From the acclaimed best-selling 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 Kings funeral, Sides gives us a riveting cross-cut narrative of the assassins flight and the 65-day search that led investigators to Canada, Portugal, and England - a massive manhunt ironically led by J. Edgar 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Magnificent in scope, drawing on a wealth of previously unpublished material, this nonfiction thriller illuminates one of the darkest hours in American life - an example of how history is so often a matter of the petty bringing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.
©2010 Hampton Sides (P)2010 Random House
"Sides's storytelling packs a visceral punch, and in Hellhound on His Trail, he crafts an authoritative and riveting account of two intersecting lives that altered the course of American history." (Amazon.com review)
I've already recommended it to several friends...and will be suggesting it to my book club.
Yes - well researched, well paced, well explained....reads like great fiction with the added benefit of being true.
Hampton did a fabulous job reading his own work.
Very good book. Good history of turbulent late 60s and tragic death of MLK
I had forgotten very important details about the killing of MLK. The brilliant way in which the story is constructed had me unable to stop listening. The book also brilliantly evokes the America of that time and struggles and conflicts which, even today, are only partially resolved. MLK is also greatly humanised but in that portrait his greatness still comes out very clearly. The one flaw in the book - if it is a flaw - is that I could not be convinced that James Earl Ray was a sole actor. Sole gunman? Not a problem with that. There are had to be more to the story of how Ray found himself - from the perspective of the assassin - at the right place and at the right time. The author alludes to this but - maddeningly - does not really delve in to this.
The research Sides put into this story is mind boggling. It is so beautifully written, and since I was only 8 when all this happened, it was so informative. Anyone who likes a good detective story or cares about the civil rights movement and MLK himself will be sitting in their car long after arriving at their destination because this story is so captivating. Thank you Hampton Sides for telling this very important piece of history.
Sad, hard to listen to at times, told in a very fast paced, detailed manner. Thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend to all. Some may not like all the detail or some of the manner in which it is told, but I enjoyed throughout. Sad, true tale.
Excellent review of both the assassination and the life of MLK. I think the historical perspective is right on, especially the insanity of Hoover declaring war on MLK, clearly abusing his power in the FBI to carry out his unstable vendetta. I think the statements about MLK's affairs with women is perhaps troubling personally, but doesn't and shouldn't detract from what this man did for civil rights in the US.
I didn't like the author's use of Ray's aliases in the story, since it confused the plot a bit. Perhaps that is nit picking, but it I would sometimes think "why are we hearing about this new guy?" when in fact it was about James Earl Ray, under a new alias.
I was concerned that too much of the book would focus on this nut Ray instead of the inspirational story of MLK, but I think the book hit a good balance between telling the whole story of the assassination, while integrating the greatness of the legend of MLK.
This is a "can't put it down" audiobook, so I highly recommend it.
This is a fascinating story. It calibrates you on what you thought you knew...what you thought you lived through. It's a personality study, a police story, a story of a hero and a hellhound. This is a must read.
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