‘A Crackling Critique:’ Charlie LeDuff’s ‘Sh*tshow’ Makes an Immediate Splash –  Deadline Detroit

Tom Wolfe and Hunter S. Thompson don’t sling smashface style anymore, but Charlie LeDuff satisfies the need for a fresh fix.

So say some early readers of his latest crop of pure, potent LeDuff — 27 grams essays in “Sh*tshow!”

The Metro Detroit journalist “delivers a crackling critique of American culture using vignettes from his years traveling across the country and talking to everyday Americans for a Fox news segment called ‘The Americans,'” says Publishers Weekly. “This timely portrait of America is a superb example of contemporary gonzo journalism.” 

At Vice this week, Justin Glaw calls the author “a colorful journalist with a flair for the dramatic” and says: “No one but LeDuff could write this book.” A bookstore trade site, Kirkus, casts him as “a notorious journalist.” 

The 288-page hardback, just published by Penguin Press, comes four years after his “Detroit: An American Autopsy,” which hit The New York Times best-seller list.

In the interim, the former newspaper reporter traveled widely for human interest dispatches about America’s shifting economy and culture that aired during 2013-16 newcasts on Fox 2 Detroit and 16 other group affiliates. LeDuff, a Deadline Detroit contributor who lives in Pleasant Ridge with his wife and daughter, left the local station in December 2016.

“The portrait he paints of [America] is vivid, dirty and at times uncomfortably honest,” writes Glaw, a Dallas freelancer.

The author is promoting his work with appearances, such as one Thursday at a Washington, D.C. bookstore, and broadcast interviews. He speaks Friday evening with Martha MacCallum of Fox News Channel during her 7 p.m. program, “The Story.” 

He’ll read, take questions and sign books next Wednesday at a Detroit Public Library event with no free tickets left. (LeDuff plans a post-event party after 8:30 p.m. or so with live music at American Coney Island, where he works part-time.) 

Here are snatches of four looks at “Sh*tshow:”

♦ Vice: “LeDuff says it’s a damn good book (and from the first third of it that I’ve read, he’s right) and it’s an important one. . . . The Native American woman in Nevada who got no love for her fight against the government at the same time armed white men were flocking to the aid of Cliven Bundy, the people of Ferguson who alternately tried to fight and hug LeDuff as he mocked the media for exacerbating tensions—these are LeDuff’s people.” — Justin Glaw

WhoWhatWhy (news site based in Manhattan): “LeDuff looks like a Sean Penn and writes like a Damon Runyon. . . . He has a hard time filtering all the prejudice he sees, and is plainly disgusted with politicians as an entire class. The book is as breezy as his speech — street-level straight talk, and salty. It’s a reading pleasure that makes the content easier to take. . . .

“LeDuff is a fine storyteller, a hardworking journalist and an honest witness (with all the weaknesses of honest witnesses). I wouldn’t want him running the country, . . . but he’s a great one to have on your side.” — David Wineberg

The gonzo journalist on the road during his 2013-16 newscast reports for 17 Fox group stations.

Publishers Weekly: “LeDuff and his crew dug into stories about the Flint water crisis, the desperation of those who followed the siren song of the North Dakota oil fields only to find few jobs and low wages, and the rusting, corrupt husk of Detroit. LeDuff intersperses harrowing, white-knuckle moments. . . .

“LeDuff’s seething disgust for inequality, corruption and discrimination is apparent throughout, and it’s made even more potent by LeDuff’s stylized reporting.” (Unsigned)

Kirkus (book industry site): “While LeDuff’s insight is often sobering, his approach is sometimes self-serving and often acts like a disservice to the communities he attempts to capture. . . . The need for “good TV” comes up often, and it seems the author would do anything to reach that goal, even if it means embodying the stereotype of the white savior: ‘I gave the boy twenty dollars. . . . I told him to remember his mother’s sacrifice, and I welcomed him to America. Sometime in his life, I hope, he will think back on me. . . . I gave him one of the press conference doughnuts. Chocolate cream filling.’

“Readers may learn important lessons from the difficult realities of LeDuff’s subjects but little thanks to him. . . . For a more penetrating portrait of similar issues, head back to Detroit.” (Unsigned)

Where to get the book:

  • Pages Bookshop: 19560 Grand River Ave., between Evergreen and West Outer Drive in North Rosedale Park. ($27 list price)

  • Amazon: $18.97 hardback, $13.99 Kindle (plus shipping).

  • Barnes & Noble: $22.19 hardback, $13.99 Nook (plus shipping). 

Related coverage:

‘The Monkey Show:’ Charlie LeDuff Tells Why ‘I Got a Little Bit Tired’ of TV News, May 19

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