cover image Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story

Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story

David Maraniss. Simon & Schuster, $32.50 (448p) ISBN 978-1-4767-4838-2

Using a combination of historical eyewitness reports and sketches of larger-than-life figures, Pulitzer-winning reporter Maraniss (Barack Obama: The Story) draws a sprawling portrait of Detroit at a pivotal moment when it was “dying and thriving at the same time.” Given its current turmoil, it is easy to forget the Detroit that once was. Between the fall of 1962 and the spring of 1964, Detroit was at its peak. It was a front-runner in the bid for the 1968 Summer Olympics; its local civil rights leaders organized the Walk to Freedom, where Martin Luther King Jr. workshopped his famous “I Have a Dream” speech; Ford Motor Co. released the Mustang; Berry Gordy was honing the soon-to-be famous “Motown sound” on West Grand Boulevard; and Walter Reuther, head of UAW, was guiding labor towards progressive reform. But even in this golden age, all was not well in Detroit. Discriminatory housing practices, intended to prevent minorities from entering the toniest neighborhoods, were exacerbating existing racial tensions, and the city’s organized crime could not be cleaned up despite the police commissioner’s best efforts. But for all his exhaustive research and evocative scene-setting, Maraniss never seems to find the zeitgeist of the historical moment he covers, the essential spirit that lifted up but ultimately ruined the Motor City. Maps & photos. [em]Agent: Rafe Sagalyn, ICM/Sagalyn. (Sept.) [/em]