As the years passed by, we spoke and learned of his victories, his passion, his focus on non-violent demonstrations, and his amazing Dream. But oddly enough, and for obvious reasons of course, we never studied the other side of the coin. The fact that Dr. King was a man of flesh and bone, who suffered failures, self-absorbed depression, extra marital affairs, battled a smoking habit and was in constant fear for his life.
We've also learned almost nothing about his "assassin", James Earl Ray. I say "assassin", because there are still several conspiracy theories out there that claim that the "powers that be", and not Ray, had something to do with it. It was a public known fact that Dr. King was tremendously disliked by the then Director of the F.B.I, J. Edgar Hoover, who headed the agency from 1924-1972 (when he passed away) and had an ongoing obsession with the person of Dr. King and his mission. But if for only a moment, we step away from the theories and focus on the facts of the crime, we find ourselves face-to-face with the convicted felon James Earl Ray.
James Earl Ray (b. March 1oth 1928-d.April 23-1998), was the man ultimately convicted of Dr. King's assassination. Besides the fact that he died in jail, known to the world as the murderer of America's Hero, his life's résumé wasn't worth much praise either. Ray was a high school drop-out, World War II veteran, who was convicted of his first crime (burglary) in 1949, and who continued to live the life of a felon, and then escaped convict, until his capture for the assassination of Dr. King on June 8th, 1968.
In Hellhound On His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King Jr., and The International Hunt for His Assassin by acclaimed best-selling author Hampton Sides, Sides provides a unique and detailed report and tells the story of this famed assassination through the eyes of the killer himself. Using the facts surrounding this case-which are plenty-and his knowledge on the life of Ray, Sides paints a vivid picture of the things that could've occurred in the months leading to the tragic event of April 4th, and dissects the person of James Earl Ray. He allows us to visit and enter the mind of this fleeing felon. What's his motive? Did he work alone? Was his work being funded by a segregationist organization? Was Hoover behind this? How about George Wallace, the ex-governor of Alabama and pro-segregationist? Was J.E.R realistically capable of planning and committing this crime on his own?
The final focus of this novel however, and the main reason it differs from other books and reports off this tragic day, is on the international chase of J.E.R, the murderer. A wild-goose chase covering thousands of miles and involving law enforcing groups from Memphis, the United Kingdom, and the F.B.I.
Looking for a page turner? Interested in some American History? Want to get away from that boring book your BFF recommended? Give Hellhound On His Trail a look. You won't be disappointed. I give it two thumbs up!