What makes the book work is LeDuff's undiluted anger. His style is not taught in journalism schools. Which is why he is such an honest, powerful and relentless reporter. It is why his sources trust him. He is fearless and spares no one. Greedy Wall Street tycoons, union bosses, Big Three auto execs, corrupt politicians, lousy cops, LeDuff scorches everyone in his path with real and vivid tales of their dastardly deeds and ineptitude.
LeDuff even lets loose on his old editors at the NEW YORK TIMES, the nation's paper of record that he quit in order to go home and work for a dying paper with one-tenth the circulation. After years covering terrorism, odd people and a career writing for the Grey Lady, LeDuff gave it all up to return to his childhood home on Joy Road on Detroit's West Side. Named for the old railroad magnate James F. Joy, the road's name becomes a twisted cruel joke in all the human misery.
LeDuff's memoir is devoid of any petty, partisan slant. It is not a book about competing political philosophies. He is too good for that. And it would bore him, probably, anyway. Instead, this book is the story of a once-great city where people have quit working or cannot find jobs and the welfare bureaucracy has collapsed under the crushing weight of hopeless poverty and corruption. Not only is work scarce, it is belittled and derided.
LeDuff does not shy away from acrid race relations that dominate most treatments of Detroit. He gives the plight of blacks its fair due. But this story is about so much more than race. It is about a misery and devastation that transcends race. It is about forsaken humanity where people have lost not only a connection to work, but also the connections to all the people around them. It is about a government that destroys people and every one of those relationships.
James L. Salmon, Esq.
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