Hellhound On His Trail : The Stalking Of Martin Luther King, Jr. And The International Hunt For His Assassin / Hampton Sides

Harvey Lowmeyer, John Willard, Eric Starvo Galt, Paul Bridgman, and Ramon George Sneyd—all were aliases used by James Earl Ray.  In this book, Sides follows the movements of both Ray, after his escape from a Missouri prison in 1967, and the Reverend Martin Luther King, in the year leading up to his assassination in April, 1968.  While the King portion of the book does an excellent job of capturing his private life during this time period, dirty laundry and all, Ray’s actions are what will interest most readers.  But the man is difficult to pin down on the page.  A drifter who lived in various flophouses for most of his life, he did his best to make himself invisible to decent society.  Following his escape from prison, he travels to Mexico and California where he toys with the idea of making pornographic movies.  While living in California, he becomes an active participant in the George Wallace campaign for president.  At some point during this time period he decides to head back to Georgia and stalk Martin Luther King.  Sides is never able to explain why Ray targets King since the assassin refused to admit to the crime.  Nonetheless, the author does a marvelous job of describing the events that lead up to King’s death in Memphis.  While Ray and King are the centerpiece of the story, J. Egar Hoover and the FBI are also heavily featured.  The international hunt for the killer after King’s assassination is fully documented.  Sides is unable turn up evidence that shows how Ray was able to support himself during this time period.  Still, he convinced this reader that the assassin most likely acted alone in his killing of Martin Luther King, with little or no outside support.  The author is to be commended for presentation of Ray’s day-to-day movements in such riveting detail.  Even so, despite the wealth of evidence presented here, Ray remains a nondescript thief and con man, a loner who went to grave unwilling (or unable) to explain his actions on the night of April 5, 1968.

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