Motor City Burning: A Novel (Hardcover)
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From the critically acclaimed author of Motor City, Detroit comes alive in a powerful and thrilling novel set amidst the chaos of the race riots and the serenity of Opening Day.
Willie Bledsoe, once an idealistic young black activist, is now a burnt-out case. After leaving a snug berth at Tuskegee Institute to join the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, he has become bitterly disillusioned with the civil rights movement and its leaders. He returns home to Alabama to try to write a memoir about his time in the cultural whirlwind, but the words fail to come.
The surprise return of his Vietnam veteran brother in the spring of 1967 gives Willie a chance to drive a load of smuggled guns to the Motor City – and make enough money to jump-start his stalled dream of writing his movement memoir. There, at Tiger Stadium on Opening Day of the 1968 baseball season – postponed two days in deference to the funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr. – Willie learns some terrifying news: the Detroit police are still investigating the last unsolved murder from the bloody, apocalyptic riot of the previous summer, and a white cop named Frank Doyle will not rest until the case is solved. And Willie is his prime suspect.
Bill Morris's rich and thrilling new novel sets Doyle's hunt amid the history of one of America's most tortured and fascinating cities, as Doyle and Willie struggle with Detroit's deep racial divide, with revenge and forgiveness – and with the realization that justice is rarely attainable, and rarely just.
About the Author
Bill Morris is the author of the novels Motor City and All Souls' Day. He is currently a staff writer with the online literary magazine The Millions, and his writing has appeared in Granta, the New York Times, The Washington Post Magazine, L.A. Weekly, Popular Mechanics and numerous other newspapers and magazines. Bill grew up in Detroit and now lives in New York City.
Switching between Bledsoe and Doyle’s perspectives allows for a crackling pace, and Mr. Morris clearly loves the nooks and crannies of his hometown the way George Pelecanos loves Washington.
I really enjoyed Motor City Burning! It’s such a deftly drawn character study that also doesn’t scrimp on plot and big themes, like justice, purity of aims, and loyalty.
— Edan Lepucki, author of California
Morris uses historical figures and events, as well as a uniquely American city, as a backdrop for an intense cat-and-mouse game.
A sharp critique of the contemporary American post-racial narrative. Morris does an especially lovely job of elevating the ordinary.
Detroit would surely rise again if that battered city could only wake up to find itself in 1968, reliving opening day at Tiger Stadium. In Motor City Burning, Bill Morris extends that promise of rebirth and redemption to Willie Bledsoe.
— Marilyn Stasio
Morris sees something heroic in these well-matched adversaries, both representative of a city the author loves and salutes. And of course, its great ball club.
— Marilyn Stasio
The success of the story is the smooth confluence of familiar echoes washing up against the tensions of the time, all reverberating with a street-level sense of pressure.
A vivid and entertaining expedition.
— Loren D. Estleman
Real and beautifully complicated. By undermining these easy ideas about identity and inheritance, Morris asks us to look directly in the warped glass of time at our faces, and to enumerate the scars.
jarring, challenging book that breaks a lot of rules from a writer
already excitingly and powerfully in command of his craft.
A wonderfully atmospheric novel that captures time and place, an illumination of a pivotal point in history. Bill Morris is an exceptionally gifted and savvy writer. The comparison to Graham Greene is fully merited.
— Nelson DeMille