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The Algiers Motel Incident

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  189 ratings  ·  37 reviews
Kindle Edition, 432 pages
Published September 10th 2019 by Johns Hopkins University Press (first published October 1st 1968)
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Average rating 3.83  · 
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Larry Bassett
Mar 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, history
This book is based on events that happened during the Detroit riot of July 1967. I was 20 years old, a college student in Ann Arbor. My parents lived at Woodward Avenue and Fourteen Mile Road in the white suburb of Royal Oak. Would the riot reach beyond the Detroit city limit of Eight Mile Road? People thought it might and they paid attention fearfully. This book was rushed to print in January 1968. Author John Hersey initially was thinking about race riots in general, then examining the Detroit ...more
Kris Saknussemm
Sep 23, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 more 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
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 ...more
Tommy Baker
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
Danielle McGuire
Jun 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thoughtful, provocative. A little disjointed in terms of structure.
Oct 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Man, nothing like reading a bit of history.
I wish the author had spent more 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
judy weaver
poorly written.
true story Detroit riots
Nov 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Andrew Hall
Sep 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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?"
Sep 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Sep 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: in-real-life
Living in the Detroit area, I'd been hearing lots this summer about the 50th anniversary of the Detroit riots and, by association, the incident on which Kathryn Bigelow's film "Detroit" is based. Knowing of my interest in learning more about that time period, a friend recommended this book; and as difficult as it was to read, I am glad to have read it. The author seems to make a solid effort to explore all the various facets of this incident, and yet it's hard to finish this book and realize ...more
Feb 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime, detroit
Terrible story about three men being killed by the police for no reason. Without making any big deal out of it, the author makes clear how easy it is to arrange things so that the system lets the wrong people off the hook. The book bogs down here and there because Hersey leaned a little too hard on writing down what each participant said, complete with reiterations, redundancies, repetitions, and expletives. But that didn't make me want to stop reading. A very sorry chapter in the history of my ...more
Chris Dean
Sep 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Probably the seminal book to come out of the 1967 Detroit riots. To read it today, it almost doesn't seem real as if it were fiction. To understand the thought patterns, life experiences and prejudices of the time and put them into the context of the narrative gives the reader a great understanding of what Detroit and the country was like at the time. I would love to see an update somewhere on all of the principles in this book and what happened to them over the last 45 years.
Dave Reidy
Hersey backgrounds himself entirely, allowing participants in this chapter of the 1967 Detroit riots speak for themselves. The events of that night have never been definitively laid out, and Hersey, while letting his readers decide for themselves what happened that night and who was at fault, gives those at fault just enough space to convict themselves. A fascinating approach to illuminating events shrouded in violence, mystery and self-interest.
Christye Lynn
Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book is more violent and graphic than the movie, Detroit. The book is written very erratically and isn’t it chronological order. White getting away with killing black males and claiming self-defense seems like it’s ripped from a modern headline. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Ray Talbot
Sep 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
it is amazing how one single act in the midst of a city in anarchy can reverberate throughout many of the problems still facing that city half a century later. quite simply an amazing piece of literature, that tells of an event that should have never been forgotten.
Feb 24, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Scary to think things like this happen.
Apr 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was living in Detroit in 1967 when the riots broke out.
We had heard stories of the snipers.
Hersey's book tells what really went down that night at the Algiers Motel.
Jun 08, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
At times riveting and moving, but I missed the narrative flow Hersey displayed in Hiroshima.
dead letter office
an account of one of the uglier episodes in american race relations. john hersey is one of my favorite writers. he's so overarchingly compassionate.
Written in 1968, it is disturbing that so many of the themes in Hersey's book still ring true. Hersey focuses on the killings that took place at the Algiers Motel during the Detroit riots. Three of the 47 deaths during the riots took place on one night in which it seems no one either knows or will tell the truth about what happened.

I opted to read this book before watching the movie, "Detroit" as I wanted some background before seeing a movie that may sensationalize the events that took place
Jul 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
earlier this year i realized that the detroit riots occurred 50 years ago. i wanted to learn more about them, so i decided to buy this book. after starting it, everyone told me that a movie was coming out in august. i have a lot of feelings about that film, but basically: it's NOT based on this book, the author accepted no royalties from this publication (something i highly doubt the film maker is planning to do), and hersey stated that he would never sell the film rights. please keep that in ...more
Robin Thomas
Sep 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow. This book confirms for me that we haven't really progressed much from when this incident took place.
A black teenager charged with stealing $7 from a newsboy was given 3-10 years in prison. Isn't that radically extreme? Plus he was severely beaten by police officers.
"If you got enough money you can do just about anything you want to do in the world." Still true today.
"...the white man's justice, in a Northern city just as much as in Mississippi, almost invariably prefers the unreliable
John Haggerty
An infuriating and important story that should be better known. What's most discouraging about this is how little things have changed.

Unfortunately, I can't call this a great book. There is a bit of a sixties stink around the style—almost intentionally confusing at times—that lessens the impact. It's all a little bit too New Journalism, and that's unfortunate.
Nov 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An account of an incident that happened during the Detroit riots in 1967. Ten black men and two white women were beaten and three of them killed during what was called a sniper attack from the Algiers Hotel. However, no guns were found on the premises. One of the most disturbing things taken away from this is how little things have changed in the 50 years since.
Patricia Joynton
I did not think this book was as good as the reviews stated. In reading it, I felt as if I was reading the same story over and over through an inordinate amount of interviews. The book is mostly interviews of the people involved in the Detroit Riots in the 60's. Essentially, one can read the introduction and the last few chapters and get enough information about the riots.
May 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was the very first book I was assigned to read in college as part of my Criminal Justice 101 class. It chronicles one particular incident during the Detroit Riots in 1967. It's a tough read but academic enough to not be too gory. It differs from the 2017 movie that covers the book; one must read the book before watching the movie.
Apr 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2018
A really underrated foundational American true crime text that thoughtfully considers the context and consequences of horrific social violence. I'd give it the Pulitzer over Executioner's Song any day of the week.
Jul 30, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The one voice that was omitted from this narrative, probably the most significant- was Martin Luther King.

What did MLK think of the riots? I am surprised his comments were not included.

Brandy Navetta
Aug 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Race issues back in 1967 in Detroit were volatile. It haunts me that we are still in the same place today. A historical read that will undoubtedly draw direct parallels for readers today.
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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 ...more