– Yale-trained historian Hampton Sides hails from Memphis. His father had worked on the MLK trial as a lawyer. So it’s no wonder that this fascinating book feels like a personal memoir, an intimate story from the writer. This book is the story of all the characters involved in the murder of Martin Luther King, their characteristics, their habits, their quirks. And, so typical of Hampton Sides, this book is thoroughly researched, well-written, and well-organized.
I was just a child in my single digits when MLK was assassinated. I read this book to learn more about the story. And what a story this is. Sides spoke with every witness, every neighbor of all the people in the book. He traveled thousands of miles to relive the towns and travel routes of the people in this book. He didn’t leave anything to the imagination.
And, typical of Sides, chapters are short and ideal for quick readings. Personalities switch often: starting with Eric Galt (James Early Ray) and his penchant for Mexican whores and cheap photographs, to nemisis J Edgar Hoover, President Lyndon Johnson, George Wallace and the man MLK himself (who lived quite a shameful life behind curtains), this book is laden with historical passages never before revealed.
Although we all know how the killing of MLK transpired, Sides does not take sides with anyone. No character in this book is herofied. What the reader experiences is the rising backfrop to the actual focus of this book: the hunt for James Earl Ray. Out of the 400 pages of this book, the first 164 take place before the MLK assassination.
We learn about the distrust J Edgar Hoover had toward MLK. We read about James Earl Ray’s shyness, Johnson’s rudeness and George Wallace’s resoluteness. The reader finally finishes this book not completely wanting to take just one side anymore, but none.
I highly recommend this book for history fans, people fascinated with FBI history and its people, social history of the 1960s and admirers of MLK. It’s a hard book to put down once you get started, so happy reading. Your mind will thank you for the intellectual insight.