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Hellhound on his Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin [Paperback]

Hampton Sides
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 May 2011

Hellhound on His Trail is the story of two very different men whose lives catastrophically interweaved over the course of some nine months in the late 1960s: one was a thief and con man called James Earl Ray, the other one of the greatest American figures of the twentieth century, Martin Luther King Jr.

Hampton Sides follows in Ray's footsteps as he escapes from prison, creates a new identity for himself and becomes convinced of his mission to kill King. Hellhound on His Trail is equally the story of King himself in his last months, fighting to keep his ideals alive in the face of intensive FBI surveillance and his own exhausted frustration.

With relentless storytelling drive, Sides follows Ray and King as they crisscross the country, one stalking the other, until the fateful moment, on 4 April 1968 at a Memphis hotel, when the drifter finally caught up with his prey. Nationwide riots were sparked by the assassination, followed by the largest manhunt in American history.

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Hellhound on his Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin + Ghost Soldiers + Blood And Thunder: An Epic of the American West
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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (5 May 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0718192060
  • ISBN-13: 978-0718192068
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 316,847 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A remarkable achievement... he manages to combine meticulous research with a writing style that captures the pacing and tension of a compulsive fictional thriller...a powerful, passionately felt retelling of an event that shook the world. (Siobhan Murphy Metro )

An exercise in pure narrative, a nonfiction thriller in which the pace quickens as we approach the late afternoon of Thursday, April 4, 1968. (Dominic Sandbrook Sunday Times )

Viscerally dramatic... creates the momentum of a tightly constructed nonfiction film... spellbinding... bold, dynamic, unusually vivid (Janet Maslin New York Times )

About the Author

Hampton Sides is the author of the bestselling Ghost Soldiers, winner of the 2002 PEN USA Award for non-fiction and Blood and Thunder, named one of the 10 Best Books of 2006 by Time magazine. He lives in New Mexico.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
By Stephanie De Pue TOP 1000 REVIEWER
In "Hellhound on his Trail," acclaimed, award-winning American author Hampton Sides gives us, evidently based on monumental research, what feels almost like a minute-by-minute account of the last days of the epoch-making American civil rights leader Martin Luther King. And of the movements of James Earl Ray, the shadowy, felonious drifter who was stalking him, would assassinate the great man in Memphis, and would then lead the Federal Bureau of Investigation on its longest, most intense manhunt ever, one that would cause them to jump the Atlantic Ocean in following his trail: and this from an organization that, as was well-known at the time, was headed by a man, J. Edgar Hoover, who hated MLK spitefully, and beyond all reason. And somehow, don't ask me how, the author has managed to make this true crime tale a thriller as exciting as Frederick Forsythe's The Day of the Jackal, with scenes the pathos of which brought tears to my eyes even as I read them.

To begin at the beginning, I suppose, Sides has managed to catch Memphis, Tennessee, a historic American Southern city where cotton was traditionally king, on the page remarkably well, perhaps because it is, in fact, his home town. He gives us an accurate portrait of its few strengths at the time, principally its organized, predictable social life - for whites, only; and its weaknesses: in the late 1960s it was still quite a racist city. The author introduces us to Memphis, by among other things, recounting the story of the two black garbage men who were crushed to death in their hydraulic truck on February 1, 1968.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reliable overview of Dr King's murder 15 Jan 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Hampton Sides revisits the 1968 murder of Dr Martin Luther King and for those who have never read `An American Death (1972)' by Gerold Frank or `Killing The Dream (1998)', by Gerald Posner, this book will provide a reliable introduction and overview to the case.

In terms of style, `Hellhound' is very different from the aforementioned books. Sides is a fine writer and the book moves along at a great pace. He shifts the scene of the action repeatedly as he paints pictures of Memphis, the life and times of James Earl Ray and the career of King as he moves ever closer to his death in Sides' home-town.

All of this is done against some excellent historical background material. Sides presents the troubled city of Memphis and the stand-off between the striking sanitation workers and the intractable Mayor Loeb. It was this long-running dispute which, ultimately drew King to the city.

In terms of detail regarding the murder, Sides doesn't really add much that isn't already known. Both Posner and Frank offered more nitty-gritty in their books. The author does provide some insights into the thoughts and deeds of the Memphis FBI staff, who were being pushed hard by Hoover, DeLoach and Attorney General Clark. The latter two men left Washington for Memphis in order to demonstrate a commitment and determination to track down Dr King's killer.

The author stays with the story throughout the pursuit, capture and conviction of Ray and he explores the possibility that members of Ray's own family might have been aiding and abetting him as he set about his task.

Sides chronicles some of the turmoil within King's inner-circle after the assassination and he makes sure to include the Poor People's March which did go ahead after the murder.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This volume is split into two halves - in the first half Hampton Sides concentrates on the intriguing cat-and-mouse chase as James Earl Ray stalks his intended victim and plans his attack on King's SCLC. The killing happens midway through and the second half of this volume concentrates on the cat-and-mouse chase between Ray and the FBI, Interpol, Scotland Yard, the Canadian Mounted Police and US State Police, but now of course with Ray as the mouse.

I loved the way, as Ray assumes a new alias to suit his surroundings or circumstances, Sides refers to the assassin in his new identity, getting right into the character of each new alias. That is, of course, until the next alias comes along.

Hampton Sides is a white native of Memphis but manages to portray a very sincere empathy with Martin Luther King and the lives of ordinary blacks in their struggle for equal rights in 1960s southern states USA, whilst at the same time portraying Ray as a fastidious yet hapless, often fortuitous, oddball loner and a dreamer.

This book is so much more than a fantastically well documented work of reference on the death of one of the twentieth century's most influential people, it is a social commentary on the single most progressive decade in the history of the Occidental world.

If you're looking for clues pointing towards a government conspiracy you won't find it between these pages, unless of course you're prepared to read between the lines.

I'm quite a slow reader but I have to say that I had trouble putting it down once I'd started it. Highly recommended!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Published 1 month ago by v christofi
4.0 out of 5 stars Chasing the dream
An excellent well researched and written book. Although the murder of Dr King took place over forty years ago and the assassin was caught, the author's extensive research and... Read more
Published 1 month ago by H. Rogers
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely riveting read!
Rarely have I been so gripped by a book. The pathos that Hampton Sides generates for the central characters in the drama is wonderful. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Maverick
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down...
I've never really known very much about the Martin Luther King assassination. I wouldn't have even been able to name his killer. Read more
Published on 17 Jun 2012 by C. Ball
5.0 out of 5 stars Sides does it again.
This is the second Hampton Sides novel I have blitzed through (the other been the excellent Ghost Soldiers). Read more
Published on 14 Mar 2012 by M
4.0 out of 5 stars Just rendering
'Trying to understand why [James Earl Ray] killed King, I began to look hard at Ray himself - his habits, his readings, his politics, his influences. Read more
Published on 20 Jun 2011 by Mick Yerman
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read
This was my first Kindle read, and although it was a bit expensive for an ebook, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Read more
Published on 17 Oct 2010 by Graham Archer
5.0 out of 5 stars well written, well paced book
I agree with all the above comments. This book is part social history, part political history, part biography and part 1960s CSI/police procedural - except that it is all true. Read more
Published on 2 Aug 2010 by D. Cameron
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping
Fabulous book, reads like a thiller novel. You get a real feel for the era. Opened my eyes on an period in history I previousely knew little about. Highly recommended.
Published on 24 July 2010 by Drummand
5.0 out of 5 stars Very easy to read near thriller, mostly from the point of view of the...
I read a review for this book and I was very interested in it. More for the assassin's side of the story than for the victim. I thought the book could easily fall into two types. Read more
Published on 23 July 2010 by BS on parade
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