Very much worth revisiting if you ve read it before very much worth discovering if you haven t A tense and meticulously told true crime story with real journalistic care about a profile act of racial violence with than a little police complicity in Detroit in and around the 1967 riots Hersey was an interesting and versatile writer His portfolio is diverse both lyrical and pragmatic, but in this work he opened important doors for the hard edged reporting style of prose into the new complex sociological terrain of the Civil Rights there s a riot goin on era This book can be enjoyed as a stand alone novelor as part of the muckraking social advocacy stream in American literature, which dates back in it strength to the 1870s.I think Hersey is a writer, famous in his day, who deserves reappraisal He did a lot of different things well Not easily categorized in the totality of his work, which may be why he s not appreciated as much as he should be. Thoughtful, provocative A little disjointed in terms of structure. I had this book for a long time It was acquired free and I grabbed it because I recognized the author s name having read Hiroshima in middle school I never knew of the incident it covers, nor did I ever bother to read the back cover synopsis Given the profile in recent years of cases involving the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner to name but a few , it is frightening how this book reads like it could have been written today and not some 40 years ago Hersey writes very soon after the deaths of three unarmed black men in 1967 at the Algiers Motel in Detroit during the riots He immerses the reader in the confusion, rage, corruption, and injustice of the moment with stark retellings, direct witness quotes, narratives from official reports, and a birdseye view of the judicial process It reads a little like a Werner Herzog documentary with a touch indignation judgment on the part of the author This is the kind of story history attempts to erase, but the heart never forgets. The movie Detroit brought me to this book On the one hand, as a detailed document of a specific time and place and for the raw expression of pain and anger, particularly of Auburey Pollard s mother, this book is invaluable On the other hand, it s just a jumbled, repetitive mess.Surprisingly the best extended moments come from the interviews and history of the policemen accused of these horrible, racist crimes We have an engaging account of the officers lives, then a description of the incident where they were involved, but nothing linking them Did the author even ask any of them about their actions during this incident Were they asked but refused to comment There s an incredible disconnect here.The cops stories are presented simply and directly but the victims stories are given a lofty prose, full of ridiculous sentences My favorite is probably Friendship was the highest prize of life to Lee, and Carl, above all others, was the giver of the prize These people don t need a false illumination of dignity, although maybe John Hersey thought they might ve needed it at the time it was written.I m really torn about this book, it s certainly compulsively readable, and important, but it s kind of irritating, too. poorly written.true story Detroit riots Man, nothing like reading a bit of history I wish the author had spent time on his interviews and research the book was very uneven and left many un answered questions It was written only a year or so after the events transpired.The central story is set during the civil unrest race riots in Detroit during the summer of 1967 and concerns the massacre of four young black men staying at the annex of the Algiers Motel, and the gross injustice that followed 38 A Mother Speaks This broke up our whole house They got Tanner doing time He s in the House of Correction right now For driving without a license And I swear I know they can give the police some time because they did a murder Tanner s doing time, Robert s doing time Robert couldn t even come home for the funeral He didn t kill nobody, but still this policeman walk the streets See, Robert robbed a paperboy He s still doing time for that They gave him three years Three years And they ain t gave that police not a day that s what I can t understand Mrs Pollard, mother of Tanner, Robert, and the murdered Auburey Pollard. In Three Black Men Were Killed And Nine Other People Brutally Beaten By, As John Hersey Describes It In The Algiers Motel Incident, An Aggregate Of Detroit Police, Michigan State Troopers, National Guardsmen, And Private Guards Who Had Been Directed To The Scene Responding To A Telephoned Report Of Sniping, The Police Group Invaded The Algiers Motel And Interrogated Ten Black Men And Two White Women, None Of Whom Were Armed, For An Hour By The Time The Interrogators Left, Three Men Had Been Shot To Death And The Others, Including The Women, Beaten I discovered this book fifteen years ago on a shelf at the Lawrence Technological University, startled to see an incident of the 1967 Detroit riots given full length treatment and startled to find it in the library of an engineering and architecture school I read it and thought it was interesting, but viewed it a window to the past, a world of institutional racism that the intervening years had broken down substantially Oh, the innocence and optimism of youth.Rereading this masterful work of reportage today, from the perspective of somebody who has looked at the statistics of today s American criminal legal system a little too long, under the shadow of the calamitous election of 2016, made for a completely different experience A physically sickening experience, but a much vivid one.The focus on Auberey, as a child trying to decide what kind of man he would be, is justified And the particular way he was tortured by these adult men is hard to shake But I feel the mysterious and unwitnessed deaths of Carl and Fred as deeply I identified a lot with Fred If his friends were correct that he survived the death game , and was killed afterwardsI look forward to Katherine Bigelow s adaptation of this, heading to screens next summer for the fiftieth anniversary of the riots, and I hope assuming it draws the same conclusions about the incident that Hersey does it s a box office smash Not because it will be any truthful than the book it won t be or vivid it can t be but because people are liable to see a film by the auteur of Zero Dark Thirty than to pick up a dusty piece of old news And people have got to understand that we still live in the world that this book describes. What is wrong Equal parts masterful and horrifying, Hersey presents a near perfect piece of journalistic achievement, while also making it clear that only one message should endure from the nightmarish events of July 1967 racism is real, and the system that perpetuates it is pervasive Sadly 50 years later this message still rings true for people of color in our nation today.Hersey asks his audience, should law be used to support or retard obviously needed changes in the fabric of society A question, like his message, that has endured To what end is our government assembled, and by what methods are we willing to allow it to achieve this end Are we to support our neighbors in their pursuit of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness Or are we to act only out of self preservation and the protection of our own interests Hersey s book is a necessary and unfortunately timely witness to the too real and too often events that have shaped the racial past of this suffering nation. Very emotionally difficult book to read I was just a kid when the riot took place in Detroit I lived in a white suburb The rawness of what happened at the Algiers Motel is written in a very confusing and disorganized fashion I believe on purpose to show how difficult it was to really determine what happened with all the inconsistent recollections Really doesn t matter what this book really shows is the terrible racism in America during the 1960 s And the reader was left thinking is it really any better now I know it will be difficult to watch but I do want to see the movie Detroit that was based on this book.
John Richard Hersey was a Pulitzer Prize winning American writer and journalist considered one of the earliest practitioners of the so called New Journalism, in which storytelling devices of the novel are fused with non fiction reportage Hersey s account of the aftermath of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, was adjudged the finest piece of journalism of the 20th century by a 36 member
- 418 pages
- The Algiers Motel incident
- John Hersey
- 22 February 2019 John Hersey