Hellhound On His Trail by Hampton Sides

I stumbled across Hampton Sides while looking for a new audiobook. This is one of the best audiobooks I’ve ever listened to. He writes nonfiction in the most vivid, engaging style that makes this a page turner of a book, as good as the best novel with plenty of suspense.

This is the story of the hunt for Martin Luther King’s killer. The name James Earl Ray never comes up because Ray used many different aliases. Sides painstakingly depicts Ray as a habitual petty criminal and extreme racist from a family of the same kind whose motivation appeared to be to commit the perfect crime and prove to himself that he was a master of the game. Ray seemed to think that he could outsmart all the people who were looking for him.

The manhunt began immediately based on where the witnesses said the shot came from. There is a famous photo showing the men pointing toward the rooming house from which Ray fired the fatal shot.

All of King’s associates, J. Edgar Hoover, the other FBI agents, family and others are part of the story. Suspense mounts as Ray stays just ahead of efforts to apprehend him. Just as he was about to sail from England to Africa on a forged passport, he was captured and the brought to justice. It was a supreme achievement for the many law enforcement agencies that were on the hunt for him.

Ray eventually confessed, was sentenced to prison, managed to escape and was recaptured. He attempted to recant his original confession in order to gain a trial, but was not successful. Even if you have read the newspaper accounts, there is so much more to be learned from this book. I highly recommend it.

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