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Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassinby Hampton Sides
"I have rarely read a better work of narrative nonfiction. Even those of us who witnessed the civil rights movement and were fortunate enough to hear Martin Luther King Jr. speak, as I did, have likely forgotten much about this time period, which Sides' fine book brings brilliantly back to life." Steve Yarbrough, The Oregonian (Read the entire Oregonian review)
Synopses & Reviews
From the acclaimed bestselling author of Ghost Soldiers and Blood and Thunder, a taut, intense narrative about the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the largest manhunt in American history.
On April 23, 1967, Prisoner #416J, an inmate at the notorious Missouri State Penitentiary, escaped in a breadbox. Fashioning himself Eric Galt, this nondescript thief and con man — whose real name was James Earl Ray — drifted through the South, into Mexico, and then Los Angeles, where he was galvanized by George Wallace's racist presidential campaign.
On February 1, 1968, two Memphis garbage men were crushed to death in their hydraulic truck, provoking the exclusively African American workforce to go on strike. Hoping to resuscitate his faltering crusade, King joined the sanitation workers' cause, but their march down Beale Street, the historic avenue of the blues, turned violent. Humiliated, King fatefully vowed to return to Memphis in April.
With relentless storytelling drive, Sides follows Galt and King as they crisscross the country, one stalking the other, until the crushing moment at the Lorraine Motel when the drifter catches up with his prey. Against the backdrop of the resulting nationwide riots and the pathos of King's funeral, Sides gives us a riveting cross-cut narrative of the assassin's flight and the sixty-five-day search that led investigators to Canada, Portugal, and England — a massive manhunt ironically led by Hoover's FBI.
Magnificent in scope, drawing on a wealth of previously unpublished material, this nonfiction thriller illuminates one of the darkest hours in American life — an example of how history is so often a matter of the petty bringing down the great.
"The counterpoint between two driven men — one by a quest for justice, the other by an atavistic hatred — propels this engrossing study of the King assassination. Sides, author of the bestselling Ghost Solders, shows us a King all but consumed by the flagging civil rights movement in 1968 and burdened by presentiments of death. Pursuing him is escaped convict James Earl Ray, whose feckless life finds a belated, desperate purpose, perhaps stimulated by George Wallace's presidential campaign, in killing the civil rights leader. A third main character is the FBI, which turns on a dime from its long-standing harassment of Kingto a massive investigation into his murder; in Sides's telling, the Bureau's transoceanic hunt for Ray is one of history's great police procedurals. Sides's novelistic treatment registers Ray as a man so nondescript his own sister could barely remember him (the author refers to him by his shifting aliases to emphasize the shallowness of his identity). The result is a tragedy more compelling than the grandest conspiracy theory: the most significant of lives cut short by the hollowest of men. Photos." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[Sides] has pieced together a viscerally dramatic account....Sides writes in forceful, dignified, obscenity-free language and creates the momentum of a tightly constructed nonfiction film.....Remarkably, he has embroidered the facts without losing a sense of veracity....Both Dr. King and Ray come to life in these remarkable pages, generating great suspense....spellbinding....[A ]bold, dynamic, unusually vivid book." New York Times
"Sides skillfully weaves his narrative as his books builds to the fateful conjunction...the results are a spellbinder that all interested readers will find hard to put down." Library Journal (starred review)
"A riveting account of James Earl Ray's long quest to kill Martin Luther King, Jr. An expertly written study in true crime, vividly recapturing the mood of 1968." Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Employing the same storytelling prowess he displayed in Blood and Thunder and Ghost Soldiers, Sides ratchets up the tension...reads like a crime novel worthy of Joseph Wambaugh or Michael Connelly." Book Page
About the Author
A native of Memphis, Hampton Sides is an award-winning editor of Outside and the author of the bestselling histories Blood and Thunder and Ghost Soldiers.
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History and Social Science » African American Studies » Civil Rights Movement