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S Street Rising: Crack, Murder, and Redemption in D.C. Hardcover – July 1, 2014

4.7 out of 5 stars 102 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

When D.C. mayor Marion Barry was arrested for smoking crack, journalist Castaneda was in that hotel’s lobby, phoning in the details to the Washington Post, where he’d recently landed a job, moving from L.A.’s now defunct Herald-Examiner. What Castaneda also brought to D.C. back then was his own crack addiction, and it is a nonchalantly and honestly detailed part of his memoir. While he’s running down the stories and writing them well, he is also getting wasted. D.C.’s S Street is where the drug-selling action takes place, and Castaneda parallels his story with that of pastor Jim, who promises not to rat on the dealers but invites them to church, and that of honest, tough homicide cop Lou. There are scenes in this book that depict people acting in ways that are as low as one can humanly go, but they are related matter-of-factly, almost impersonally. There are also instances of incredible goodness, but the good guys don’t always win. Castaneda’s page-turner, told with easygoing charm and great skill, is an unstinting unveiling of who got away with what and when and how Castaneda followed the action and found himself. --Eloise Kinney

Review

“Castaneda's page-turner, told with easygoing charm and great skill, is an unstinting unveiling of who got away with what and when and how Castaneda followed the action and found himself.” ―Booklist

“An engrossing portrait . . . . Castaneda writes movingly of the unlikely wellsprings of solidarity and hope in communities that society has written off.” ―Publishers Weekly

“Castaneda offers himself not just as chronicler but as a participant in the larger urban blight and recovery story of DC itself . . . Elegant . . . Scathingly honest . . . A powerful, propulsive, narcotically fueled cri de couer for an entire city.” ―Jerry Stahl, author of Permanent Midnight, in BookForum

“Dramatic . . . Explosive and informed by good reporting.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“It's hard to find a better perspective . . . . This work is a page-turner. Recommended for readers especially interested in the war on drugs or DC and for fans of David Carr's The Night of the Gun or HBO's The Wire.” ―Library Journal

“Castaneda was an addict whose double life would have to come crumbling down. That it did, and S Street Rising chronicles his ordeal and recovery--he's been clean for more than two decades now--while also portraying the nation's capital under the onslaught of an epidemic, drug-fueled crime wave.” ―Penthouse Magazine

“A tense, unflinching chronicle . . . S Street Rising is a gritty and utterly convincing street-level portrait of a dark chapter in the city's history, reflected in the dark mirror of Castaneda's own addiction.” ―Washington Post

“A gritty and utterly convincing street-level portrait of the 1990s.” ―Washington Post, "50 Notable Works of Nonfiction"

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1st edition (July 1, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1620400049
  • ISBN-13: 978-1620400043
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #37,383 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I was a high ranking police official when Ruben hit the streets of DC. While my contact with him was limited, I never had a clue that he was a junkie. I would never have imagined that he was a part of the problem as he was a very good news reporter. S Street Rising is interesting reading. The book is well written and I moved through it with ease.
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Format: Hardcover
Few US cities were hit as hard by the crack epidemic as DC. Unless you lived here in the late 1980s/early 1990s, it is hard to believe the speed and the scope of the destruction. Governing this traumatized city was Marion Barry, himself a crackhead, a buffoon so completely unfit for the job -- morally, intellectually, temperamentally, physically -- that he was the butt of late-night jokes that kept the nation laughing, even as the DC murder count reached Beirut-like levels. Now nearly a quarter-century after Barry's infamous arrest at the Vista Hotel, Ruben Castaneda breaks DC's spell of willful amnesia and the bad old days come fully back to life. And you know what? They really were that bad.

Castaneda gives us the inside story -- in more ways than one. As a crime reporter for the Washington Post, Castaneda had the insider's perspective on the unprecedented ruthlessness of the crack trade and its intersection with what may have been the most inept and corrupt government of any major American city. Castaneda is rightly unsparing in his depictions of Barry and his henchmen (notably former police chief Larry Soulsby) and, with one partial exception, of the dealers who addicted their neighbors and then reaped obscene profits from their misery. But Castaneda also introduces us to Lou Hennessy, a gifted DC homicide cop whose dedicated and creative approach to his job was one of the reasons the epidemic finally broke. And he tells us the story of Pastor Jim, who bought a boarded-up building being used as a stash house and (after giving the neighborhood dealers a chance to move their inventory) renovated it into a church at the crack trade's epicenter, S Street NW, that gives the book its name.

Castaneda's insider perspective goes beyond his day job, though.
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Format: Hardcover
Passion, hunger, curiosity, restlessness, relentlessness.
These qualities all come through as driving forces of Ruben Castaneda’s journalistic career, as described in his new memoir S Street Rising: Crack, Murder and Redemption in D.C.
From an early assignment for the L.A. Herald Examiner covering the notorious 1985 earthquake in Mexico City to his years of covering crime and also police misconduct for The Washington Post, the memoir’s pages sizzle with the energy and excitement Castaneda felt at being a journalist, chasing down stories and sources and seeking truth and justice.
Though he doesn’t spell out the connection, one can also see these qualities manifested darkly in Castaneda’s struggle with addiction, described in raw and painful detail. The multi-faceted memoir shows Castaneda ably turning his perceptive reporter’s eye on his own past and his own psyche, documenting how the increasingly reckless pursuit of alcohol, cocaine and related dicey situations nearly destroyed his career, his relationships and even his life.
S Street Rising interweaves a significant number of story lines: celebrating the essence of journalism, shedding light on newsroom politics, exploring the complicated relationships between sources and reporters, showcasing the best and worst of the police force in the nation’s highly segregated Capitol, chronicling the saga of a neighborhood during the crack epidemic, profiling local characters including an unorthodox grassroots church. And revealing his own tortured but ultimately successful battle with chemical demons.
The book implicitly drives home the point that people addicted to drugs are not a class of their own to be feared, disregarded, looked down upon and locked up.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As a resident of the "DMV", this book resonated with me. Even though I was a teenager at the time, I remember seeing many of these events on the news. This is a very emotionally raw story that combines a personal life journey with historical relevance. A must-read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
S Street Rising is an exceptional book. Former Washington Post reporter, Ruben Castaneda, has made a major contribution to the understanding of cocaine addiction through his compelling and courageous account of his own bout with addiction to the drug. A gifted story teller, Castaneda weaves a riveting tale as he relates some of the more sordid Washington D.C. history that he covered while at the Washington Post, such as political woes of Mayor Marion Barry after being caught red-handed using cocaine and the downfall of ruthless Chief Larry Soulsby.
Casteneda intertwines the story of the creation of the New Covenant Church that grew out of the rubble of S Street and became a beacon of light to the community with its outreach and social programs into the underworld of prostitutes and drug dealing. S Street Rising should be required reading in high schools given the frank openness with which Reuben Casteneda discusses how easily a person can become addicted to crack and the havoc the addiction wreaks on both the addict and those around him.
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