cover image Detroit Resurrected: To Bankruptcy and Back

Detroit Resurrected: To Bankruptcy and Back

Nathan Bomey. Norton, $27.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-393-24891-3

The Motor City’s recent fiscal implosion sparks an unlikely outbreak of civic-mindedness in this stirring saga of municipal finance. Bomey, a former Detroit Free Press reporter, recounts Detroit’s 2013 Chapter 9 filing—the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history—after decades of plummeting population, dwindling tax revenue, and criminal mismanagement of public finances. The city’s staggering $9.2 billion debt crowded out funding for police, fire protection, and other basic services. The story begins as a dogfight in bankruptcy court, where Detroit’s appointed emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, is pitted against retirees whose pensions could be slashed and Wall Street creditors whose city bonds are worth pennies on the dollar. Soon, everyone starts eyeing the magnificent city-owned art museum as a piggy bank of priceless works to be auctioned off. That looming travesty prompts philanthropic foundations and Michigan’s governor to join a “grand bargain” to save the collection, partially protect pensioners, stabilize Detroit’s budget, and restore public services. Bomey deftly elucidates the intricacies of law and finance that shaped the case while painting colorful profiles of the principals and their sharp-tongued, profane wrangling (and occasional fits of conscience). Scrupulously fair to all parties and their grievances, Bomey reveals that behind the crass bean counting stood a fractious community pulling together to value and rescue a long-neglected city. Agent: Karen Gantz, Karen Gantz Zahler Literary Management. (May)