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99 of 114 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Grim, unrelenting, blunt and harsh - but not exploitative, February 1, 2013
This review is from: Detroit: An American Autopsy (Hardcover)
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A lot's been said about "Decay Porn," where reporters/writers/photographers from out of the city sort of parachute into Detroit and then pontificate about whatever they've observed. It's not that their observations are invalid, but they obviously lack a personal perspective.

Charlie LeDuff, a native Detroiter who grew up, left, then came back, has the zeal of a missionary and the anger of someone who knows nothing he says can make a lick of difference. So this narrative of connected essayish accounts doesn't offer a solution as much as a passionate sermon of rubbing-your-face-in-it. But if one can't offer a solution, at least a writer can take a reader to the ground level that's often overlooked by those more focused on the big picture.

Most of these chapters originally appeared as newspaper reportage that LeDuff has fleshed out in more detail. That's not a problem, and he's done a good job of connecting all the anecdotes together so it reads as a consistent narrative. LeDuff is both primary character and narrator, and his strong, sometimes strident, voice carries the story along.

His 'characters,' police, firemen, occasional politicians, are of the tough-as-nails variety. I don't think the 'good guys' will mind their portrayals, even if they are a little over-the-top at times. With that, they seem to be treated fairly and honestly and their stories are not exploited for casual emotional gain.

The villains come across as slothful, incompetent and venal - all believable politicians and hacks.

It's four stars mostly because it's one-note at times. The stories are generally depressing and terrible, just like Detroit life, and there's not too many bright spots. Hard to love a book like that - but LeDuff's great writing style and powerful storytelling makes it easy to like. Any fan of Hunter Thompson will appreciate his take-no-prisoners literary approach.

I can't imagine liking LeDuff if I met him. I feel like he'd be an overpowering personality interested in what people have to say only as long as it's interesting to him. But that sort of focus on the "people as story" is how you end up with a strong piece of reportage like this. Tell the story, don't spare the feelings, and if it's harsh and ugly, people need to suck it up and learn a few things.
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Tracked by 3 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 17 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 3, 2013 4:46:46 AM PST
I am a lot older than Charlie LeDuff. But his fascinatingly superficial sketches of recent Detroit doings ring true. My wife was born in Detroit. We were married in Grosse Pointe in 1964, where our first son was born two years later. 1988 - 1990 I was on loan from the US State Department to Mayor Coleman Alexander Young as an economic advisor.

My first impressions of Detroit included how unabashedly TOUGH its behavior was. With either blacks or whites you felt as if you had to Indian wrestle first with a new contact/acquaintance. Do all right and you would likely make a warm friend.

LeDuff strikes me as superficial but accurate on that chosen surface.

Patrick Killough
Black Mountain, NC

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 3, 2013 9:31:50 AM PST
That sounds about right. He's very detailed about what's right in front of him.

On the other hand, he does a good job explaining some of the corruption, and exactly who was grifting who and how. But, it is always through the context of a story someone's telling him.

It's the Hunter Thompson school, and I liked it. There are other sources for more 'objective' big picture examinations, but LeDuff gives the reader the color that makes the impersonal part of the story much easier to care about.

Posted on Feb 9, 2013 9:19:30 AM PST
[Deleted by the author on Mar 3, 2013 1:07:50 PM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 12, 2013 6:09:56 PM PST
cspan37421 says:
Although the population in the city of Detroit has indeed declined sharply, the Detroit Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) has remained relatively stable for decades, and still ranks as the 13th largest in the country, as of the 2010 census. How is this true? What happened is that a) people moved to the suburbs (like in many cities), and b) the city boundary was not extended (Detroit proper is only the 64th largest U.S. city by area). So the core is gutted, that is true, but in the broader metro area has 4.3 million people - not a exactly a ghost town.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 13, 2013 2:11:47 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Feb 13, 2013 3:03:53 PM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 13, 2013 3:04:23 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 23, 2013 10:13:24 AM PST
So the suburbs expanded and prospered because a majority of white Detroits residents "voted with their feet" after the 1967 "riots" and decamped. The population of Detroit in 1967 was approximately 1.6 million {the 1960 census had the population at 1.67 million} so Detroit has lost almost 900,000 people in the last 4 1/2 decades. That "the core is gutted" is the main point and since no individuals, famillies, businesses or investors will be relocating into "the gutted core" of the 64th largest city {by area} anytime soon - primarily because of the unchanging social, political and economic attitudes of the "Black Polity" that still remains in power - the core will continue "to rot" !!!!

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 3, 2013 1:09:06 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jul 25, 2013 3:26:03 PM PDT
In order for outsiders to care about this dying city, it's leaders and citizens have to face reality and face up to their past mistakes, errors in judgement and ADMIT that they will accept shared power and responsibilty to save it. So, first an update - As of 3/15/2013 Governor Snyder named an emergency manager to handle Detroit's fiscal crisis since the "Black Polity who ran the city {with the exception of Mayor Bing} over the last year were unwilling to restructure services, labor contracts and finances enough to satisfy a current deficit of 327 million dollars. In 2012, 50% of Detroit's property owners didn't pay some or all of their property taxes totalling 121 million dollars AND the city has 15 billion dollars in long term unfunded liabilities. If this goes thru it will be the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. History. AND OF COURSE despite the obvious incapacity of the Detroit municiple goverment to deal with this myriad of problemswhich forced this necessary move to stave off municiple bankruptcy was denouced as racist, unnecessary and "we don't need no white Republican overseers running our town" by the NAACP, local clergy, local citizens, Detroit's City Council and candidates running for Mayor - the SAME OLD, SAME OLD Coleman Young inspired theme song that has been sung by him and them for the last 40 + years. Some things never change !!!

So Detroit's 45 year downward spiral and freefall to "Palokaville" starting after the 1967 riots which were "RIOTS" and were not as native Detroiters {who are left} still call them - "The Insurrection" will continue !!. Detroits current status as "Disaster U.S.A." is the late Mayor Coleman Young's main and only sustained legacy. It was his disastorous and self-defeating policies of deliberately exacerbating racial animosity's and creating a "Black Polity" that were {ulitimately} completely self defeating {for the city} if politically rewarding {for him}. Young was reflexilbly anti-business and anti-white except for cultivating the local millionaire white businessman whom for noble and venal reasons were willing to "pony up" the loot / money for the large scale projects that he was enamoured of {and were failures} However the small scale merchant / store owner's dervisely called by the black community " the A-RABS" {Muslim ,Chaldeans and Lebanese} who control what is left of minor private business activity in the city were and are dispised, disdained and derided in Detroit espisically by the anti -business city goverment {and black intelligensia elites} as a rebuke to the city that whites fled and blacks haven't been able to succeed as entrenpenurs.

The truth is and there is no question about this - Young and his black Mayoral successors were delighted and "shed no tears" that whites fled Detroit after 1967 and didn't come back - it both narrowed and strengthened their voting base enabling Young and his successors to effortlessly win re-election time and time again. Detroit today is still reflexibly anti-business and this is a direct result of the continued influence of Young's and the black intelligensia's narrow vision, policies and ignorance in the larger sense of economics and politics outside of Detroit. Yes, since 1972 the bottom fell out of the region's economy but Young and his black ruling elites did not have a a clue/idea of how to at least slow down the economic free-fall except by demmanding more federal government money to be placed directly into their hands. As a result, corruption was and is endemic, services declined and no one in Detroits black run administrations were ever held accountable for this ongoing "urban train wreck" by the black electorate. As long as Detroit was run by blacks - mismanaging and "ripping off the system" was tolerated by it's residents with little local outrage.

Mayor Young and his successors proved to be nothing more than small time political hacks that in 40 years have been primarily responsible to "Jet Propell" what was the 5th largest city in the U.S.A. in 1974 {when he was elected} to its present status at par with East St Louis and Camden N.J. AND yet in 2013 blacks living in Detroit will blame everybody, everything and everyone else for "The Tragedy of Detroit" - especially " the white man" !!!

So where is Detroit now ? In 1951 Detroit had a population of 1,873,000 people so as of 2013 the city has lost almost 1.2 million of population which in retrospect is astonishing. The 2011 census showed that Detroits "head count" declined from 2000 to 2010 from 951,000 to 718,000 {a 25.5 % decline} highlighting how even the Black middle class has now "bailed out" on Detroit and it is not going to get better in the future. Why ? Plain and Simply their is no outside migration into Detroit and has'nt any been since the 1967 "insurrection". Who would be willing to relocate be it indivduals, business's or famillies to this urban disaster and bring the necessary skills, capital and fresh outlook to begin the process of revitalization unless those who run {and are responsible} for this disaster would be willing to welcome you and share power/influence with you ?

Poor Mayor Bing - as of March 2013 his city is effectively bankrupt and the "Black Polity" has lost control of the city to the Govener Snyder because his city council absolutely refused to compromise to cut expenses and city workers to a level to begin the process to bring balance the cities budget. The "Black Polity" that has run Detroit for the last 40 years is now a powerless husk, a ward of the state, bankrupt in their doctrine, rhetoric and thought and the current situation will only exacerbate black hostility, frustration, disdain and rage. AND YET - Coleman Young and his successors are still hero's in Detroit even though post 1974 they were the main protagonists in turning Detroit into a "third world city" forlorn, shunned, disdainfull and proud in it's separatism and isolation as an segerated "Black Polity". Detroit is now a corpse that is only awaiting burial - East St Louis here comes Detroit to join you. God Help you both !!!

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 24, 2013 10:24:08 AM PDT
Wow, John, I really want to read your post, because I'm pretty certain that we come from the same camp, as it were, and I'm actually very interested in what you wrote, but for Pete's sake, why did you write it all in ONE HUGE PARAGRAPH?

If you will break it up, more will read it (including me).

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 26, 2013 3:04:54 PM PDT
it's been paragraphed

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 27, 2013 10:40:10 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 28, 2013 6:44:58 PM PDT
jpcooper says:

I just had the presence of mind to check out some of the commentary on other "American Autopsy" reviews. As you know, I wrote one myself and you added some much needed commentary to that offering. You are to be thanked for your contributions. Your observations are well informed. well stated and eye-opening.

As you may, or may not know, Rush Limbaugh has been discussing a book written back in 1990 called "Devil's Night". The subject, again, is Detroit. I have not read the book but it sounds as if you could have written it. He lays the responsibility, in large part, at the feet of Mayor Young - a piece of the puzzle that this outsider (me) was ignorant of.

Thanks again, and keep up the good work. We're all in your debt.
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