Author, "Detroit: An American Autopsy"
charlieleduff.com/ From his site bio:
Charlie LeDuff is a writer, filmmaker and a multimedia reporter for The Detroit News. He is a former national correspondent for The New York Times.
2007 interview, ColbertNation.com. Tags:
He covered the war in Iraq, crossed the desert with a group of migrant Mexicans and worked inside a North Carolina slaughterhouse as part of The Times series “How Race Is Lived in America,” which was awarded the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting.
In 2005 LeDuff was host and writer of “Only In America” – a 10-part television show of participatory journalism for the Discovery Times Channel. Among other things he brawled at a fight party held by an Oakland motorcycle gang, rode a bull at a gay rodeo, became a trapeze clown in a traveling circus of immigrants.
Charles LeDuff, interviews, New York Times, books, balls, Papa Bear, Bill O'Reilly, men/women, Hollywood, gay/homosexual, religion, Republicans, George W. Bush, Ohio, John Kerry, media, rodeos
Fox 2 Reporter Charlie LeDuff accused of urinating in public and biting a security guard (that's the story way up top @ Google) ("When asked if he had too much to drink, LeDuff said, “Probably.”")
Definitely something of a character.
Back in his broken hometown, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Charlie LeDuff searches through the ruins for clues to its fate, his family’s, and his own. Detroit is where his mother’s flower shop was firebombed in the pre-Halloween orgy of arson known as Devil’s Night; where his sister lost herself to the west side streets; where his brother, who once sold subprime mortgages with skill and silk, now works in a factory cleaning Chinese-manufactured screws so they can be repackaged as “May Be Made in United States.”
Having led us on the way up, Detroit now seems to be leading us on the way down. Once the richest city in America, Detroit is now the nation’s poorest. Once the vanguard of America’s machine age—mass production, blue-collar jobs, and automobiles—Detroit is now America’s capital for unemployment, illiteracy, dropouts, and foreclosures. It is an eerie and angry place of deserted factories and abandoned homes and forgotten people. Trees and switchgrass and wild animals have come back to reclaim their right¬ful places. Coyotes are here. The pigeons have left. A city the size of San Francisco and Manhattan could neatly fit into Detroit’s vacant lots. After revealing that the city’s murder rate is higher than the official police number—making it the highest in the country—a weary old detective tells LeDuff, “In this city two plus two equals three.”
With the steel-eyed reportage that has become his trademark and the righteous indignation only a native son possesses, LeDuff sets out to uncover what destroyed his city. He embeds with a local fire brigade struggling to defend its city against systemic arson and bureaucratic corruption. He investigates politicians of all stripes, from the smooth-talking mayor to career police officials to ministers of the backstreets, following the paperwork to discover who benefits from Detroit’s decline. He beats on the doors of union bosses and homeless squatters, powerful businessmen and struggling homeowners, and the ordinary people holding the city together by sheer determination.
If Detroit is America’s vanguard in good times and bad, then here is the only place to turn for guidance in our troubled era. While redemption is thin on the ground in this ghost of a city, Detroit: An American Autopsy is no hopeless parable. LeDuff shares an unbelievable story of a hard town in a rough time filled with some of the strangest and strongest people our country has to offer. Detroit is a dark comedy of the absurdity of American life in the twenty-first century, a deeply human drama of colossal greed and endurance, ignorance and courage.
B&N has the usual reviews:
Politician Fondles Writer in Grim Detroit Autopsy:
Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist LeDuff (Work and Other Sins) delivers an edgy portrait of the decline, destruction, and possible redemption of his hometown. Returning in 2008 after 20 years away, the former New York Times staff writer finds a city in its death throes...As a reporter for the Detroit News, LeDuff tries to uncover where all the money, targeted toward municipal services, is really going. As he exposes the corruption and ineptitude of the city’s government..
Noting that Detroit is where “America’s way of life was built,” LeDuff argues that the city is a microcosm of what’s occurring in the rest of the country: foreclosures, unemployment, rising debt. In a spare, macho style, with a discerning eye for telling details, LeDuff writes with honesty and compassion about a city that’s destroying itself—and breaking his heart.
Iggy Pop meets Jim Carroll and Charles Bukowski in this gritty downer of a Rust Belt portrait. "I threw my cigarette butt into the sewer grate. I looked up into the rain. That's when a bird shit on my face." Thus writes former New York Times and Detroit News reporter LeDuff... and he means nothing remotely humorous by it. His Detroit is a set out of Blade Runner, and never mind all that Kid Rock and sundry entrepreneurs have been doing to revive the Motor City; LeDuff isn't convinced: The place is toast, its people what an editor of his used to spit out: "losers." "That was 80 percent of the country," LeDuff counters, "and the new globalized economic structure was cranking out more."...Along the way, the author looks at some of the toxic ingredients that have brought Detroit to its knees, including the aforementioned globalization, the replacement of local industry with a service economy of crime and, particularly, the noxious effects of racism, which he examines through his own family history. There's little joy in these pages, and one hopes that Detroit will endure, if only to cheer LeDuff up. A book full of both literary grace and hard-won world-weariness.
Reporting on city politics isn’t supposed to include having a city councilwoman squeeze one’s nether parts.
After a few pages of Charlie LeDuff’s “Detroit: An American Autopsy,” you get used to surprises. It’s a hard-eyed look at some of the recent villains and victims of a city battered for half a century by political corruption, racial strife and industrial collapse. Even the light moments have a dark side...
The relentless exposure of violence, corruption and their consequent thwarting of human potential — the traditional staple of the reporter-as-progressive-advocate — goes largely unappreciated by the city’s statistically small but culturally ascendant creative-class boosters. Though almost invariably liberal, they wish to accentuate Detroit’s positives, and will claim, correctly, that LeDuff’s book is unbalanced.
On that "white savior complex that LeDuff cultivates":
But balance is not always a literary virtue, and many of the best American books are notable for their lack of equilibrium. Quite a few, in fact, are flat-out bonkers, and LeDuff spends much of “Detroit” — “a book of reportage,” he says, “a memoir of a reporter returning home” — in a near-manic state...
...It’s typically considered polite, at this point, to express regret that this book — about a city that is more than 80 percent black — is written by a suburban white guy.
Except LeDuff himself is black, in an Elizabeth Warren sort of way. A grandfather, he learns, was “mulatto,” making the white guy pictured on the book’s cover — and referred to therein as “a white boy,” “Whitey,” “Mister Charlie” and “just a redneck” — “the palest black man in Michigan.” LeDuff doesn’t know what to make of this late-in-life discovery (“How much of anything am I?”), and no one else much cares. “Black people . . . would simply wave me off with a go-away-white-boy smirk. White folks laughed and called me Tyrone.”
It’s necessary, at times, to separate LeDuff’s reporting from his writing. His reporting is immersive, patient. His writing just about bursts from revved-up impatience. Too many lines want to be lines...When sentiment and style sync — “Detroit is full of good people who know what pain is” — you’re reminded of how solid a writer he can be when he plays it simple and straight. You suspect that Reporter LeDuff, who notes the shoulder pads in Kilpatrick’s suits, would distrust the occasionally puffed-up nature of Writer LeDuff’s prose...
Lovely. LeDuff has lived his whole live with the privilege of being white. But he discovers that there is a percentage of black running in his family history, and suddenly he claims association with the racial disparity of Detroit. If this book weren’t getting read, this would just be embarrassing But LeDuff is all over the place these days. It is his narrative and his interpretation of the city that is getting play.
Not a fan: Two books take the pulse of once-great, now-ailing Detroit
This is a problem for a city that hasn’t figured out how to understand the who, what, where and why of its story. With LeDuff’s book, people will understand that Detroit’s solutions lie in some great white savior, some Lone Ranger saving the city....
A book from a man claiming to be the lightest skinned black man in Detroit is the worst thing that could happen for the city. It is the embodiment of the worst of racial politics in Detroit and in the nation because it deletes an entire category of people from the discourse. I’ve sometimes thought that part of Detroit’s problems have to do with the elimination of certain voices in the narrative, and LeDuff’s book seems to confirm this...
LeDuff - also from a blue-collar Detroit suburb and a onetime New York Times reporter who has since worked for The Detroit News and Detroit's Fox TV affiliate - moves within a much narrower range. He bills his book as both "reportage" and a "grim memoir of a reporter returning home."
It's an odd, disorganized jumble, bringing together muckraking journalism on Detroit politics, an homage to various hardworking cops and firefighters, and often maudlin portraits of his family - including a now-dead sister who was a prostitute and hard-luck brothers working dead-end jobs.
Unlike the self-effacing Binelli, who seems more interested in those around him even when he is ostensibly talking about himself, LeDuff is always front and center in his narrative, even when he appears to be talking about someone else. The picture that emerges isn't flattering...
There's a lot more of this, along with a disturbing tendency to characterize women by their chest size...
Such cartoons - as well as LeDuff's gimcrack turns of phrase - grow wearisome in a hurry. They also drain his picture of texture and life, replacing a complicated story with a series of line drawings.
The rays of hope don't burn bright in this book. This'll anger some people: What about the edgy artists and urban farmers working to restore the city? LeDuff acknowledges the existence of these folks, doing wonderful stuff, along with a number of middle-class model citizens: "But," he writes, "these things are not supposed to be news. These things are supposed to be normal. And when normal things become the news, the abnormal becomes the norm. And when that happens, you might as well put a fork in it. ... Writing about s- like that in the city we were living in seemed equal to writing about the surf conditions while reporting in the Gaza Strip."
LeDuff's hard-boiled prose and overall attitude hits the swagger scale somewhere between Bukowski and Hemingway. Like the best memoirs, the book is fueled by equal amounts of self-loathing and narcissism, compassion and rage. It won't be everybody's cup of tea. It's the literary equivalent of a boilermaker - an eye-and-throat-burning shot of honesty dropped into a cool, crisp, clear-eyed brew.
I drank it down fast and loved every drop.
NYJournal of books:
Charlie LeDuff’s sobering assessment is underscored by the consideration that the $14 per hour wage for today’s auto worker—if he can actually get a job after adjusting for inflation—is actually three cents less per hour than that same job paid BEFORE Henry Ford revolutionized the working man’s compensation with his $5/day program, implemented nearly a century ago, on January 5, 1914.
When Detroit's Big Three auto executives flew to Washington in corporate jets to beg for a taxpayer bailout a few years ago, they were sent home humbled and empty-handed. Their second trip, in which they drove company-made hybrid vehicles to the Capitol, was in some ways equally humiliating. Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli drove to D.C. in a soon-to-be-discontinued Aspen Hybrid SUV, traveling with engineers in tow in case of mechanical difficulties. On the way back, Nardelli told his driver to take the exit for the airport and flew home on a corporate jet.
That nugget of corporate duplicity comes by way of journalist Charlie LeDuff in Detroit: An American Autopsy, a new book about the decay of Motor City. There's a lot to be mad about in the story of the decline of Detroit, but few people do anger with as much flair as LeDuff...
LeDuff is an entertaining though at times infuriating narrator. In real life as on TV, he dresses a little like a musketeer: wide ties, white shirts, vests, and a goatee. His journalistic motto, aside from "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable," is "don't be boring." He is not...
Yet the Big Three are still in business. Despite the 2008 corporate jet snafu they still got their federal bailouts, enabling the region to hold on to thousand of jobs. All three automakers (even Chrysler) are now profitable. Detroit also has a renovated museum in the Detroit Institute of Art, and cheap studio space has paved the way for a vibrant community of artists. Upscale restaurants serve kale and quinoa salads and great barbeque. There's an apartment shortage in the up-and-coming Midtown neighborhood. Whole Foods (WFM) will open a branch on Woodward Avenue in the spring. Those signs of life go unmentioned in Detroit: An American Autopsy.
Instead LeDuff paints a portrait of a desolate, crime-ridden urban time bomb. In some ways, that's a shame...The book is at worst when it veers into self-indulgence, which happens maybe every other chapter...The writing is engaging, though occasionally grandiose. For example: "Suddenly I was in the middle of a gangster picture and I didn't have the script." And his running theme of working man vs. The Man -- be it politicians, Wall Street, or automotive execs -- can be wearyingly simplistic.
That said, sometimes the story really is that simple. Detroit has always been about strife between haves and have-nots. By taking up cudgels for the working man, both in this book and in his many scoops as a metro reporter, LeDuff successfully puts the focus where it belongs: on fixing the city's problems. In Detroit, a little outrage may be exactly what's called for.