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The Savage City: Race, Murder, and a Generation on the Edge Hardcover – Deckle Edge, March 15, 2011

4.2 out of 5 stars 86 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, March 2011: One part police procedural, one part historical narrative, T.J. English's The Savage City: Race, Murder, and a Generation on the Edge follows three different men caught in the fallout of New York City's most turbulent decade as race relations, corruption, and crime reached a stormy head. English traces the events that shook the city to its core during the '60s and early '70s, from the assassination of Malcolm X and the rise and fall of the Black Panthers, to the trial that exposed the multiple layers of corruption plaguing the city's police department. Woven throughout this narrative is the troubling story of George Whitmore, a young black man who was bullied into confessing to several of the city's gristliest murders--and who spent the next ten years attempting to prove his innocence and earn back his freedom. The Savage City is an expansive, remarkably detailed account of one of the most tumultuous moments in America's history, and of the lingering effects of the decade's injustices. --Lynette Mong


A Look Inside The Savage City
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Janice Wylie and Emily Hoffert were both brutally killed in their Manhattan apartment on the same day as the March on Washington. The murder scene was bloody, but it revealed few clues. The sensational nature of the crime put pressure on detectives to come up with a suspect. (© New York Daily News) Prize catch: George Whitmore is paraded before photographers after he was coerced into signing a sixty-one page confession, the longest in NYPD history. (© New York Daily News) Dhoruba Bin Wahad was charged with the attempted murder of Curry and Binetti. Here he is being transferred while in custody from the 48th precinct police station to the Bronx House of detention. (© Bettman/Corbis) Bill Phillips being taken into custody on two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder. (© New York Daily News).

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In Manhattan in August 1963, two white women were hacked to death in a crime the tabloids would call the Career Girls Murders. The police picked up a near-blind 19-year-old black youth and spent hours pressuring him into confessing to the crime. George Whitmore would spend the next decade fighting the setup as police and prosecutors persisted in what they knew to be a miscarriage of justice. That same decade was the most violent in the history of New York City, with escalating racial tension between the police and black nationalist groups. Acclaimed journalist English profiles Whitmore, as well as Bill Phillips, a brazenly corrupt second-generation NYPD cop, and Dhoruba bin Wahad, a gangbanger turned Black Panther, to present an epic look at the racial animus, fear, and hatred that characterized that troubled decade. Drawing on interviews with former police and prosecutors, activists, hustlers, and journalists, English recounts a time of growing and visceral hostility between a police department steeped in corruption and a besieged black community that exploded in violence. He chronicles the rise of the Black Panther Party in New York and the Knapp Commission investigation of police corruption that was later depicted in the movies Serpico and Prince of the City. Through the lives of three ostensibly unrelated men, English peels back the underlying turmoil that led to the violent period and the unaddressed social ills that remain to this day. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The New York Times best-selling author of Havana Nocturne returns with a dramatic true story of race, police corruption, and urban chaos in 1960s New York. --Vanessa Bush
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Check out this Q&A with the author of The Savage City [PDF].

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow (March 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061824550
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061824555
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #992,634 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

T.J. English is a noted journalist, screenwriter, and author of the New York Times bestsellers Havana Nocturne and Paddy Whacked, as well as The Westies, a national bestseller, and Born to Kill, which was nominated for an Edgar Award. He has written for Esquire, Playboy, and New York magazine, among other publications. His screenwriting credits include episodes for the television crime dramas NYPD Blue and Homicide, for which he was awarded the Humanitas Prize. He lives in New York City.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover 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".
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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