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.)
Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter LeDuff returned home to Detroit and found a once rich and innovative city that now reigns supreme in unemployment, illiteracy, foreclosure, and dropouts. What happened?
Iggy Pop meets Jim Carroll and Charles Bukowski in this gritty downer of a Rust Belt portrait. "I threw my cigarette butt into the sewer grate. I looked up into the rain. That's when a bird shit on my face." Thus writes former New York Times and Detroit News reporter LeDuff (US Guys: The True and Twisted Mind of the American Man, 2007, etc.), and he means nothing remotely humorous by it. His Detroit is a set out of Blade Runner, and never mind all that Kid Rock and sundry entrepreneurs have been doing to revive the Motor City; LeDuff isn't convinced: The place is toast, its people what an editor of his used to spit out: "losers." "That was 80 percent of the country," LeDuff counters, "and the new globalized economic structure was cranking out more." Even the locals have pretty much given up on the place; says one hard-bitten cop, "This whole town is just a worm-infested shit pile, Charlie….It's a dead city. And anybody says any different doesn't know what the fuck he's talking about." With so much going against the place, readers can't help but cheer when something goes right, as occasionally it does. Indeed, the heart soars when things don't go absolutely wrong, as when LeDuff's scrawny brother stands up to a hoodlum in a vainglorious, near-suicidal encounter at a bus stop. Along the way, the author looks at some of the toxic ingredients that have brought Detroit to its knees, including the aforementioned globalization, the replacement of local industry with a service economy of crime and, particularly, the noxious effects of racism, which he examines through his own family history. There's little joy in these pages, and one hopes that Detroit will endure, if only to cheer LeDuff up. A book full of both literary grace and hard-won world-weariness.
Eric Martin hits all the right notes. . . . The author’s edgy tone is tough and uncompromising, befitting the harsh realities facing those who remain in the troubled city. Martin’s narration mirrors LeDuff’s writing as he voices the poverty, corruption, and crime of the city as well as the brash and irreverent personality of the author himself.”
AudioFile [Earphones Award Winner]
Martin’s reading is honest and forthright.”
Martiṉs narration is exactly right, reflecting all of LeDuff’s sincerity, outrage, and despair. . . . This masterly snapshot of a city in ruins translates superbly to the spoken word.”
—Library Journal [starred review]
"LeDuff returns, by the books end, to the bar where his sister was last seen, only to find it unrecognizable. A black man outside explains the changes. 'they trying to put something nice up' in this hellhole he says, speaking of the bar specifically, though his words spread across the city and pay tribute, in equal measure, to its dreamers, its pessimists and to those, resigned and wrung out, who love it despite all. 'Can't say it's working. But what you gonna do? You ain’t gonna be reincarnated, so you got to do the best you can with the moment you got. Do the best you can and try to be good.' LeDuff has done his best, and his book is better than good."
—Paul Clemens, New York Times Book Review
"One cannot read Mr. LeDuff's amalgam of memoir and reportage and not be shaken by the cold eye he casts on hard truths... A little gonzo, a little gumshoe, some gawker, some good-Samaritan—it is hard to ignore reporting like Mr. LeDuff's."
—The Wall Street Journal
“Pultizer-Prize-winning journalist LeDuff (Work and Other Sins) delivers an edgy portrait of the decline, destruction, and possible redemption of his hometown…LeDuff writes with honesty and compassion about a city that’s destroying itself–and breaking his heart.”
—Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW
“A book full of both literary grace and hard-won world-weariness…. Iggy Pop meets Jim Carroll and Charles Bukowski”
“This is our pick for a sleeper nonfiction hit next year. Charlie LeDuff is a remarkable journalist, and this book is filled with incredible writing as he witnesses his home city crumble through neglect and corruption.”
“What to do when you’re a reporter and your native city is rotting away? If you’re LeDuff, you leave The New York Times and head into the wreckage to ride with firemen, hang with the corrupt pols, and retrace your own family’s sad steps through drugs. Others have written well about the city, but none with the visceral anger, the hair-tearing frustration, and the hungry humanity of LeDuff.”
"You wouldn't think a book about the stinking decay of the American dream could be this engaging, this irreverent, this laugh-at-loud funny. But not everyone can write like Charlie LeDuff. I'm tempted to say he's the writer for our desperate times the way Steinbeck and Orwell were for other people's desperate times, except he's such an original he's like no one but himself."
—Alexandra Fuller, author of Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness and Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight
"Charlie LeDuff is a drunkard, a blowhard, a Fox News Reporter and a brilliant writer. Detroit is full of righteous anger and heartbreaking details. It's also funny as hell. Hunter S. Thompson would've loved every page of this book."
—Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation and Reefer Madness
"In Detroit: An American Autopsy, Charlie LeDuff brings alive the reality of our beloved city. The city where I was shot at eight times during my twenty six year police career. Yet, Detroit has survived in spite of corruption, political ineptness, poor education, and decades of unemployment. Detroit: An American Autopsy is a must read for all of America."
—Detroit Police Chief Ike McKinnon (retired); Associate Professor of Education, University of Detroit Mercy