Detroit: An American Autopsy

Charlie LeDuff, Author
Charlie LeDuff. Penguin Press, $27.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-59420-534-7
Reviewed on: 12/03/2012
Release date: 02/07/2013
Paperback - 287 pages - 978-0-14-312446-7
Open Ebook - 272 pages - 978-1-101-60588-2
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Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist LeDuff (Work and Other Sins) delivers an edgy portrait of the decline, destruction, and possible redemption of his hometown. Returning in 2008 after 20 years away, the former New York Times staff writer finds a city in its death throes. The “Big Three” car companies are months away from begging for bailouts, arsonists are burning down vacant buildings, firefighters have faulty equipment, ambulances take too long to arrive, and violent criminals walk the streets. As a reporter for the Detroit News, LeDuff tries to uncover where all the money, targeted toward municipal services, is really going. As he exposes the corruption and ineptitude of the city’s government, he introduces readers to Detroit’s larger-than-life former mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick; the now jailed “self-serving diva” and former city councilwoman, Monica Conyers; “political hit man” Adolph Mongo, as well as the city’s long-suffering firefighters, a mother who lost two sons to random gun violence, and a corpse encased in four feet of ice. Noting that Detroit is where “America’s way of life was built,” LeDuff argues that the city is a microcosm of what’s occurring in the rest of the country: foreclosures, unemployment, rising debt. In a spare, macho style, with a discerning eye for telling details, LeDuff writes with honesty and compassion about a city that’s destroying itself—and breaking his heart. Agent: Sloane Harris, ICM. (Feb.)
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