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Hellhound on His Trail

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  7,953 Ratings  ·  913 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

With a New Afterword

On April 4, 1968, James Earl Ray shot Martin Luther King at the Lorraine Motel. The nation was shocked, enraged, and saddened. As chaos erupted across th
ebook, 320 pages
Published April 27th 2010 by Anchor (first published January 1st 2010)
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Jeffrey Keeten
May 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1960-s
”We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop.

And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place.

But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And he’s allowed me to go up the mountain, and I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the promised Land.

I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the Promised Land. So I’m happy ton
Mar 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime, non-fiction
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

This is a thriller; and it is real. You know the outcomes: first MLK will be shot and then James Earl Ray will be caught. Sides still has you at the edge of your seat. It is not historical fiction, a “true life novel” or any other liberty-taking genre. It is a well documented history of a major 20th century event. The only book that comes close in my experience is My Thoughts Be Bloody: The Bitter Rivalry Between Edwin and John Wilkes Booth That Led to an American Tragedy by Nora Tilton (interes
Sep 16, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2016
In Hellhound on his Trail, Hampton Sides chronicles the events leading up to, and the subsequent investigation into the assassination of Martin Luther King Junior, which culminated in the capture of James Earl Ray. Sides highly detailed account is often told from Ray's perspective, which makes for some harrowing reading. Sides has the sense of drama of a master Mystery novelist, which will keep readers in suspense even though they already know the final outcome.

The best and most complete book I
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
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
Mar 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, history
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
Aug 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
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
Oct 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Bookmarks Magazine
Jun 16, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: july-aug-2010
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
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
May 19, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I listened to this author on Public radio the other day and it was fascinating. Another experiment in understanding history through the details of one event. update: details is the operative word. unlike some other reviewers, I didn't find the details overwhelming. this book treads the line between history and true crime and does it successfully.
Lisa B.
Mar 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-read
I would have been 13 year old when Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated. While I remember the story, I do not remember all of the details. This book was a real eye opener as to the events leading up to the assassination and what happened afterwards.

What I like about Mr. Sides writing is that he takes nonfiction and makes it readable. He is very detailed and I find this makes the story more enjoyable. What I thought most impressive was the manhunt for James Earl Ray and that they were actually
Jul 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My Rating: 5 Mustangs.

An excellent book about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and his killer, James Earl Ray. This is the story I never knew.
The author paints a compelling picture of the lead up to the assasination and the escape.

An added pleasure was hearing it read by the author, Hampton Sides.
Do yourself a big favor and pick this up.
Jim Angstadt
Dec 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hellhound On His Trail
The Stalking of Martin Luther King Jr. and the international hunt for his assassin
Hampton Sides

This is my third Hampton Sides book, after Blood and Thunder and In the Kingdom of Ice.

These first two bring the reader right into the story, seeing what should be seen, feeling what should be felt. One has a sense of being there, within the story. Stalking has that also. The reader walks with "Eric Galt", and all his phony names. One smells the stink of his cheap aftershave and d
Mar 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Deborah Edwards
Jul 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Hellhound on His Trail" is a number of books in one. It is a detailed account of two men, one who changed the world with a hopeful message of non-violence and equality, and one who changed the world with a gun. It is also a book that acts as a window onto another time, the late 60's in American culture, swirling with all of the defining elements that made this history possible. We get portraits of all the players: Johnson, Hoover, Abernathy, Bobby Kennedy, DeLoach, Wallace, Clark, - and a truly ...more
Bart Thanhauser
This book is a quick, exciting read, sure, ok. Got that out of the way. Here are the bigger things that struck me about the book and the time (before my time) that I didn’t know.

Realization #1: Holy fuck, America was on the rocks. Not even considering the Vietnam War, hippies, and the anti-war movement (which was substantial, and today seemingly much more visibly eulogized), de-segregation, race, and Civil War fault lines were never like faults in the Earth’s plates, shifting and causing tremor
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
May 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Forget about spoilers. Hampton Sides has done the seemingly impossible: created a heart-pounding, electrifying account of the stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968 and the manhunt for his killer. But everyone knows the outcome. King was shot dead by James Earl Ray who was arrested several weeks later in London’s Heathrow Airport. Everybody knows that. So how exactly did Sides keep the suspense ratcheted up until the very last page? This is a true crime story like no other.

I’m still fairly
Katherine Addison
The thing I particularly admire about this book (beside the fact that it is both well-written and well-researched, proving that the two things can coexist in the same work), is the way that Sides follows so many different paths, both as they twist together toward the assassination and as they unravel in a dozen different directions after. The underlying backbone of the book is James Earl Ray's trajectory, but Sides also follows Martin Luther King, Jr.--both as a man and (horribly but necessarily ...more
Dec 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
I have always felt a strong connection to Dr. Martin Luther King. I was born and raised in Memphis (the same year as Hampton Sides) and vividly remember the annual marches there honoring Dr. King. My family has always been active in progressive politics - which requires commitment in the conservative Southeast. I lived in Atlanta for five years and my son and I made a point of making an annual trek to the King Center. It is a place of great beauty and poignancy - the remains of what was once Swe ...more
Apr 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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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.”
“For poverty is miserable. It is ugly, disorganized, rowdy, sick, uneducated, violent, afflicted with crime. Poverty demeans human dignity. The demanding tone, the inarticulateness, the implied violence deeply offended us. We didn’t want to see it on our sacred monumental grounds. We wanted it out of sight and out of mind.” 1 likes
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