Mark Pendergrast: City on the Verge

Cover: City on the Verge

Cover: City on the Verge

CITY ON THE VERGE:
ATLANTA AND THE FIGHT FOR AMERICA’S URBAN FUTURE

Mark Pendergrast
Basic Books, May 16, 2017, $30.00
Kindle: $19.99
ISBN-10: 0465054730; ISBN-13: 978-0465054732

Pendergrast reports:

I grew up in Atlanta and have written two other books related to the city: For God, Country and Coca-Cola and Inside the Outbreak. (Coke and CDC are headquartered there.) My agent suggested I might write about the city itself.

At first I thought, “No way,” since I now live in Vermont. But many family members still live in Atlanta, and this would give me an excuse to see my parents more often. It also would allow me to explore all kinds of issues, including transportation, race, the environment, sustainability, urban infrastructure, education, housing policy, the homeless, religion, and politics.

Atlanta is the poster child for horrible suburban sprawl, combined with white flight. Yet the Atlanta BeltLine, a 22-mile loop of mostly defunct railroad lines, was in the process of helping to remake the city into a more walkable, bikable, transit-friendly city. The project of turning it into a trail and streetcar service, connecting new and old parks, is supposed to be completed by 2030, though that is probably not going to happen on time. It is, however, in process. The BeltLine connects some of the richest and poorest neighborhoods of the city.

Mark Pendergrast

Mark Pendergrast

I wrote up a long proposal, and Basic Books will now have four of my books in print. For City on the Verge, I interviewed over 400 people, including city leaders, activists, neighborhood residents, journalists, environmentalists, ministers, and many others. I found them through research, referrals, and just walking around. I was able to support my research with my book advance, and I saved money by staying with my parents and people who hosted me in different neighborhoods.

This book was a kind of roots project for me, allowing me to get to know my native city in depth for the first time. I think it will provide a valuable addition to books about cities, and unlike many more academic texts, I got down to the level of real people in real neighborhoods.

I am so glad I was able to spend wonderful additional time with my parents. My father died last year at age 99.

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