Some of my
journalism

Where my work has appeared

Some reviews

NPR's "All Things Considered" weekend edition.
A segment on Detroit that aired March 23, 2013, and includes some comments from me based on Detroit: A Biography".

For Detroit: A Biography ...


Publishers Weekly, February 6, 2012
Former Detroit News reporter Martelle (Blood Passion) vividly recounts the rise and downfall of a once-great city, from its origins as a French military outpost to protect fur traders and tame local Indian tribes, to the industrial giant known colloquially as Motown, and now when its “economy seized up like an engine run dry.” Founded by a French naval officer named Cadillac, the city became a vibrant river town with the Erie Canal’s opening, exporting both to the east and westward to Chicago. The 1855 opening of Lake Superior later expanded its postbellum shipping capacity and brought heavy industry. By 1929, about 10% of the city’s population of 1.6 million (the nation’s fourth largest) worked in automobile manufacturing. But a series of downturns ravaged the city: the 1973 OPEC oil embargo helped destroy the city’s auto-industry dominance, and drug-dealing gangs caused a murder rate that far outstripped New York’s. Today, says Martelle, Detroit has been abandoned by both the Big Three auto makers and most of its citizens, leaving primarily black residents, many uneducated, jobless, and poor. Martelle, also an occasional contributor to PW, offers an informative albeit depressing glimpse of the workings of a once-great city that is now a shell of its former self. Illus.; 10 b&w photos. Agent: Dystel and Goderich. (Apr.)

Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2012
Former Detroit News journalist Martelle (The Fear Within: Spies, Commies and American Democracy on Trial, 2011, etc.) explores the troubled city where he once worked.
The author shows how “no other American city has been gutted so deeply.” From its peak in 1950, Detroit has lost 60 percent of its population and many of its employment opportunities, a situation caused in part by auto-industry decline, racism and anti-unionism. The industry decentralized across the country before globalizing, and most of Detroit's population, where it could, left for the suburbs. Now Mayor Dave Bing wants to raze abandoned neighborhoods and seal them off from the rest of the city. Martelle's case study combines history, economic evaluation and firsthand accounts from individual Detroiters. The city was settled by the French about 75 years before the United States was founded and was a center of diversified industry before it became the heart of the auto economy between 1910 and 1929. It was also a center of industrial unionism during the New Deal and was synonymous with the “arsenal of democracy” in World War II. The city’s death warrant, writes Martelle, was signed when the industry converting back to auto production after the war failed to diversify. Now much of it is returning to meadows and pasture. A valuable biography sure to appeal to readers seeking to come to grips with important problems facing not just a city, but a country.

For The Fear Within: Spies, Commies, and American Democracy on Trial ...


Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2011
"Journalist Martelle (Blood Passion: The Ludlow Massacre and Class War in the American West, 2007) focuses on Dennis v. the United States of America, which had dramatic and disturbing ramifications to First Amendment rights to this day ... The nine-month Foley Square trial became a cause célèbre, not only for the anti-Communist crusaders, including Harry Truman, who was up for reelection, but for defenders of the First Amendment and radical activists who believed fiercely that the men were innocent and being framed for their beliefs. ... Martelle treads carefully through the evidence, keeping a close harness on his own sympathies for the defendants."

For Blood Passion: The Ludlow Massacre and Class War in the American West ...


A review-essay in The New Yorker in January 2009 about another Ludlow-related book had some nice things to say about Blood Passion, calling it a "lively journalistic accounting." The essay is here

"Blood Passion” captures the tension and distrust between the two sides, sometimes reading with the ferocity of a Martin Scorsese movie. There are broad-daylight murders, beatings with canes, bodies left on train tracks and gun butts upside the head. Bullets rip through abdomens, strike a jaw, sever a spinal column. Another “tore off a large piece of [a] boy’s skull and brain, killing him instantly.” Los Angeles Times Book Review

"The events surrounding what came to be known as the Ludlow Massacre were less about 'the romantic notion of the resilience of the union men and women in the face of oppression,' and more about class distinctions played out against the incidental backdrop of an ugly strike, according to journalist Scott Martelle in an impressive new book about the conflict." Rocky Mountain News.


"Martelle's excellent book captures it with a journalist's flair for narrative and a historian's penchant for making the necessary inferences where they belong: on the page for all to see." Full review in San Francisco Chronicle.

"Martelle tells [the story] with exceptional skill and delicious detail. He has a feel for the terrain and has managed to reconstruct the lives of many of the actors, large and small. We learn much about the company’s gouging of its workers and of the appalling working conditions belowground. While his sympathies are obvious, however, Martelle makes it clear that this was no melodrama. Both sides played hardball, but in these closing years of the Progressive Era that was the only game around." Click here for the full review for the History Book Club.

Some coverage


The New West online news site covered the reading at the Boulder Bookstore.

Interview with journalist and historian Jon Wiener on Los Angeles station KPFK 90.7 (click through to the archives; the show ran Wednesday Sept. 26).

The Rocky Talk blogsite of the Rocky Mountain News hosted me for an online chat with Mark Wolf while I was in town.