Mark Binelli is the author of the novel Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die! and a contributing editor at Rolling Stone and Men’s Journal. Born and raised in the Detroit area, he now lives in New York City.
THE LAST DAYS OF DETROIT: Motor Cars, Motown and the Collapse of an Industrial Giant - BODLEY HEAD, JANUARY 2013
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.
Praise for THE LAST DAYS OF DETROIT:
“Mark Binelli’s The Last Days of Detroit is a magnificent anthem to one of America’s most significant cities. He takes you on a tour into the dark heart of this once vibrant city, the home of the Ford car. This is a beautiful prose poem to a fascinating city and to post-industrial America.” Patrick Neale, Bookseller
“A child of suburban Detroit, Binelli astonishes with spot-on research, fluid prose, and a discerning eye for the peculiar... Binelli offers a wildly compelling biography of a city as well as a profound commentary on postindustrial America.” Publishers Weekly, Top Ten Books of the Year
“Exhilirating in scope, irresistible for its intricate, scrupulous portraiture... the masterful performance of one of our generation’s most human and brilliant writers.” Wells Tower, author of Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned
“[Binelli] covers the shrinking of Detroit, its downfall from the lofty peak as Arsenal of Democracy, with clear, expository prose and no axe to grind. A firefighter asks the author, “You going fiction or non-fiction?” Binelli answers, “Non.” And the reply comes back, “No one’s going to believe it.” Elmore Leonard
“A brilliant, kaleidoscope of everything that is great, broken, inspiring, heartbreaking, and ultimately remarkable about Detroit...” Dinaw Mengestu, author of How to Read the Air
“A book as essential to understanding the Motor City as Micheline Maynard’s ‘The End of Detroit’” Christian Science Monitor
“Mark Binelli’s excellent Detroit City Is the Place to Be is ostensibly about everyone who didn’t leave Detroit behind. It’s a stylish, clear-eyed, subtly absurdist panorama of the contemporary city and the people who hold it together in appalling circumstances... Binelli’s engrossing book captures the beauty and nobility of Detroit, and the warmth of its communal life amid hardship and chaos.” New York: Metropolitan Books
“[This] saga is vividly told by Binelli, whose writing style is winning. Perhaps in the future he will be able to write the sequel about Detroit -- whether it bounces back or collapses.” Star Tribune
“[Binelli is] an excellent writer and a sensitive and careful reporter” Wall Street Journal
“First things first: Binelli can really write... Binelli chronicles the various experiments happening inside Detroit with a winning combination of humor, skepticism and sincerity…[he] is a cleareyed and soulful narrator to Detroit’s travails.” New York Times Book Review
“Binelli uses a busy, knowing prose... [he] tells a nuanced and persuasive story.” Guardian
“Binelli’s wry, inquisitive survey of Detroit’s troubled past and present confronts  caricatures of the city, and paints a more interesting portrait... As Binelli writes, convincingly, Detroit has always been a city where utopian dreams are dashed on the rocks of human frailty.” Sunday Times