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Publisher's Summary

As David Maraniss captures it with power and affection, Detroit summed up America's path to music and prosperity that was already past history.

It's 1963, and Detroit is on top of the world. The city's leaders are among the most visionary in America: Henry Ford II, the grandson of the first Ford; influential labor leader Walter Reuther; Motown's founder, Berry Gordy; the Reverend C.L. Franklin and his daughter, the amazing Aretha; Governor George Romney, Mormon and civil rights advocate; super car salesman Lee Iacocca; Mayor Jerome Cavanagh, a Kennedy acolyte; Police Commissioner George Edwards; Martin Luther King. It was the American auto makers' best year; the revolution in music and politics was underway. Reuther's UAW had helped lift the middle class.

The time was full of promise. The auto industry was selling more cars than ever before and inventing the Mustang. Motown was capturing the world with its amazing artists. The progressive labor movement was rooted in Detroit with the UAW. Martin Luther King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech there two months before he made it famous in the Washington march.

Once in a Great City shows that the shadows of collapse were evident even then. Before the devastating riot, before the decades of civic corruption and neglect and white flight; before people trotted out the grab bag of rust-belt infirmities and competition from abroad to explain Detroit's collapse. From high labor costs to harsh weather, one could see the signs of a city's ruin. Detroit at its peak was threatened by its own design. It was being abandoned by the new world. Yet so much of what Detroit gave America lasts.

©2015 David Maraniss. All rights reserved. (P)2015 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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Detroit in its Heyday

Would you consider the audio edition of Once in a Great City to be better than the print version?

I consider the print version better because the material is interesting, but the author's narration is boring. He has a bland voice, and he reads in a monotone. It distracts from the content.

How could the performance have been better?

It could have been read by someone else.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

The Detroit That Was

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Amazing story and writing, AWFUL voice performance

Would you try another book from David Maraniss and/or David Maraniss?

Yes - this book is a fantastically written, well-detailed, well-researched story describing Detroit on the cusp of its current modern history.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of David Maraniss?

Anyone but the current narrator. This reader was THE WORST AUDIOBOOK READER I'VE EVER HEARD.

Some congested, monotone, OBNOXIOUS sounding reader ruined the listening experience for me.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Great read

For those interested in Detroit or urban history, this is well-written book, focusing on themes of the struggles of the African-American community for equal rights, the rise of Motown, the UAW and the automobile companies, the Detroit mafia, and the failed bid to land the 1968 Olympics. But I am a Detroiter, so hearing the names of familiar people and places was part of my enjoyment of the book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Takes me back...

I am the same age as the author but grew up several miles north of him in Detroit. I remembered some of the things he described in those pivotal years, and knew many of the stories; as an adult I got to know the union and political figures he talks about and know the places he describes. I very much enjoyed the book and learned a lot about the city I call home and it's place in, and influence on, the larger world. Detroit is resilient and working to be great again

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • D
  • 08-15-17

Brilliant History

A must for any Michigander. Amazing details filled in many gaps from parents and grandmother. All the behind the scenes motives and facts beyond the rhetoric gave me newfound respect for many of the key people in Detroit, Michigan and the country.

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Bad recording

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

I have heard that this is a good book. I stopped part way into chapter one. I have perfect hearing, I couldn't make out the words in this recording unless I really concentrated.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

Terrible recording

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

Yes

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Very interesting perspective on a period of Detroit history.

I liked the fact that the author was the narrator. The time period chosen was full of amazing facts and gave me a new perspective on many of the events that occurred during that time. If you're interested in the history of big cities and Detroit in particular, you'll enjoy this book. It offers an insight on the inner workings of what happens behind the scenes. David Maraniss certainly does his research.

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Pat from Lake Tahoe

As a young man of 12 watching the Detroit riots from our tv in grosse pointe park I was drawn to a life of move and change. A time where I was watching and experiencing a life novel. David's book once in a great city has helped me understand a very selected time where all was confusing. A time were I continually search for understanding. I found David's book on Sunday and listened non stop finishing it at 4am three days later. I plan to do so again. Thank you for helping me understand a period of time I still read everything to understand. I wish there were more stars to give

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A heartfelt history of the Motor City

A dense history of a slice of Detroit's history, Once in a Great City covers late 1962 through mid 1964. The good, the bad and the ugly gets thorough coverage - sometimes too thorough as names and places rapidly pass by. Many sections leave you wondering what is pertinent and what is local color.

Maraniss obviously loves his topic, but his reading leaves something to be desired. Expressing very little emotion, I often found my attention wandering because of Maraniss's monotone.

But I'm a Michigan native so the book was extremely relevant to me. I loved getting a detailed picture of that time in Detroit's history.

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Great introduction to complicated city

Easy to have going on in the background and thoroughly enjoyed the high level look into Motown history and its personalities. It targets a very specific time in Detroit's history, so if you're looking for a deeper understanding or background of the politics or the car companies you'll need to find other books. That said, this is a good place to start your exploration of Motor City.