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

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

Hardback

By (author) Mark Binelli

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  • Publisher: The Bodley Head Ltd
  • Format: Hardback | 336 pages
  • Dimensions: 161mm x 240mm x 30mm | 622g
  • Publication date: 10 January 2013
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 184792168X
  • ISBN 13: 9781847921680
  • Sales rank: 143,448

Product description

By the end of the nineteenth century, Detroit, founded by the French as a fur-trading post, was thriving. In 1913 Henry Ford began mass-producing cars at his Model T plant, transforming the area into the Silicon Valley of its day. By 1920 it was the fourth largest city in America and by the mid-1950s General Motors had become the single biggest employer on earth. Here indeed was 'the most modern city in the world, the city of tomorrow'. But by the time Berry Gordy founded Motown Records in 1960 - thereby creating twentieth-century Detroit's other great assembly line - the cracks were already beginning to show: big industry was looking elsewhere for cheaper sites, cheaper labour and better tax breaks; urban planning was in meltdown; corruption was rife; racial tensions were running high. The 1967 riots - at the time the worst in US history - left 43 dead, more than 7,000 arrested and 3,000 buildings destroyed. Detroit, a former beacon of the capitalist dream, had degenerated into an urban wilderness where unemployment ran at 50 per cent. With more guns in the city than people, the murder rate was the highest in America - three times that of New York. Mark Binelli returned to live in his native Detroit after a break of many years. He tells the story of the boom and the bust - and of the new society to be found emerging from the debris: Detroit with its urban farms and vibrant arts scene; Detroit as a laboratory for the post-industrial, post-recession world. Here's what an iconic rust-belt city now looks like and how it might transform and regenerate itself in the twenty-first century.

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Author information

Mark Binelli grew up in Detroit. He graduated from the University of Michigan and received an MFA from Columbia University. He writes for Rolling Stone magazine. He is the author of the novel Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die!

Review quote

"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

Editorial reviews

Mark Binelli has succeeded in synthesizing the tragedy and absurdity that Detroiters face each and every day in America’s fastest shrinking city. Yes, things are dire in Motor City, but Binelli refuses to perform an autopsy on a place that still radiates rage, pride, hustle, and hope. Detroit, he discovers, is very much alive

Flap copy

By the end of the nineteenth century, Detroit, founded by the French as a fur-trading post, was thriving. In 1913 Henry Ford began mass-producing cars at his Model T plant, transforming the area into the Silicon Valley of its day. By 1920 it was the fourth largest city in America and by the mid-1950s General Motors had become the single biggest employer on earth. Here indeed was 'the most modern city in the world, the city of tomorrow'. But by the time Berry Gordy founded Motown Records in 1960 - thereby creating twentieth-century Detroit's other great assembly line - the cracks were already beginning to show: big industry was looking elsewhere for cheaper sites, cheaper labour and better tax breaks; urban planning was in meltdown; corruption was rife; racial tensions were running high. The 1967 riots - at the time the worst in US history - left 43 dead, more than 7,000 arrested and 3,000 buildings destroyed. Detroit, a former beacon of the capitalist dream, had degenerated into an urban wilderness where unemployment ran at 50 per cent. With more guns in the city than people, the murder rate was the highest in America - three times that of New York. Mark Binelli returned to live in his native Detroit after a break of many years. He tells the story of the boom and the bust - and of the new society to be found emerging from the debris: Detroit with its urban farms and vibrant arts scene; Detroit as a laboratory for the post-industrial, post-recession world. Here's what an iconic rust-belt city now looks like and how it might transform and regenerate itself in the twenty-first century.