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Friday, June 11, 2010

James Earl Ray book

Review by Joe Szczesny

 Hampton Sides will speak at 7 p.m., Monday, June 14 at the Baldwin Public Library about his new book, "Hellhound on His Trail," an account of the 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by James Earl Ray.

The book as gotten terrific reviews and follows Ray's life to the day he shot King in Memphis in April 1968.

Sides, whose earlier books about a daring rescue mission during World War II and Kit Carson built his reputation, did a prodigious amount of good old-fashioned reporting to put together the story of a killing that has haunted the American milieu for more than 40 years now. 

No mere blogger, Sides has followed the story to Mexico, Canada and Great Britain to pin down the details of the international manhunt that led to Ray's capture just as he was about to board of plane for Rhodesia where he hoped to become a mercenary.

 Sides basically concludes there was never an organized conspiracy to murder King. But he shows how resistance to the Civil Rights movement that permeated the old Confederacy and racism set the stage for Ray on the fatal day when he was able to peek out from the window of shabby  rooming-house bathroom and shoot King.

 Ray was almost captured a few minutes after the shooting but slipped through a dogged police manhunt that eventually led to his capture. Sides shows that FBI spared no effort and no expense in the hunt for Ray with the complete blessing of J. Edgar Hoover, who despised King but feared what could happen to the bureau if the civil rights leader's killer wasn't brought to justice.

  Slate magazine calls Sides' book, "a true-crime story and a splendid specimen of the genre--a genuine corker."  I couldn't agree more.

Joseph Szczesny


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