A Safeway in ArizonaCorrections

What the Gabrielle Giffords Shooting Tells Us About the Grand Canyon State and Life in America

On the morning of January 8, 2011, Jared Loughner opened fire with a handgun at an event held by Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords outside of a Safeway supermarket near Tucson, Arizona.The shootings left six people dead and thirteen injured, including Giffords, whom he shot in the head at close range.

Award-winning journalist and fifth-generation Arizonan Tom Zoellner, a longtime friend of Giffords, sets out to examine the social conditions in his home state that made such a horrific event possible — the venomous political dialogue, the lingering effects of the housing market’s boom and bust, the proliferation of guns, the lack of established communities and the hysteria surrounding race and immigration.

Zoellner argues that the shootings must be understood in their true context. Loughner did not come out of nowhere and he was not a natural disaster that can be easily dismissed. He was a specific product of his environment. Arizona became a state one hundred years ago in February, 1912, the youngest in the continental United States. Its history is the story of the American West in brief: a rough and wild place rapidly transformed by federal dams, air conditioning, cheap land and a thirst for reinvention and the good life. With a systemic tension that dates to the founding of the United States, Arizona has now become a crucible for multiple national anxieties and one overarching question how can extreme personal liberties be reconciled to a world that needs cooperation to survive?

Zoellner offers a revealing portrait of this Southwestern state at the time of its centennial, and a close examination of what helped make possible those fifteen seconds of bloodshed. His book is ultimately a plea for a saner and more humane way of life in an uncertain new American century.

Praise for A Safeway In Arizona:

“Zoellner’s genre-defying project, which was somehow completed in less than a year, is staggeringly ambitious….A Safeway in Arizona is a masterly work of reporting, historical analysis, and sly cultural criticism.” — The Boston Globe

A Safeway in Arizona  is Zoellner’s quirky, uneven, brave and astonishingly heartfelt attempt to make sense of the Saturday-morning massacre that left six people dead and 13 injured….The cultural and political climate of early 21st century Arizona did not make the Tucson massacre inevitable. Nor were they the motivating cause of the tragedy. But, as Zoellner successfully argues, they were aggravating factors.” – San Francisco Chronicle

A groundbreaking and enduring investigation for a national readership of the very questions that few writers or observers are willing to ask…Deeply moving, illuminating and original.” — The Huffington Post

“Appealingly candid and thought-provoking….What could be a long slog of dry background information is skillfully structured to read as a fresh account of crucial events that made a lasting impression on the teller…A gripping story that presents a side of the whole mess you’re not likely to find elsewhere.” — Phoenix New Times

“Zoellner asks a lot of questions most Arizonans would prefer to ignore.” — Salon

“Ignorant and insulting.” — Doug MacEachern The Arizona Republic 

“A true-crime story so well-written that it reads like a novel; a dark story, well told. It’s a bit of a memoir, too. And at its heart, this book is an argument, one sharply composed…A Safeway in Arizona is a book that answers some questions of the shootings in a very elegant, detailed way.” — Michel Marizco, National Public Radio

“With his personal history interspersed through the book, Zoellner adds a literary touch to his excellent journalism.  He applies his own experience to an incident that affected a whole state, and thus evokes the emotion that is necessary to tell such a story. From his emotion flows the truth.” — ZYZZYVA Magazine

“Tom Zoellner’s remarkable book about a moment of tragedy in Arizona ends up a story of survival–a wounded Congresswoman’s survival, and a wounded nation’s survival as well.”—Richard Rodriguez, author of Brown: The Last Discovery of America

“This is a remarkable book.  It was deeply reported before Tom Zoellner could have known he would write it.  It was deeply reported after the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords made it absolutely necessary for him to write.  Zoellner’s long, intense relationships with his two main subjects—Giffords and the State of Arizona—give enormous authority to his storytelling. Unsentimental but driven by powerful emotion, the book makes crisp, riveting, expansive sense of a tragedy that was far more than a random massacre by a madman.”-William Finnegan, author of Cold New World: Growing up in a Harder Country, and staff writer for The New Yorker

“A compelling cry from the heart, this poignant book mixes an intimate personal story with painstaking journalism, and in doing so draws meaning from a terrifying attempt at political assassination. A Safeway in Arizona reveals the life-and-death consequences of alienation in an asphalt desert, and it makes a simple, forceful appeal: give a damn about your neighbor.” — Michael Downs, author of House of Good Hope

“One of the great comforting fictions of our time is the notion that acts of public violence are random things. In his exemplary account of the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and the murder of several other people, Tom Zoellner denies us the cheap solace of easy answers and sets Jared Loughner’s rampage in the context of a violent time in a country that seems more fragile by the hour.” — Charles P. Pierce, author of Idiot America: How Stupidity Became A Virtue In The Land Of The Free

“Compelling…As Arizona approaches its centennial, Zoellner argues passionately for greater civility in the Grand Canyon State.” – Vanessa Bush, Booklist

“Compelling as his probing of the Giffords shooting is, Zoellner’s greatest service here is illuminating the darkest corners of this sun-drenched seedbed of rugged individualism.” — Bookpage

“Tom Zoellner brilliantly captures the slow death of Tucson and how one disturbed young man trapped in this emptiness shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and wounded and killed other people. This is a tale created by greed in the Southwest, and written in blood.” — Charles Bowden, author of Down by the River and contributing editor of Esquire

“The horror and the drama of the slaughter could have made writing a book about it a no-brainer. Fortunately, journalist Tom Zoellner eschewed the no-brainer route of sensationalism for an angry yet nuanced book, A Safeway in Arizona, that he is unusually (probably uniquely) qualified to write. His credentials include growing up in Arizona, returning later as a newspaper reporter, previous experience as a book author, investigative journalism talent — plus a deep friendship with Giffords, as well as a friendship with her murdered congressional aide Gabe Zimmerman. Readers…should find plenty to admire in this book.” — Houston Chronicle

“Zoellner is a talented journalist who goes where the facts take him…He talks to shooting victims, politicians, immigration experts, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, gun enthusiasts, psychologists, talk-show hosts, businessmen, historians and anyone else he can find.” — The Oregonian

“An impressively ambitious project undertaken in just a few months after the  shootings…Sometimes bumpy, but always interesting.” — The Arizona Daily Star

“His book is a personal plea for radical empathy, because the achievement of a democracy is empathy, nothing less…It is not much to ask for, to work for. It is too much. But it is all there is.” — The Los Angeles Review of Books

“Zoellner’s book — compact, thoroughly reported, and written with authority — takes us a long way toward getting real answers.” — Dan Shearer, Green Valley News and Sun

“I highly recommend that you read it…the book is not unlike Arizona itself: sprawling, disconnected, frequently magnificent, occasionally frightening.” — David S. Bernstein, The Boston Phoenix

“An odd casserole of a book” — David Weigel, Slate

“[An] excellent and comprehensive memoir meets history meets meditation meets public policy investigation..Tom is a winning guy , a terrific writer, who feels badly about writing a book about his friend at all.”  — Andrew Tonkovich, Orange County Weekly

No book is ever perfect and this one will certainly have its share of errors. I will highlight here any mistakes in fact which readers call to my attention. All necessary corrections will be appended to the paperback edition, forthcoming in January 2012. I regret these mistakes and thank you for pointing them out.

Page 6 (and all following references) — I misspelled the name of Roger Salzgeber

Page 9 (and all following references) — I misspelled the name of Phyllis Schneck

Page 78 — The military jet was not an A-10 Warthog, but a T-38 Talon

Page 94 — The fundraising party in East Midtown was on the same night as the proposal, not the following night

Page 244 — Suze Hileman was hit three times, not six