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Detroit: A Biography Audiobook, by Scott Martelle Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: Scott Martelle Narrator: William Hughes Publisher: Blackstone Publishing Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: April 2012 ISBN: 9781481589901
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (175 ratings) (rate this audio book)
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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. 

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Martelle tells the story of Detroit from its founding, with an eye toward the roots of its current problems. Narrator William Hughes’ friendly tenor makes the story more engaging. His pace is consistent and well measured, and his pronunciation is always clear.”


  • “This unsentimental assessment is rich with cold, hard facts about those responsible for what Detroit became and what it is today, and one cannot avoid the parallels between the failures of the legendary titans of banking, industry, and politics and the city’s calamitous decline. Equally evident is the courage and resilience of those who continue to build a positive future for the city.”


  • “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

  • “Former Detroit News journalist Martelle explores the troubled city where he once worked. The author shows how no other American city has been gutted so deeply…a situation caused in part by auto-industry decline, racism, and anti-unionism…Martelle’s case study combines history, economic evaluation, and firsthand accounts from individual Detroiters…A valuable biography sure to appeal to readers seeking to come to grips with important problems facing not just a city but a country.”

    Kirkus Reviews

Listener Reviews

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  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Megan | 2/18/2014

    " Disclaimer: I've always been horribly bored by early MI history and generally more interested in the 20th century than all years prior, so it should be no surprise that I found the first two thirds of this book to be a bit of a chore. The thing is, I get the feeling that Scott Martelle did as well. There were points where I tuned out and then back in and didn't feel I'd missed much of real importance, or anything I hadn't already read in Sugrue's The Origins of the Urban Crisis. That said, he does ramp up in the last chapters and epilogue with actual insight and opinion, and a genuinely passionate response to those who attempt to blame the state of Detroit on those who have not abandoned the city. Hence the third star. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Eric | 2/12/2014

    " Very interesting read. Martelle says up front that this isn't an exhaustive history of the city, and he's true to his word. It offers a history of the city grouped around the nexis of race, class, industry, and political movements. Offers a sad glimpse of what may await other great American industrial cities with an over reliance on one industry. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Paul | 1/26/2014

    " I learned many elements of Detroit history that were previously unknown to me. The author's main theme seems to be one of corporate responsibility and deep-seated racism throughout the 300 years of Detroit's history. Poignant ending wraps together the growth and decline of the city. There were some glimmers of hope dashed through the pages, but the overall theme was only through some great trans-formative change would the city recover. The author seems to place the recovery of the city in great doubt. After digesting his book I would tend to agree. The industrial hey-day that brought Detroit growth from the start of the 20th century to WWII is no more. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 R | 1/20/2014

    " It held my interest, but man what a tough life that city's had in the last century or so. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kenneth | 1/6/2014

    " The book is a good overview of the past, present, and future of Detroit. Definitely a good read for those interested in the effects of inner-city blight. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sally | 12/11/2013

    " I really enjoyed the history in the first part of the book, about the settling of Detroit. The end of the book, however, was focused solely on unions and racial tensions. The result was a limited view of the city. The author seemed biased, making statements such as, "A common theme among present-day whites is that blacks have achieved equality (a questionable assertion in and of itself) so the sins of the past should be left in the past." There are those who believe equality means equal opportunities and those who believe it means equal outcomes, and never the two will agree! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jen | 12/8/2013

    " This is one of the best nonfiction books I have read on Detroit! Martelle is succinct and yet covers the entire span of Detroit's history from the French Fort to Mayor Bing. His case studies of real life Detroiters make the themes and ideas resonate. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Anita | 11/26/2013

    " I loved the history of such a wonderful city. I am not from Michigan but it will be nice to be able to see a landmark and know the history of it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ann | 11/21/2013

    " Borrowed this book because I was interested in the earliest history of Detroit, so I read only the first few chapters. Skimmed the rest, which is a good read for anyone wanting to know more of the recent history of this city. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mark | 10/21/2013

    " It's a bit on the brief and surface-level side. And there are a few places where Scott is obviously trying to score political potshots in a very exaggerated fashion. That said, this is a pretty good book otherwise. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mark | 7/27/2013

    " A concise, intelligent, thought-provoking book about the history of the city. Highly recommended. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Linda | 7/11/2013

    " Not in depth, but a good overview of the rise and decline of Detroit and its people. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 John | 5/17/2013

    " This is a pretty bleak history of Detroit, mostly focused on riots and mistakes in leadership surrounding city government and the automobile barons. It is full of interesting facts but not much optimism for the future. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Corey | 3/28/2013

    " An interesting book about a tortured city. Martelle manages to write about the systematic rise and fall of a great American city all the while keeping the story personal through the telling of individual drama. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 George | 1/27/2013

    " So, if one was to purchase and read said book: whipty-do. If one were not to purchase and read said book: congratulations, you just saved yourself money and time. Unfortunately, I fall into the former. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Catherine | 10/19/2012

    " Very interesting and good! Opened my eyes as to why the city is as it is today. Had so much potential yet time after time shot itself in the foot. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Paul | 7/20/2012

    " Really rich. The recurring themes are amazing "

About the Author

David Colacci is an actor and director who has directed and performed in prominent theaters nationwide. His credits include roles from Shakespeare to Albee, as well as extensive work on new plays. As a narrator, he has won numerous Earphones Awards, earned Audie Award nominations, and been included in Best Audio of the Year lists by such publications as Publishers Weekly, AudioFile magazine, and Library Journal. He was a resident actor and director with the Cleveland Play House for eight years and has been artistic director of the Hope Summer Rep Theater since 1992.

About the Narrator

William Hughes is an AudioFile Earphones Award–winning narrator. A professor of political science at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Oregon, he received his doctorate in American politics from the University of California at Davis. He has done voice-over work for radio and film and is also an accomplished jazz guitarist.