The Skimmer

Book review: Hellhound on His Trail by Hampton Sides

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Hellhound on his Trail by Hampton Sides

Hellhound on His Trail

By Hampton Sides

Doubleday; 405 pages

Few events in recent American history hold such lasting resonance as the death of Martin Luther King Jr. His position as the martyred leader of the civil rights movement has become so solidified in the national psyche that the events surrounding his death have become equally mythologized. Hellhound unravels that myth by chronicling King's 1968 Memphis assassination, starting with James Earl Ray's twisted stalking of his victim across the South and concluding with what was then the largest FBI manhunt ever. In the end, the ideologically fractured bureau--J. Edgar Hoover despised King; Attorney General Ramsey Clark venerated him--assigned 3,500 agents and spent $2 million tracking down its man. Yet despite almost daily death threats, King's murder wasn't inevitable, writes Sides; it was the culmination of several factors, such as his refusal of police protection and Ray's extraordinary ability to pass through life unnoticed. Hellhound unfolds like a mystery--one read not for the ending but for all the missteps, gotchas and near misses along the way.

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