Hellhound On His Tale: one hell of a read | Off Piste

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Hellhound On His Tale: one hell of a read

Posted By on Fri, May 14, 2010 at 10:50 PM

Every so often a book comes along that lives up to being "a page turner." Such is the case with Hellhound On His Trail: The stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr and the international hunt for his assassin by Hampton Sides.

Sides renders history in such a way as to make it as exciting as a great novel. In "Hellhound", he cleverly weaves the lives of assassin James Earl Ray (aka Eric Galt and Ramon Sneyd) with that of Dr. King along with what was going on in Memphis, Tennessee in the months and days prior to King's murder at the Lorraine Motel. It becomes a fascinating insight into a pivotal moment in U.S. history.

As a Memphis native, Sides offers considerable local knowledge about the town's history, culture and its politics of late 1967 and early 1968. His research into Ray and Dr. King is exhaustive but never boring as in a simple cataloging of events. He brings life to even the most minute details.

Like many who recall Dr. King's assassination and the ensuing riots in cities across American and the very dark times for the country, I had little knowledge of James Earl Ray's background. For all I knew, he was simply a racist who, fueled by the anti-black sentiment of the day in the South in particular, took matters into his own hands.

Sides shows Ray as an almost invisible, nondescript man, a clever master criminal and escape artist.

Insights into Dr, King's life and work are very revealing.

The last two sections of the book concentrate on the manhunt for Ray and are worthy of adaptation for a feature film. Things start to fall into place for the FBI within hours of King's assassination yet Ray almost escapes only to be captured in England by Scotland Yard weeks later while trying to broad a plane bound for Belgium.

Everyone from ardent American history buffs to those who love true detective mysteries, in fact anyone who likes a masterfully written tale, will enjoy Hellhound. It is a must-read and it's at the Bend Public Library.

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