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On April 23, 1967, Prisoner #416J, an inmate at the notorious Missouri State Penitentiary, escaped in a breadbox. Fashioning himself Eric Galt, this nondescript thief and con man—whose real name was James Earl Ray—drifted through the South, into Mexico, and then Los Angeles, where he was galvanized by George Wallace’s racist presidential campaign.
On February 1, 1968, two Memphis garbage men were crushed to death in their hydraulic truck, provoking the exclusively African American workforce to go on strike. Hoping to resuscitate his faltering crusade, King joined the sanitation workers’ cause, but their march down Beale Street, the historic avenue of the blues, turned violent. Humiliated, King fatefully vowed to return to Memphis in April.
With relentless storytelling drive, Sides follows Galt and King as they crisscross the country, one stalking the other, until the crushing moment at the Lorraine Motel when the drifter catches up with his prey. Against the backdrop of the resulting nationwide riots and the pathos of King’s funeral, Sides gives us a riveting cross-cut narrative of the assassin’s flight and the sixty-five-day search that led investigators to Canada, Portugal, and England—a massive manhunt ironically led by Hoover’s FBI.
Magnificent in scope, drawing on a wealth of previously unpublished material, this nonfiction thriller illuminates one of the darkest hours in American life—an example of how history is so often a matter of the petty bringing down the great.
"Drawing on interviews and previously unpublished resources, Sides builds suspense....offers riveting details....[and]captures the zeitgeist of the 1960s....[readers] will be swept up in the narrative because Sides writes with immediacy, intimacy and the pacing of a thriller." Booklist, Starred Review
"[An] engrossing study.....novelistic treatment....the result is a tragedy more compelling than the grandest conspiracy theory"-- Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
"Sides skillfully weaves his narrative as his books builds to the fateful conjunction...the results are a spellbinder that all interested readers will find hard to put down"-- Library Journal, Starred Review
“A riveting account of James Earl Ray’s long quest to kill Martin Luther King, Jr. An expertly written study in true crime, vividly recapturing the mood of 1968.” —Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
"Employing the same storytelling prowess he displayed in Blood and Thunder and Ghost Soldiers, Sides ratchets up the tension.....reads like a crime novel worthy of Joseph Wambaugh or Michael Connelly." --Book Page