Hellhound on His Trail: Book summary and reviews of Hellhound on His Trail by Hampton Sides

Hellhound on His Trail

The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin

By Hampton Sides

Hellhound on His Trail

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Book Summary

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 King’s funeral, Sides gives us a riveting cross-cut narrative of the assassin’s flight and the sixty-five-day search that led investigators to Canada, Portugal, and England—a massive manhunt ironically led by 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Magnificent in scope, drawing on a wealth of previously unpublished material, this nonfiction thriller illuminates one of the darkest hours in American life—an example of how history is so often a matter of the petty bringing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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. [A] tragedy more compelling than the grandest conspiracy theory: the most significant of lives cut short by the hollowest of men." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. [A] a spellbinder that all interested readers will find hard to put down." - Library Journal

"Starred Review. An expertly written study in true crime, vividly recapturing the mood of 1968." - Kirkus Reviews

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Author Information

Hampton Sides Author Biography

Gary Oakley

Hampton Sides is the author of Ghost Soldiers and other bestselling works of narrative history. His most recent book, Hellhound On His Trail (Doubleday, April 2010), is about the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. and the international manhunt for assassin James Earl Ray.

Hampton is editor-at-large for Outside Magazine and has written for such periodicals as National Geographic, The New Yorker, Esquire, Preservation, and Men's Journal. His magazine work, collected in numerous published anthologies, has been twice nominated for National Magazine Awards for feature writing.

A native of Memphis with a BA in history from Yale, Hampton has guest lectured at Columbia, Stanford, SMU, Yale, and Colorado College, among other institutions. He lives in New Mexico with his wife Anne and their...

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