The story of the rise and fall of Detroit is catnip to reporters and photographers. Once a mighty industrial hub, Michigan’s largest city was the home of the American motorcar, the birthplace of the Motown sound and, at its peak in the 1950s, a thriving metropolis of nearly two million people. But with the subsequent decline of American industry came the decline of the city, and Detroit became a byword for some of the most troubling issues facing the nation, including racial violence, drugs wars and municipal bankruptcy following years of municipal kleptocracy. Writers came to write of decay. Photographers came to photograph it. Every magazine in the world must have run a Detroit photo story showing weeds thriving in the place of bricks and mortar.
Recently, gentrification projects backed by both public and private sectors have been put into motion in some of Detroit’s half-abandoned, half-decimated neighbourhoods. It is a fictionalised version of one such project that forms the backdrop to Benjamin Markovits’s terrifically readable seventh novel, You Don’t Have to Live Like This, which