Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America

Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America

Jill Leovy

Language: English

Pages: 384

ISBN: 0385529996

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, USA TODAY, AND CHICAGO TRIBUNE • A masterly work of literary journalism about a senseless murder, a relentless detective, and the great plague of homicide in America

NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FINALIST • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review • The Washington Post • The Boston Globe  The Economist • The Globe and Mail  BookPage  Kirkus Reviews

On a warm spring evening in South Los Angeles, a young man is shot and killed on a sidewalk minutes away from his home, one of the thousands of black Americans murdered that year. His assailant runs down the street, jumps into an SUV, and vanishes, hoping to join the scores of killers in American cities who are never arrested for their crimes.

But as soon as the case is assigned to Detective John Skaggs, the odds shift.

Here is the kaleidoscopic story of the quintessential, but mostly ignored, American murder—a “ghettoside” killing, one young black man slaying another—and a brilliant and driven cadre of detectives whose creed is to pursue justice for forgotten victims at all costs. Ghettoside is a fast-paced narrative of a devastating crime, an intimate portrait of detectives and a community bonded in tragedy, and a surprising new lens into the great subject of why murder happens in our cities—and how the epidemic of killings might yet be stopped.

Praise for Ghettoside

“A serious and kaleidoscopic achievement . . . [Jill Leovy is] a crisp writer with a crisp mind and the ability to boil entire skies of information into hard journalistic rain.”—Dwight Garner, The New York Times

“Masterful . . . gritty reporting that matches the police work behind it.”Los Angeles Times

“Moving and engrossing.”San Francisco Chronicle

“Penetrating and heartbreaking . . . Ghettoside points out how relatively little America has cared even as recently as the last decade about the value of young black men’s lives.”USA Today

“Functions both as a snappy police procedural and—more significantly—as a searing indictment of legal neglect . . . Leovy’s powerful testimony demands respectful attention.”The Boston Globe

“Gritty, heart-wrenching . . . Everyone needs to read this book.”—Michael Connelly

Ghettoside is remarkable: a deep anatomy of lawlessness.”—Atul Gawande, author of Being Mortal

“[Leovy writes] with grace and artistry, and controlled—but bone-deep—outrage in her new book. . . . The most important book about urban violence in a generation.”The Washington Post

“Riveting . . . This timely book could not be more important.”—Associated Press

“Leovy’s relentless reporting has produced a book packed with valuable, hard-won insights—and it serves as a crucial, 366-page reminder that ‘black lives matter.’ ”The New York Times Book Review

“A compelling analysis of the factors behind the epidemic of black-on-black homicide . . . an important book, which deserves a wide audience.”—Hari Kunzru, The Guardian

From the Hardcover edition.

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killing continues as of this writing. A subsequent victim was Harold Germany, twenty-one, one of the young men hemmed up at Da’Quawn’s shrine in this narrative. That murder has not been solved. Another recent victim was Jarret Crump, twenty-one, a janitor on his way to dinner, mistaken for a Main Streeter because of the car he drove. Wally Tennelle continues to work at RHD and still solves cases with regularity. The Tennelles now have several grandchildren and are very involved in their lives.

he said—that fight involved a woman. As for who committed the still unsolved in-house killing of Bobby Ray Johnson, Starks grimaced: “Everybody knows, everybody knows!” he said. At this writing, homicides in Los Angeles County have fallen to levels that would have been unimaginable to Skaggs at the turn of the century, when he came to Southeast. By 2010, the year Starks and Davis were tried, homicide death rates for black men ages twenty to twenty-four had fallen to about 158 per 100,000, or

but nearly 40 percent of those murdered. People talked a lot about crime in America, but they tended to gloss over this aspect—that a plurality of those killed were not women, children, infants, elders, nor victims of workplace or school shootings. Rather, they were legions of America’s black men, many of them unemployed and criminally involved. They were murdered every day, in every city, their bodies stacking up by the thousands, year after year. Dovon Harris was typical of these unseen

the two of them for putting their personality problems before the case like that. But then again, he reflected, he had not brought Skaggs into this case because he was “some quiet little guy who was going to keep things under wraps.” He had sought out Skaggs to burn down forests, and he could only blame himself that now here he was, squarely in the midst of a full-on Santa Ana blaze. He told Bernal and Skaggs both to leave his office, then pondered his next move. Prideaux didn’t have to think

wars. She related it all in the same easy monotone. Skaggs scolded her perfunctorily for drinking, and for supporting Obama. But otherwise, he absorbed all her varied tales with his usual blend of easygoing humor and affectionate teasing. Only once did she manage to penetrate his equanimity. He had asked her about a male friend they both knew and she reported indifferently that “he said something to the sheriffs, and they kicked the crap out of him. He’s paralyzed now.” Skaggs, face

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