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Archive for November, 2010

Focus on Detroit

Having grown up in Detroit, I am always curious to read anything about my childhood city that sheds a new perspective on it, fiction, non-fiction and even a TV show. With the recent airing of the new police show, Detroit 187, filmed on location in Detroit with a lot of local footage, it made me think about some of the more recent books set in or that are about Detroit. Here are a few recent and noteworthy books you many want to check out.

Grand River and Joy by Susan Messer. In this new historical novel, two ordinary families, one Jewish the other African-American, face racial tensions in their neighborhood leading up to the Detroit race riots of the mid 1960s. As they watch their neighborhoods and city fall apart, the characters struggle with the fundamental issues of how to cope with a changing world and maintain personal integrity despite fear. In another work of fiction, The Detroit Electric Scheme; a Mystery by D.E. Johnson is set in booming 1910 Detroit, just as competition is beginning in the auto industry and labor unions are beginning to form. The main character, son of owner of an electric car company is forced to fight for his life against allodds. Rich details of historical Detroit, sprinkled with captains of industry, and a twisting plot make for a good read. The Leisure Seekers by Michael Zadoorian, is a poignant story of an elderly couple in declining health filled with love, determination and laugh-out loud scenes.  Over the objection of their doctors and adult children the couple decides to embark on one final fling together. They leave Madison Heights to head west on Route 66. Zadoorian, raised in Detroit is also author of Second Hand, a wonderfully humorous book of a young junk dealer set in Detroit.

Detroit Disassembled by Philip Levine with photographs  by  Andrew Moore. Moore  has produced a powerful compilation of photos of Detroit in decline since its heyday before WW II. Photographing in color, Moore captures the dilapidation of decaying buildings, abandoned businesses and once grand but uninhabitable residences.

Chrysler’s Turbine Engine by Steve Lehto is an account about Chrysler’s foray into producing cars with jet engines that would run on just about any flammable liquid from tequila, to alcohol to kerosene. Produced in the early 60’s, the experimental fleet logged over a million miles. The author interviewed all members of the team to learn about the program and find out why it was killed.

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