Monday, January 23, 2012

T. J. English

T. J. English's latest book is The Savage City: Race, Murder, and a Generation on the Edge.

From his interview by Randy Dotinga at the Christian Science Monitor:

Q: You describe New York as "The Savage City" in your book's title. What do you mean by that?

The book deals with the period from 1963 to 1973 in which the crime rate in the city soared. And more importantly, an atmosphere of fear, paranoia and dread would come to characterize New York in many ways. This is the period in which New York began its descent into this level of darkness.

The book details quite specifically the manner in which the dynamics of race – particularly in relation to the criminal justice system – began to play themselves out in a way that it had never had before in the city's history. They created a level of turmoil, violence and hostility that was unprecedented.

"Savage City" is a sort of a play on the phrase "The Naked City" [the title of a TV series and film noir], which was about New York in the postwar era: a place that had crime and eight million stories. It was an urban jungle, but ultimately the cops were good and there was a pretty good sense of good and evil. The Savage City was a little bit darker. The issue of race – hardly evident in "The Naked City" – becomes front and center, and the police department is revealed to not be the benevolent institution that it had been perceived to be.

Q: Do TV shows and movies set in that period reflect the New York City of that time?

We all do have a cinematic vision in our heads of the New York of this era, movies like "The French Connection" and "Serpico" and a number of others that were filmed on location in the city. You can...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue