Listen free for 30 days

Listen with a free trial

One credit a month, good for any title to download and keep.
Unlimited listening to the Plus Catalogue - thousands of select Audible Originals, podcasts and audiobooks.
Exclusive member-only deals.
No commitment - cancel anytime.
Buy Now for £22.89

Buy Now for £22.89

Pay using card ending in
By completing your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and authorise Audible to charge your designated card or any other card on file. Please see our Privacy Notice, Cookies Notice and Interest-based Ads Notice.

Summary

When we think of Detroit, we think first of the auto industry and its slow, painful decline, then maybe the sounds of Motown, or the long line of professional sports successes. But economies are made up of people, and the effect of the economic downfall of Detroit is one of the most compelling stories in America.

Detroit: A Biography by journalist and author Scott Martelle is about a city that rose because of the most American of traits - innovation, entrepreneurship, and an inspiring perseverance. It’s about the object lessons learned from the city’s collapse, and, most prosaically, it’s about what happens when a nation turns its back on its own citizens.

The story of Detroit encompasses compelling human dimensions, from the hope it once posed for blacks fleeing slavery in the early 1800s and then rural Southern poverty in the 1920s, to the American Dream it represented for waves of European immigrants eager to work in factories bearing the names Ford, Chrysler, and Chevrolet. Martelle clearly encapsulates an entire city, past and present, through the lives of generations of individual citizens. The tragic story truly is a biography, for the city is nothing without its people.

Scott Martelle is a former Los Angeles Times staff writer and author of three books of nonfiction. He has covered three presidential campaigns as well as postwar reporting from Kosovo. He is the cofounder of the Journalism Shop, a book critic, and an active blogger. He lives with his wife and children in California.

©2012 Scott Martelle (P)2012 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic reviews

“Former  Detroit News reporter Martelle vividly recounts the rise and downfall of a once-great city…An informative albeit depressing glimpse of the workings of a once-great city that is now a shell of its former self.” ( Publishers Weekly)
Blood Passion is the definitive account of a major landmark in the American struggle for social justice. And the way Scott Martelle tells the story is splendid proof that history can both be written as vividly as a novel and also be documented with scrupulous care.” (Adam Hochschild,  New York Times best-selling author on  Blood Passion)
“Martelle’s excellent book captures [the Ludlow Massacre] with a journalist’s flair for narrative and a historian’s penchant for making the necessary inferences where they belong: on the page for all to see.” ( San Francisco Chronicle)

What listeners say about Detroit

Average customer ratings
Overall
  • 3.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    1
  • 4 Stars
    0
  • 3 Stars
    0
  • 2 Stars
    1
  • 1 Stars
    0
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    1
  • 4 Stars
    1
  • 3 Stars
    0
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0
Story
  • 3.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    1
  • 4 Stars
    0
  • 3 Stars
    0
  • 2 Stars
    1
  • 1 Stars
    0

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

No Reviews are Available
Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Rick
  • Rick
  • 17-03-13

...And I'm from Lansing!

Good book! Having grown up in Michigan, it was interesting to hear the history behind the city of Detroit. With the turmoil surrounding Detroit, it's debt, the crime, the flocks who've left and the hope from those that choose to stay, it was sad to hear how great the Motor City once was.

Having grown up in Lansing, Michigan history is always something I want to read. Throughout the entire book I found myself trying to picture what it must have been like in the 20's and 30's. Those days are long gone and it may be a long time if ever before Detroit will be as respected as it once was. Sad to see.

I listened to this book twice, each time finding myself captivated. I'll probably try and buy the hard copy for my shelf.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Teresa
  • Teresa
  • 10-07-12

A Native Detroiter

What did you love best about Detroit?

I learned a lot more about the politics that were going on when I was a child

What didn’t you like about William Hughes’s performance?

The names of local places and streets are frequently mispronounced. The pronunciation of a major street in Detroit, Gratiot was almost unrecognizable. This is so distracting that it really should be rerecorded.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Carole
  • Carole
  • 25-04-12

Great Hisroty of Detroit

Would you consider the audio edition of Detroit to be better than the print version?

NOOOOO. The narrator clearly knew nothing about Detroit and his pronunciation of local place names was atrocious! What a terrible oversight for a book ABOUT Detroit, and the publisher was from Chicago. Lame

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

Well written and researched.

What didn’t you like about William Hughes’s performance?

He clearly knew nothing about Detroit. I got distracted part way through and started making a list of all the words he mispronounced.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Joshua Kim
  • Joshua Kim
  • 10-06-12

Lessons from "Detroit: A Biography"

What would Detroit look like today if the University of Michigan had not moved from the city (after the university's founding in 1817) to Ann Arbor in 1837? Imagine what U of M's $8 billion endowment and 40,000 students would mean to the city today?

Would having a flagship research university in Detroit have allowed the city to follow a path closer to that of Pittsburgh, another formerly one industry town (steel instead of autos) that re-invented itself to a center of ED'S, MED'S, and FINANCE?

These and other questions are pondered in Scott Martelle's wonderful new book, Detroit: A Biography.

We keep reading about how it is cities that drive our economy by spurring innovation. Matt Ridely, in The Rational Optimist, talks about cities as places where "ideas go to have sex." Readers of Ed Glaeser's Triumph of the City know that the world's future is an urban future, and that more people will move to cities in the 21st century than at any time in the history of the world.

The sub-title of Glaeser's book is "How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier." How then to explain Detroit?

Martelle, a long time Detroit resident and reporter (he currently lives in California) sets out to explain how Detroit went from one of our wealthier cities (with amongst the highest median incomes and highest rates of home ownership in the 1950s) to a place over one-third of residents live below the poverty line. What caused the greatest urban population crash in modern memory, with the number of Detroit city residents dropping from 1.85 million in 1950 to just over 700,000 today?

What can we learn from the story of Detroit? And is there a future for the Motor City? Martelle is stronger on the former question than the latter. He is articulate about the decisions the people of Detroit should have made to build on the city's industrial foundations. He is less certain about what Detroit can do now to turn things around.

Martelle ascribes the reasons for Detroit's fall primarily to the short-sighted and greedy decision making of the cities former elites. Rather than invest in industries outside of automobiles, politicians and corporate executives continuously doubled-down on cars. There is no Ford or G.M. University in Detroit. No Chrysler College. The failure to diversify is a lesson that other single industry towns should learn well.

Detroit: A Biography is an important addition to the growing literature on urbanism and innovation - and should be read by anyone thinking about which policies will be most effective in growing the U.S. economy in the 21st century.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for B. P. Sexton
  • B. P. Sexton
  • 17-12-15

Excellent biography of my home city

I learned a lot about the forces that forged Detroit into a powerhouse and the forces that lead Detroit into near ruins. I lived through some of the story and know how well the author captures the people on the ground of late 20th century Detroit. In the end I learned how and why life in Detroit in the 70's and & 80's was so hard. Highly recommended by a native

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Robert J. Goodsell
  • Robert J. Goodsell
  • 23-06-12

Narrator has never been near Detroit

What three words best describe William Hughes’s performance?

Doesn't know Detroit

Any additional comments?

The reader's mispronunciation of several Detroit area names is very distracting if you are familiar with the area: "Gratiot" should be pronounced "GRASH-ut", not "GRATHio". And it's "E-corse", not "e-CORSE", and "maCOMB" county, not "MAYcom". He also often puts emphasis in the wrong places in sentences.

The book itself often diverges into huge amounts of largely irrelevant detail, especially distracting when listening.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Tim
  • Tim
  • 14-05-12

A Very Interesting Book about Detrot's History!

Would you consider the audio edition of Detroit to be better than the print version?

This was a great book especially in the beginning. I got lots of interesting facts and figures. I felt that the end of the book was not nearly the quality as the beginning. I felt it skimmed over much the "1948: 250th Anniversary!" It did give some great information on the "Henry Ford Era" but again not enough; and it didn't seem to have enough information on the revival and the 2008: 300th Anniversay!" I am glad I read the book, but it seemed to be hastened during the end!

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

The Beginning History and the facts and details - the civil rights of Detroit was also interesting for me!

Have you listened to any of William Hughes’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Nope

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Early African America struggles.

Any additional comments?

It was a great book in the beginning!

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Jason
  • Jason
  • 11-05-12

The city personified

What made the experience of listening to Detroit the most enjoyable?

The author shares the major turning points in the city's life. In it I began to feel both a vested interest and a sympathy for the people who put so much stock in it's well being.

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

I think the thing that hit me strongest was the broad view with which the book was written. The cities decline was something that was set in motion many years before.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Mgroovy78
  • Mgroovy78
  • 27-10-21

good read for basic understanding

good read but a bit of miss pronounced cities and street names. enjoyed it nonetheless

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Karin S
  • Karin S
  • 05-10-21

Good book, questionable narration

The book itself was interesting and informative. The narrator does not know how to pronounce many of the names in the city and surrounding areas, so it startles you out of the story a bit if you know the area and are trying to place the road/city/county mentioned.