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

4.2 of 5 stars 4.20  ·  rating details  ·  5,404 ratings  ·  698 reviews
Edgar Award Nominee
One of the Best Books of the Year: O, The Oprah Magazine, Time, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, San Francisco Chronicle

From the acclaimed bestselling author of Ghost Soldiers and Blood and Thunder, a taut, intense narrative about the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the largest
Hardcover, 459 pages
Published April 27th 2010 by Doubleday (first published January 1st 2010)
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What could have been an utterly gripping account of the assassination of Martin Luther King was marred, for me, by an attention to detail that bordered on the lunatic. In this account, Martin Luther King wouldn't vist a shop on the High Street to by some gum, for example. Oh no. That would be far too general. The author would more likely write, "Dr King pushed through the swing doors of the Woolworths on 365A High Street and took out his Sears Wallet to extract one of the three five dollar bills ...more
MK Brunskill-Cowen
I wish I could give this book 6 stars - it deserves it. This book reads like a psychological thriller where the reader follows the hero and the villain as the move towards their fateful meeting. He captures the time, place and feelings of those involved, and we can feel the tension as JE Ray checks into the flophouse from which he fires the gun while Dr. King relaxes with his associates. He portrays Dr. King as a real human, warts and all, which only intensifies the importance of his mission. Li ...more
Pete daPixie
I was recently introduced to 'Hellhound on his Trail', when the book was featured as the BBC Radio 4 'Book of the week', where excerpts are read over five days. Last week I bumped into the book on the shelves of the local town library. Published this year, I was the first person to take the book out. I'm sure I will not be the last. Hampton Sides has written a great account of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis on April 4th 1968.
King's killer was a stalker, who pursues his vi
This is a terrific book, and anyone interested in the history of Martin Luther King, Jr., the Civil Rights Movement, J. Edgar Hoover, the history of the FBI or, quite simply, the Sixties, should put this one on their shelf. (Similarly - much as I hate to say this - anyone who enjoys crime fiction will probably enjoy this - it's that good, but there's no fiction to be found here.)

Plenty of critics may whine that (1) most of what's here is well known and has been in the public domain for some time
Q: Who is Eric Gault?

Stumped? Join the crowd.

A: Eric Salvo Gault is the pseudonym of James Earl Ray, Martin Luther King’s assassin.

Hampton Sides chooses to use Ray’s pseudonyms as he tells how Ray escaped from prison in Jefferson City, lived on the lam for several months, and then as an escaped convict, assassinated Martin Luther King and evaded a national and international man-hunt from April 4, 1968 in Memphis to June 8, 1968 in London.

As to Martin Luther King, Sides focuses on his life and
James Cridland
Spotted in a US airport bookstore, and bought on the Kindle thanks to the barcode-remembering magic of Google Goggles. This is a wonderful, wonderful book. Really fascinating.

I ought to preface this by saying that I had no idea of the story of either Martin Luther King or his killer. I didn't know the killer's history, whether he was captured, or whether he lived to tell the tale. This is probably quite bad - but then, I wasn't born when this happened, but it was recent enough (and remote enough
Bookmarks Magazine
While he breaks no new ground, Sides succeeds in bringing these two contradictory men and their troubled era vividly to life. Meticulously researched and compulsively readable, Hellhound "reads like nothing so much as a novel" (Oregonian), and Sides's sharp historical focus, forceful prose, evocative details, and short, crisp chapters create a sense of urgency and suspense worthy of any top-notch crime novel. Sides does not presume to understand Ray's motives, and he only briefly discusses the a ...more
This book opens with the escape from Missouri State Penitentiary “Jeff City” at Jefferson City of Prisoner #416J on April 23, 1967. Through out the book we follow his travels to Mexico, where he is going by the name Eric Starvo Galt. We follow him as he travels north to California, then west to New Orleans, Atlanta and Memphis. He bought a gun using the name Harvey Lowmeyer and rented a room in Mrs. Brewer’s rooming house as John Willard. From the bathroom of the rooming house he shot Martin Lut ...more
Diane Kistner
I was 15 when Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated. My 46-year-old father, dead a month later, was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Soon thereafter Bobby Kennedy was assassinated, and I completely shut down. I missed so much of what was going on during those times because it was just too unbearable for me to pay attention. I left home at 17, and then things got even crazier.

The Sixties and their aftermath were very frightening and tumultuous for teens and young adults, a time that onl
This has to be perhaps the creepiest book I've ever read! Telling the story of assassin James Earl Ray's trek of madness "Hellhound on his Trail" goes deep within and under the surface of one of the most heinous crimes in American History. The story begins a full year before the events of April, 1968 with Ray's prison escape. Delving into the psyche of just who James Earl Ray really was, the reader joins him on a bizarre trip through his ghoulish transformation. We see him, rootless going from j ...more
Susan  Odetta
MLK was assassinated on my 20th birthday in 1968. Washington, DC and other cities were torched in anguished response. I remembering fearing anarchy and civil war; the times were deeply paranoid, with the Vietnam War, J. Edgar Hoover and his use of the FBI in his personal vendetta against MLK, not to mention Watts, George Wallace, Stokely Carmichael et al. But reading this account made me realize those times were even worse than I ever knew. This story is not so much about MLK, although it contai ...more
As an Vine reviewer, I get a monthly newsletter of books to choose from and review. Most of them are novels and religious/spiritual books, but occasionally there are one or two technical, biographical, or political books that peek my interest. Hampton Sides’s Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther, Jr. and the International Hunt for his Assassin.

I had seen the book advertised or reviewed somewhere on the net, but my first thought was why read it? The assassination of Ki
Hampton Sides is an incredibly talented writer. The phrase, "impossible to put down," is a cliche, but for this book, for me, this cliche was true. Sides brilliantly tells the story of "the stalking of Martin Luther King Jr and the international hunt for his assassin" and in doing so captures a dark, sad moment in American history and provides insight to a whole decade of turmoil and upheaval. At times the book reminded me of Manchester's Death of a President -- both have detailed behind-the-sce ...more
Neil Pierson
The mystery of James Earl Ray will never be solved. Not whether he murdered Dr. Martin Luther King. Of course he did. But why?

Ray was a dead-bang loser. He was pretty good at two things: (1) Getting into jail; (2) escaping from jail. It seems to have never occurred to him to make an honest buck. He settled on armed robbery to pay the bills and aspired to direct pornographic movies. And he was a racist.

But there were (and are) a lot of racist, career criminals around, and they didn't assassinate
If you haven't read Hampton Sides, you should. The author of "Ghost Soldiers," and "Blood and Thunder," has once more brought history alive with "Hellhound on His Trail."

When reading Hampton it is easy to forget you are reading history. His histories read more live a novel. In fact, his latest has a great similarity to the style of Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood." Unlike Capote, however, Sides' history of the assassination of Martin Luther King is fully annotated with meticulous notes and a rema
Well researched and documented account of James Earl Ray who stalked and killed Martin Luther King at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. Ray was a serial criminal and had escaped from prison several times during his years of numerous incarcerations for multiple crimes. He lived under numerous aliases and after killing King made it to Canada, Portugal and London before being captured.
This is an excellent account of historical facts into the Presidency of Lyndon Johnson, J. Edgar Hoover and his manag
I always knew the basic story of MLK's assassination, having grown up in Memphis, TN. I have been to the Lorraine Motel and the Civil Rights Museum multiple times on school field-trips, and I know the name of MLK's assassin. But after finishing Hellhound, I am anxious to get back to the Civil Rights Museum and see things through a completely different and much more informed perspective.
Hampton Sides did an incredible job narrating the last days of King's life, as well as documenting the strange
I began reading this book as a filler between fiction books... Alas, I picked the wrong non-fiction book to take a break from thrillers.

Hampton Sides writes an eminently readable account of the MLK murder. He alternates between the viewpoint of MLKs last weeks and the saga of his murdered as he escapes prison and makes his way to Memphis. It is amazing how a good writer can build suspense in a story that the reader already knows and Sides accomplishes this.

I have to add that I THOUGHT I knew ab
Hampton Sides reveals an amazing collection of details about James Earl Ray (Eric Galt, Ray's alias that Sides uses throughout most of the book)and Martin Luther King during the days that led up to King's assassination. Having lived through this heart wrenching and sobering period of time, I was surprised at how many of those details I didn't know or didn't remember. He tells Ray's story with precision and a touch of revulsion; he tells King's story with dread and compassion. Sides is not object ...more
I think most people my age and younger find it hard to think of Martin Luther King as a real man--he was an icon, a force, cut down in his prime and brought out once a year for remembrance. This book turns the King assassination into a taut crime thriller, and along the way turns King back into a person, thereby making his death feel that much more devastating. After all, we all know how this story ends. But during the scene in the book where King is joking around on the balcony of the Lorraine ...more
I was attracted to this book by the topic, understanding the background and circumstances of the individual that killed Martin Luther King and the time period in better detail. I had previously read a Hampton Sides book and I thought the previous book, Ghost Soldiers, was well-written and informative.

In terms of Hellhound on His Trail, I am unabashed fan of the book. It is well-written, well-researched and documented in a manner that does not the narrative form and the fluidity of the book. Fasc
Oh! My God! What a book! I am from Alabama, live in DC, and work in housing law -- so I often feel like I am pacing along in the vague shadow of MLK's legacy. This book did an amazing job of explaining that legacy alongside the odd trivia that makes his murder so eponymous.

James Earl Ray curled himself up in a tiny ball and escaped from a Missouri prison in the bottom of a bakers bin. He drove around the country in a white Mustang. Shot some porn. Took some salsa classes. And what ensued next i
I've never really known very much about the Martin Luther King assassination. I wouldn't have even been able to name his killer. I literally knew nothing about the manhunt for James Earl Ray after he shot King in Memphis in 1968. But I could not put this book down, not for a minute.

Sides begins with Ray's escape from Jefferson City Prison in 1967 and follows him across the United States to Mexico and back again. Each chapter alternates between King and Ray, and he gives an excellent look at the
This would be worth reading just for the story of James Earl Ray, starting with his escape from prison in 1967 to his capture months after killing King after traveling everywhere from Porto Vallarta to Lisbon. What a warped, disturbed, cunning, inventive, pathetic product of a hate-filled society...

But the book contains at least two other narrative threads, which Sides expertly returns to in alternating chapters. First is the story of Dr. King in the late 60s, trying to regain the momentum of a
This might have been a four had I come to it with more intrinsic curiosity on the topic. A three is pretty accurate, since other books have managed to grab me even when I didn't necessarily approach them with a lot of curiosity. This one was certainly a decent read (listen, in this case) -- the stories of Martin Luther King's final days and his enigmatic killer kept me engaged, which is more challenging when it's an audiobook. At the same time, a lot of excess details felt like filler and weighe ...more
I had forgotten so much about the hunt for an MLK's killer that it was truly one of those stranger than fiction stories. Highly recommended with many twists and turns and interesting historical details--Like the fact that several wealthy Klan Organizations had well known bounties placed on MLK's head and how J Edgar Hoover had sent him anonymous letters urging him to commit suicide.
Nannie Bittinger
Aug 07, 2011 Nannie Bittinger rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Nannie by: Chautauqua reading group
I would highly recommend this book as a very readable history. More than just the story of James Earl Ray and the assasination of MLK. I learned things about the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, Lyndon Johnson and so many more. My only wish was that more photos had been included.
Barry Sierer
Hampton Sides tells the story of two men on a collision course, and the time they lived in. A time when racial violence wasn’t just feared, it was expected.

James Earl Ray (known usually as Eric Galt) escapes from prison in Missouri and lays low in Mexico. Over time, he attempts develop skills as a pornographic photographer, and a lock-smith with no success. He moves to Los Angeles and becomes an avid supporter of presidential candidate George Wallace. Galt (Ray) is a perpetual wanderer. He is no
This is a page-turner and I could not put it down. Hampton Sides recounts the efforts to find and arrest the assassin of Martin Luther King, Jr., James Earl Ray. Sides, born in Memphis, tells about the garbageman strike and the efforts to move the Memphis mayor to make the work safer and to give the workers a small raise. He shifts to MLK and his involvement in the strike. Then Sides shifts to James Earl Ray escaping prison in Missouri and becoming Eric Galt out in Las Angeles. The book entrance ...more
Nancy Oakes
On April 4th, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down & killed with a single shot as he stood outside of his room on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. It didn't take long until the conspiracy theories began. As the author notes:

"In a society already well marinated in conspiracy, it was only natural that every form of collusion would be bruited about.... Johnson had done it. Hoover had done it. Wallace had done it. The Klan, the White Citizens Council, the Memphis Police
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“Then she spoke with Yolanda, her eldest child, with whom she'd been shopping all afternoon for an Easter dress. "Mommy, I'm not going to cry," Yoki said resolutely. "I'll see him again in heaven."
But something was bothering her, something clearly nagged at her young conscience. "Should I hate the man who killed my father?" she asked.
Coretta shook her head. "No, darling, your daddy wouldn't want you to do that.”
“What a sordid tradition of violence we have in our country—and what an alarming record of assassinations and assassination attempts.” 0 likes
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