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A Compulsive but Sobering Read for MLK Day

January 13, 2011 by Reader's Connection

Hellhound on His TrailThe approach of MLK day reminded me of this 2010 title. In Hellhound on His Trail : The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin, author Hampton Sides gathers material from a variety of sources and puts together a narrative that brings 1968 back in all its glory.

Here we have the desperation of Martin Luther King, who fears that nonviolent protest is reaching an end point in our country; FBI Director J.  Edgar Hoover’s loathing for King; segregationist George  Wallace’s campaign for the presidency; and the bizarre wanderings of Prisoner #416-J (aka Eric Galt and a number of other pseudonyms,  aka James Earl Ray) who escapes from the Missouri State Penitentiary at Jefferson City, spends some time in Mexico pondering a career in pornography, earns a bartender’s degree of some sort in Los Angeles, and is so inspired by Wallace’s presidential bid that he decides to commit one of the century’s defining acts of race hatred.

I’m about halfway through the book. Memphis’s Lorraine Motel, and the derelict apartment house across the way, where  “John Willard” roomed so briefly and from where he  fired his shot, have been built all over again as landmarks in my mind; and they’ll be there for some time to come.

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