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My City Was Gone: One American Town's Toxic Secret, Its Angry Band of Locals, and a $700 Million Day in Court Hardcover – August 15, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; First Edition edition (August 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060585501
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060585501
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,948,216 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Anniston, Ala., where decades of PCB contamination from a Monsanto chemical plant led to a massive lawsuit and a $700 million settlement—twice the celebrated "Erin Brockovich" payout—is also where journalist Love grew up. Love's retelling of this toxic tort saga—and an unrelated battle between environmentalists and the Pentagon over a plan to incinerate chemical weapons at a local army depot—also tries to outdo the movie Erin Brockovich in drama, flamboyant characterizations and feisty populism. Almost every participant in the tussle gets an overdrawn profile—"David Baker was back, baby"—and almost every development gets ominously foreshadowed ("there was something out there on the edge of town that had scared these Monsanto folks half to death"). Thrown in are lengthy musings on the town's history and troubled race relations—most of the Monsanto plaintiffs were from Anniston's poor, mostly black West Side—and the author's idyllic childhood there. The space given to extraneous human interest would have been better used filling out the author's sketchy, inadequate exposition of the science behind the competing environmental, medical and legal claims. (Aug. 15)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Award-winning reporter Love grew up in Anniston, Alabama, the home of a Monsanto chemical plant and a military depot for chemical weapons. That combination proved lethal to the residents of the once--thriving industrial town, as dangerous levels of chemicals dumped in nearby waterways and on land produced alarming levels of cancer and death, eventually creating a ghost town. Love explores the economic and social forces that led to lawsuit settlements that exceeded those in the Erin Brockovich case, attracting legal heavyweights, including Johnnie Cochran, and highlighting modern corporate and military environmental villainy. To tell his compelling story, Love focuses on three townspeople: David Baker, a black man with union-organizing experience who led the charge against the polluters; Chip Howell, the white mayor who tried desperately to weigh environmental against economic interests of the town; and Love himself, the native son whose early memories of the town he could never forget provide compelling background to a dramatic story of the vulnerability of small towns to economic enticements that put their residents' health and lives at risk. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By PaulB on March 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is written with astonishing accuracy. I too, am a victim of Monsanto while stationed at Fort McClellan Army post in Anniston. I was going through the Military Police school from May-Sept 1978. We were totally unaware of the surrounding dangers of these toxins, radiation and nerve agents. Many years later, I have been diagnosed woth numerous illnesses, all that can be linked to my exposure while in Anniston. Both Monsanto and the U.S. Government have tried to cover this exposure up and as of today, we veterans have not been officially notified of our exposure, neither by Monsanto, nor the government. Alot of us have died and many others are dying. We are fighting to be evaluated, treated and compensated for our numerous illnesses and diseases. It has been a long battle. HR411 was drafted by Congressman Paul Tonko (NY) to get us help. It has sat for 7 years and still has not been passed. We veterans ask that all of you might sign the HR411 petition to assist us all in getting help. Thanks. Paul.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By stoic VINE VOICE on April 28, 2009
Format: Paperback
My City Was Gone recounts journalist Dennis Love's return to his former home in Anniston, Alabama; the book, however, is not just about his homecoming. Love focuses on the Monsanto Corporation's environmental crimes in Anniston. Monsanto spent decades dumping pollutants in the local ecosystem. Anniston's residents subsequently developed incredibly-high rates of many diseases, including cancer. In My City, Love examines Anniston's impact on the outside world and the outside world's (often- negative) impact on Anniston.

There are many things to like about the book. Love is a talented writer with a good sense of the rhythm (peaks and valleys) in his story; he keeps the narrative moving forward and does not bore you. Also, Love has a good feel for Alabama and its people. He gives a vivid account of what it was like to grow up in Alabama, attend the University of Alabama, and work at the Anniston Star newspaper. He also has a flair for bringing characters to life. In My City, you will meet: a) Donald Stewart - a former U.S. Senator who led the litigation against Monsanto, b) David Baker - who moved away to New York City to work as a labor organizer and then returned to Anniston to help organize the community against Monsanto, and c) Love, who recounts his long journey from Anniston to California and back.

Monsanto Corporation is the villain in the story; by any standard, its conduct was horrific. After Monsanto began to pollute the local rivers, the fish in those rivers eventually developed PCB levels 7500 times greater than the allowable level. Even more damning is the fact that Monsanto had known since the 1930s that the PCBs it produced were dangerous to human health. You won't come away from My City is Gone with much respect for corporate America.
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Format: Paperback
I address this review to Dennis Love: I am a veteran who served our country from 1967-1969 in the Women's Army Corp. I spent one and a half years of my life in Anniston, Alabama. Please know the US Government never notified veterans of the severe chemical exposure to this date.....so many have died and so many suffer with diseases caused by the hazardous chemical exposure, including myself. I have not read your book, but I have read and researched until I can cry no more from what the government did, allowed, and continues to deny. Perhaps you could write a book to include millions of veterans who went through Ft McClellan from 1935-1999 when the base was finally closed by the EPA. Just a thought to bring this issue even closer to the surface.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Stacy Brown on August 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover
BOOK REVIEW

A chronicle of small-town lifeand what almost destroyed it

By Robert Braile, Globe Correspondent | August 28, 2006

My City Was Gone: One American Town's Toxic Secret, Its Angry Band of Locals, and a $700 Million Day in Court

By Dennis Love

Morrow, 344 pp., $25.95

In ``My City Was Gone," Dennis Love's superb book on Anniston, Ala., the journalist at one point meets his old Anniston Star editor for a drink. Love had left his job and hometown years earlier, restless for change. He ended up in California, adrift at 40.

``Then he swung back around on me," Love writes about the editor. `` `Listen,' he said, and I could see him taking me in with a long hard look. `Don't lose track of who you are. Don't distance yourself from the people and places that make you distinctive.' He drained his glass and looked at me again. `Don't get too far from home.' "

Love returned home by writing ``My City Was Gone." It displays his talents as a reporter and memoirist in exploring one of America's darkest environmental nightmares, that of the Monsanto Corp oration 's chemical pollution of Anniston and the military's storage and incineration there of a massive stockpile of Cold War chemical weapons.

But this book is more than eco-drama, a trend that surged in 1995 with Jonathan Harr's ``A Civil Action" and has thrived since. Love suggests a deeper theme -- that he and Anniston were fated long ago to become who and what they are, and that no one can get too far from home.
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