Doron Levin: Remember 'Devil’s Night'? Random House is Releasing the Book Again

August 22, 2013, 9:29 PM by  Doron Levin

All kinds of books have been written about modern Detroit’s collapse and travails, though few with the insight and wit of “Devil’s Night: And Other True Tales of Detroit” by my friend Ze’ev Chafets.

Chafets came to Detroit in 1989 to probe the roots of the city’s political, financial and political disappointments.  He spent time with Mayor Coleman A. Young; he watched arsonists run wild during Halloween season; he interrogated young girls to find out why so many were becoming pregnant again and again before reaching adulthood (Answer: they wanted children).

Detroit, he wrote, had turned into America’s first “third-world city,” a separatist state run by African-Americans, one that he hoped would succeed – but which he feared would not.  Much of what he reported and wrote proved prophetic. Twenty-three years after its original release, his publisher, Random House, is republishing “Devil’s Night.”

E-Book and Paperback

The e-book comes out Sept. 3, the trade paperback ten days later.

"About a month ago I wrote an email to Rush Limbaugh explaining to him that many of the popular interpretations of the bankruptcy were just wrong," said Chafets, who had written a book on Limbaugh. "People have been blaming the fall of the U.S. auto industry, too much liberalism, incompetent public servants.

“The truth is that this was a racist city where virtually all the whites simply moved away,” he said.  “That didn’t happen in other American cities with black majorities.

“The irony, of course, is that Detroit now is being run by a white Republican governor,” he said in a telephone interview from his home in New York.

The Limbaugh Show

Limbaugh discussed Chafets’ analysis on his program for ten minutes or so.  Abruptly “my book, a few copies of which were available on Amazon, went from costing one cent to $300.”

Ze'ev Chafets

Chafets called Random House to suggest they print more copies. As of Thursday, a used hardcover edition cost $39.75 on Amazon, a paperback edition cost $12.98 and the Kindle edition, $11.99.

Chafets won’t add new or updated material to the book, due to contractual considerations that would have delayed quick publication. He may promote it, though nothing’s been decided.

The author is one of the more remarkable figures to grow up in southeast Michigan, a native of Pontiac and former student at the University of Michigan. He emigrated to Israel in the mid-1960s and for a time was chief of the press office under Prime Minister Menachem Begin before working as a journalist and novelist.

“I’ve passed on a number of requests to write op-ed pieces about Detroit’s bankruptcy, because I’ve been working on other things,” he said.  Chafets’ latest book,  “Roger Ailes, Off Camera,” is a profile of the creator of Fox News. 

As prescient as his book about Detroit was, Chafets never imagined or predicted the specifics of bankruptcy or the legal theatrics of those who are challenging and blocking the state’s attempt to reorganize the city and restore its credit.  No author, even with an eye as acute as Ze’ev’s, could have.


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