Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff

Following the collapse of Detroit, former New York Times reporter Charlie LeDuff decided to return to his hometown and investigate just what kind of damage has been done. Part memoir, part investigative reporting, Detroit: An American Autopsy is a harrowing account of blight and corruption that is both frightening and heartfelt.

In a city that was once the definition of the American dream and industry, LeDuff speaks to many of those left standing in the ash and debris. Literal ash. Arsonists set fires constantly, and the overworked, underpaid and under-equipped fire department can't keep pace. And all this before the city officially declared bankruptcy.

LeDuff also investigates why people are dying in the streets, fires are raging everywhere, and yet the city's politicians are enjoying the finer things in life. The shift is reminiscent of 1920s gangster society. This is a timely telling of how the mighty have fallen and those left out in the cold to begin with are frozen and forgotten - again, literally. Of the many stories shared, one includes a homeless man whose body is left frozen in an abandoned building; another of bodies piling up in the morgue refrigerators, families too destitute to bury their loved ones.

Despite the desperation and scary wasteland that Detroit has become, LeDuff holds out hope and champions for the truth. For more true, and rather scary, information on Detroit, you might also try The Detroit True Crime Chronicles: Tales of Murder and Mayhem in the Motor City or Detroit City is the Place to Be: The Afterlife of an American Metropolis.

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