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The Last Days of Detroit: Motor Cars, Motown and the Collapse of an Industrial Giant [Paperback]

Mark Binelli
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
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Book Description

6 Feb 2014

Once America's capitalist dream town, the Silicon Valley of the Jazz Age, Detroit became the country's greatest urban failure, having fallen the longest and the furthest. The city of Henry Ford, modernity, and Motown found itself blighted by riots, arson, unemployment, crime and corruption.

But what happens to a once-great place after it has been used up and discarded? Who stays there to try to make things work again? And what sorts of newcomers are drawn there?

Mark Binelli returned to his native Detroit to explore the city's swathes of abandoned buildings, miles of urban prairie, and streets filled with wild dogs, to tell the story of the new society emerging from the debris. Here he chronicles Detroit with its urban farms and vibrant arts scene, Detroit as a laboratory for the post-industrial, post-recession world, Detroit reimagined as a city for a new century.


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The Last Days of Detroit: Motor Cars, Motown and the Collapse of an Industrial Giant + Detroit: An American Autopsy + Lost Detroit: Stories Behind the Motor City's Majestic Ruins
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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (6 Feb 2014)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0099553880
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099553885
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 200,709 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"A riveting and hugely unsettling guided tour through his dysfunctional, compulsively interesting home town... Binelli, journalist with Rolling Stone magazine, is not only a native son of Detroit, but also an acute and canny observer of its bracing dilapidation. And he is never less than informative when it comes to detailing its manifold quirks and strange historical nuances… Binelli constantly shows himself to be a hugely erudite yet eminently streetwise guide to the city in which he came of age. This is a clever, endlessly inventive, passionate tour through the most down-and-out yet plausibly possible of American cities" (Douglas Kennedy Times)

"A story of extremes, mapped out by a restrained, clear-headed guide who loves the city as much as he is baffled by it" (Sean O’Hagan Observer)

"This book could easily be an epitaph but Binelli finds green shoots of optimism sprouting up amid the debris" (Mick Brown Daily Telegraph)

"A superb, diligent, forensic, study of the fall of a great city" (Jim Carroll Irish Times)

"Binelli is a gifted storyteller... this is a story told with vitality, wit and affection… the reader cannot fail to be moved by his conclusion, rooted in Detroit’s own motto. Speramus meliora. We hope for better things" (Melanie McGrath Sunday Telegraph)

"Binelli is a Detroit native, and if he provides an authoritative portrait of urban cataclysm, he also faithfully charts the glorious rise of the Motor City… His account is often mesmerising in its shocking detail" (Peter Carty Independent on Sunday)

"Deeply intelligent, sceptical, passionate and informative. An important work of contemporary cultural analysis, it is also wonderfully entertaining" (Kevin Powers Sunday Business Post)

"Binelli’s compelling book is a nightmare vision of a city which refuses to die" (David Sternhouse Scotland on Sunday)

Book Description

A vibrant and authoritative sweep through the history, present day and future of an iconic city and its people.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No one's going to believe it......... 23 Mar 2013
By Mike France VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
.......was the reply the author received when responding to a Detroit firefighter asking if the book was to be fiction or non-fiction. His statement is close to the mark; it is truly almost too difficult to comprehend and believe in the collapse of what was once, the United States’ fourth largest city.

Binelli skilfully intermingles the reasons behind Detroit's demise with descriptions of the broken landscape and personal anecdotes, given by its remaining citizens. He charts a collapse into a nightmare world where the public services that we mostly take for granted (police, firefighting, education, street lighting etc), are near non-existent. A city where the shrunken population, too often composed of the disadvantaged unable to escape, is insufficient to service the city’s debts. Many just simply exist in the urban wasteland, zombie like, scraping a living from the many salvage opportunities.

But within this nightmarish apocalyptic scene, individuals come up with creative schemes for the future. Urban farms, plans to shrink the city limits to contain the populace in a more viable space, schemes to attract high tech industries and voyeuristic tourism are all fully described.

Born in Detroit, Binelli is easily able to mingle with its residents to extract their views and experiences. He knows where to dig to uncover stories of many unsavoury acts of its citizens both private and corporate. He paints a picture that is perhaps a pointer to the future for other cities unable to adapt to changing times.

Potentially a dark topic, Binelli makes this immensely readable. So readable, perhaps even those employed to represent us could understand and learn from it.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Where there's life, there's hope 31 July 2013
By Peter Durward Harris #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
I have never been to America, let alone Detroit, but I have a vested interest in America because of a shared culture, and some of that culture came from Detroit. It is so sad to learn about the state of the city in 2013, but even as the author (who was born in Detroit after the good times were over, and lived there for many years) paints a grim picture, he sees hope for what he found on a return visit.

Prior to buying this book, I only knew of Detroit specifically for its car industry (now a shadow of its former self), Motown (who were already beginning a long, slow decline when they moved to Los Angeles in the seventies, but failed to arrest that decline) and the song Detroit City, which became an international pop hit for Tom Jones. Those specifics aside, I knew where to find Detroit on a map of North America, and I assumed it was fairly typical of large American cities, with a multi-racial population and plenty of skyscrapers. In 2013, I heard about the city going bankrupt and soon afterwards bought this book. I was appalled to find out the truth about Detroit, which is very different now from what it once was.

I think most, perhaps all, of the individual problems described in this book have occurred at some time or other elsewhere, including in Britain. However, the sheer scale of the decline is on a far greater scale. However, like the author, I see some hope for the future, but it won't be easy. Given that I am somewhat older than the author, I don't think I'll live to see Detroit return to greatness, but I might live long enough to see clear signs of a recovery.

The author does not devote a lot of space to the early history, but gives a basic outline.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Are you from Detroit? 18 April 2013
By MaryAnn
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I'm grew up the 'burbs of Detroit, but have lived in the UK for 25 years. This book was great at putting what I knew in context, but also put some of the things I thought I knew in the dustbin. The tale is a sad, often heartbreaking one but thankfully not one without hope. Should be required reading for anyone from or with an interest in the Detroit metro area.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a book to enjoy and share 9 May 2014
By tallmanbaby TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The Last Days of Detroit

The recent fate of Detroit is like a Rorschach inkblot test for commentators. The arty books of eerie post apocalypse cityscapes, the decline of the manufacturing in the West as the big three car manufacturers are brought low. The ineptitude of successive local and national administrations failing to address the issues, white flight to the suburbs, the black home of Motown over-run by crime and urban blight.

Mark Binelli is a writer for Rolling Stone and grew up in Detroit in the seventies. He approaches the subject of Detroit with a friendly indulgent eye, pulling together stories, incidents and characters in the polished style of an entertaining magazine feature writer. It is to his credit that he avoids naming and shaming the usual suspects, for the most part he can see the good in people and where they are coming from.

Despite the downbeat, post apocalypse subject matter, the book refuses to wallow in gloom, people are resilient, there is always hope. I particularly enjoyed his sceptical look at the renaissance of urban farms, covered by the entire world’s media, but no one wants to help, nor even to bother the sole determined urban farmer. The Kindle version is well put together, no obvious typos or formatting issues.

The insightful and engaging pace falters slightly with a flabby last section, but overall this is such a good book, it is tempting to buy a copy just to leave it lying around for others to read. A book to enjoy and share.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read
A good read but very information heavy
Published 27 days ago by Emma Norman
5.0 out of 5 stars If you're a logophile like me, you'll appreciate the delicious...
As a former Detroiter now living in the UK, I found this book entertaining, enlightening and educational. Read more
Published 2 months ago by MRS CEM WATSON
4.0 out of 5 stars The new countenance of a post-industrial city
I’m tired of the images of decaying Detroit that have spawned a rush of coffee-table books, press stories and online photo-galleries of the city, once the fourth largest one in the... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Chris Pearson
5.0 out of 5 stars PERSONAL AND IMFORMATIVE
THE AUTHOR HAS ROOTS IN BALTIMORE,HE CHARTS THE DECLINE FROM THE DAYS OF HUGE INDUSTRY TO ONE OF HUGE PROBLEMS,INTERESTING MIX OF THE PERSONAL AND SOCIAL FROM CRIME AND A CHAPTER... Read more
Published 7 months ago by m. dosa
4.0 out of 5 stars The account of what has happened in Detroit is a warning lesson for...
This book brings to the reader an account of what has happened to Detroit and its inhabitants in the last thirty years. Read more
Published 9 months ago by C. G. Watson (Cyril the Squirel)
5.0 out of 5 stars Detroit
I chose it because I had lived there around 1979. For me it was heart-breaking to read of the almost demise of the Detroit car industry. Read more
Published 12 months ago by John Alexander
5.0 out of 5 stars A great revelation
A successful gift which led to purchasing a further 3 copies. All well received as this provides a great insight into the 'motorcity'.
Published 14 months ago by sandra bruce
3.0 out of 5 stars Great stories but could have been better
This is quite an informative book and there are some interesting human stories. I just felt like the book itself didn't live up to the name or the front cover picture. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Peter Oldroyd
3.0 out of 5 stars Bloke wandering around the city of His youth.
I read the review in the Mail on Sunday, I thought it was the story of the rise and fall of the City of Detroit it's not it 's a series of interviews of various residents present... Read more
Published 16 months ago by C. R. Grosvenor
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