philadelphia City Council in opposition to proposals to embrace casino gambling as an economic stimulus. He served as an advisor to municipalities and grassroots organizations throughout the country. The press dubbed him 'Consultant to the Stars' after he was hired to help David Crosby, Bo Derek, Elton John's longtime songwriter Bernie Taupin and others oppose plans to expand the Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez, California. He and Crosby also lobbied the U.S. Senate's Indian Affairs Committee.

Benedict has written five other highly acclaimed books on a wide range of topics. His book No Bone Unturned: The Adventures of a Top Smithsonian Forensic Scientist and the Legal Battle for America's Oldest Skeletons (HarperCollins, 2003) was the basis of a Discovery Channel documentary and was the subject of ABC News 20/20 segment. On the heels of Kobe Bryant's arrest on rape charges in Colorado, Benedict published Out of Bounds: Inside the NBA's Culture of Rape, Violence & Crime (HarperCollins, 2004), which was the basis of a 2-part special on ABC News 20/20 also titled 'Out of Bounds.' During pre-trial proceedings in the Kobe Bryant case, Benedict got access to sealed court documents and medical records that became the basis of three stories he wrote about the case for Sports Illustrated. After Bryant's case was dismissed, Benedict wrote a short series on Bryant for the Los Angeles Times, including an award-winning feature story that revealed why the case against Bryant fell apart.

In 2007 Benedict published The Mormon Way of Doing Business: How Eight Western Boys Reached the Top of Corporate America (Warner Business Books). It was based on interviews with the CEOs at JetBlue, Madison Square Garden, Dell, and Deloitte & Touche, along with the CFO of American Express and the dean of Harvard Business School. Benedict also wrote and co-produced his first television documentary based on the book. It aired on BYU-TV and on the PBS and CBS affiliates in Utah. He filmed commercials with Glenn Beck to promote the short film. After the release of the book and the film, Benedict teamed up with the executive he had profiled for a series of forums at Yale, Harvard, Wharton, Columbia, and Brigham Young University's Marriott School of Business.

The following year Benedict was commissioned to write a book on a company that Warren Buffett purchased for $200 million. A few years later it was worth over $1 billion. How to Build a Business Warren Buffett Would Buy: The RC Willey Story (Shadow Mountain) was released in 2009. Buffett wrote the book's foreword. Also in 2009, Benedict released Little Pink House: A True Story of Defiance and Courage (Grand Central Publishing). He spent three years chronicling the eminent domain battle in Kelo v. New London, considered the most controversial Supreme Court decision since Roe v. Wade. The book received universal praise: "a fascinating narrative" (New York Times Book Review); "an absorbing read" (Wall Street Journal); and "a mind-blowing story" (NPR's Diane Rehm). Following the book's release, Benedict spent a year traveling the country with plaintiff Susette Kelo, talking to Americans about property rights.

Today Benedict is a regular contributor for SI.com and a Distinguished Professor of English at Southern Virginia University, where he teaches a seminar called Writing and Mass Media, along with a course on current affairs. He is a frequent public speaker on athletes and crime, Indian gaming, eminent domain, and leadership and ethics in business. His forthcoming book chronicles the making of the world's #1 foodborne illness lawyer Bill Marler, who rose to prominence while representing children poisoned in America's largest E. coli outbreak. Benedict has begun working on a new book that he's been privately commissioned to write about an Islamic fundamentalist who converts to Christianity and is imprisoned as an infidel.
Jeff Benedict was born in 1966 in New London, Connecticut. He has a Bachelor's in History from Eastern Connecticut State University, a Master's in Political Science from Northeastern University, and a J.D. from the New England School of Law. He previously practiced law in Connecticut, where he has spent most of his life. He currently lives in Virginia on a Civil War-era farm with his wife and best friend Lydia Benedict and their four children.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational story! January 27, 2009
Format:Audio CD
When Susette Kelo's five boys grew up and moved out of the rural house she shared with her husband it became apparent that their marriage was no longer working. Susette made the decision to leave him and move out on her own. Having also made the decision to use no money from their joint account all Susette was able to afford was a small fixer upper on the waterfront in New London, Connecticut.

Around the same time Susette purchased her new home and began to fix it up. The New London Development Corporation was formulating a plan to re-develop the waterfront which included the Ft. Trumbull area where Susette's house was located by selling the land to the pharmaceutical company Pfizer.

When Susette and more than a few of her neighbors refused to sell, the city and the NLDC tried to take their homes using eminent domain, the law which allows the state to seize a citizen's private property for public use. What resulted was court case that made it all the way to the Supreme Court and a fight that lasted over 9 years.

Blurb: "In Little Pink House, award-winning investigative journalist Jeff Benedict takes us behind the scenes of this case -- indeed, Susette Kelo speaks for the first time about all the details of this inspirational true story as one woman led the charge to take on corporate America to save her home."

The amazing spirit of Susette Kelo and the other families that refused to leave is so moving. They refused to back down when it seemed impossible that they would ever win. I admire they way Susette showed no sign of weakness in front of the big corporation and the rest of her opposition.

The news stories about the case became national news and the Supreme Court ruling became one of the most unpopular rulings of all time.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous Read, well worth your time January 23, 2009
Format:Hardcover
This is a fabulous book that takes you on the journey of the Ft. Trumbull neighborhood in New London, CT. You wll be outraged when you read what this neighborhood went through when put up against Eminent Domain. Its amazing to read how Susette Kelo stood up to her City, her State and the US Supreme Court, not for anything other than to hold onto the American Dream of owning and keeping her home. Its a page-turner with a conscience.
Little Pink House: A True Story of Defiance and Courage
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pink House - Eminent Domain - a must read January 28, 2009
Format:Hardcover
Only a few times in my life have I truly read a book cover to cover in one sitting. At the top of the list are two compelling tales - No Bone Unturned and now, Little Pink House - both by Jeff Benedict. I could not put it down although, in the spirit of full disclosure, I did close my eyes for a couple of hours at 3am this morning.

Without embellishment or taking sides Jeff immediately captured the essence of the human condition and the compelling nature of the issue. Against a backdrop of constitutional law and basic human dignity the story of Susette Kelo and her neighbours opens a dialogue on everything from states rights to faith and the human condition.

Even I find myself conflicted at the end. Eminent domain is an important tool provided to us by the framers of the constitution and in the case of New London it probably would have been a life-line for solvency if the human condition did not include greed and vengeance. Where is the balance? To the question of law I point to the simplicity and depth of the Federalist Papers.
How could such a clear document be used so badly by so many. In this story Benedict holds up a mirror up to society. We must take ourselves beyond the legal issue and ask ourselves how could we treat our neighbours so disspationately.

While there are clearly villains in this story they are not inherently evil, so where and why did they choose the path of destruction. Benedict's neutrality allows the many points of view to be appreciated (not necessarily agreed with) and discussed. Funny though, and fitting, that at the end of the day, the man who started all of this has become an embarrassing footnote in Connecticut's history.

Once again Jeff has penned a great read about an important issue.
Little Pink House: A True Story of Defiance and Courage
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An American Disconnect February 9, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is a case study on the disconnect between the American people and their government at both the state and federal levels. It shows that the bureaucrats in Washington and Hartford (in this instance) simply operate in a world of their own that has no connection with the reality of the life of a typical American citizen.

(Addendum to this review: In November of 2009, Pfizer announced that it was closing its New London office, thereby reinforcing the harsh criticism of the inept development planners in New London -- as well as the critics of the controversial U.S. Supreme Court ruling against the local homeowners and in favor of the commercial development of New London on Pfizer's behalf. Moreover 43 states have since enacted legislation preventing the kind of eminent domain taking that is described in this book.)

The book's author, Jeff Benedict, tells the tale of a woman in New London, Connecticut and seven of her neighbors who watched in horror as their government proceeded to use eminent domain to seize their private homes and eventually bulldoze them to the ground in an effort to help the Pfizer drug company expand its research facilities in the town of 25,000 people on the Connecticut shore.

Worse, when the woman, Susette Kelo, and her supporters seek justice at the nation's highest judicial level, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the town has the right to seize private property to further commercial interests, all in the name of the "public good" - even though the commercial interests destroy lives in local neighborhoods.

The whole New London episode was, in a word, a scam against the private property rights of American citizens.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Sad but true story
This story covers an incident that occurred in a small town where I lived at one time. It is a long and detailed book, but it is a true story and the book is well researched and... Read more
Published 18 days ago by Linda Gavitt
5.0 out of 5 stars Still affected five years later
This is a great book. I read it in the spring of '09, and it has stuck with me since.
It's about time to read it again. The human backstory to a great injustice.
Published 19 days ago by Craig S. Bell
5.0 out of 5 stars This book should be required reading for any elected official,...
This story is a cautionary tale, not only of the abuses of eminent domain, but of government hubris in general.
Published 24 days ago by Elliot R. Lawrence
5.0 out of 5 stars Eminent domain primer
This is a great lesson for any one who suspects that eminent domain may come to your doorsteps. A history lesson in how bussines has moved the individual to back row of property... Read more
Published 3 months ago by john yarbrough
3.0 out of 5 stars Too tedius
I think this is an important story but it just dragged on and on. The whole novel could have been done in a much shorter format. Way too long.
Published 4 months ago by L. Phipps
5.0 out of 5 stars Claire Gaudiani destroyed America.
Buy two copies so you can feed one to Claire Gaudiani. I went to Connecticut College and had Fred Paxton as an advisor. This story is important and well told.
Published 4 months ago by Charles H. Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars How can such a dry topic be so interesting to read about?
This is SUCH a great book.

We read the case in a property class in law school and O'Connor's dissent really stuck with me. Read more
Published 5 months ago by h0804river
3.0 out of 5 stars Yawn.
I just struggled to read this book. I just didn't really care if she got the house or not, and the dude friend seemed creepy.
Published 8 months ago by College Jane
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read.
Especially if you are from New England or know the area.
It is a well written and intriguing story of eminent domain and its aftermath. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Thomas C. Morrow
5.0 out of 5 stars The Pink House
I live in central Connecticut & have strong memories of this drama as it unfolded. This book is the back story. I LOVED it! Read more
Published 14 months ago by Lifelong Student
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