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4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (3,107 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Hampton Sides Narrator: Hampton Sides Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: April 2010 ISBN: 9780739358931
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On April 4, 1968, James Earl Ray shot Martin Luther King, Jr., at the Lorraine Motel. The nation was shocked, enraged, and saddened. As chaos erupted across the country and mourners gathered at King’s funeral, investigators launched a sixty-five-day search for King’s assassin that would lead them across two continents.

With a blistering, crosscutting narrative that draws on a wealth of dramatic unpublished documents, Hampton Sides, bestselling author of Ghost Soldiers, delivers a nonfiction thriller in the tradition of William Manchester’s The Death of a President and Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. With Hellhound on His Trail, Sides shines a light on the largest manhunt in American history and brings it to life for all to see.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Knowing how the era-defining story ends doesn’t make these parallel portraits of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the man who killed him any less riveting.”

    O, The Oprah Magazine

  • Enlightening . . . a valuable contribution to the historical record [and] a memorable and persuasive portrait . . . Ray's desire to achieve something in life, Sides convincingly and originally argues, was first and foremost what sent him on his deadly trail to Memphis. The Washington Post
  • [Sides] has pieced together a viscerally dramatic account....Sides writes in forceful, dignified, obscenity-free language and creates the momentum of a tightly constructed nonfiction film....Both Dr. King and Ray come to life in these remarkable pages, generating great suspense....spellbinding....[A ]bold, dynamic, unusually vivid book New York Times
  • It's as much thriller as history book and the compulsive story races along like a fugitive on the lam. San Francisco Gate
  • Searing…Skillfully lifts the obscure details of the assassination out of the realm of historical elegy and translates them into a complex crime mystery that shifts the focus from Dr. King to his killer. Sides’s reconstruction of the assassination itself is searing – and a reminder of how little we know about it. Relying on FBI recordes, memoirs and past historians’ accounts, Sides re-creates Ray’s journey from his prison escape in April 1967 to the moment when he fired the single shot that felled Dr. King. After the shot is fired, Ray takes flight and, like an extended episode of the old television show "Dragnet," thousands of agents begin their search. Sides’s treatment of the killing is gripping. Wall Street Journal

  • "Extraordinary....remarkable journalism.....compulsively readable San Francisco Chronicle
  • Remarkable....The book is a window on the passions and contradictions of an era – the hatred stirred by the civil rights movements, the battle lines within a single presidential administration, and a martyr who died just as his own flame seemed to be flickering amid dissension and disappointment.....Thanks to the skills of historian and author Hampton Sides, readers will feel as if they are standing on the ledge at the Lorraine Motel with King....moving....a page-turner....Its story is told so effectively and efficiently that readers will want to head back in time and pluck the bullet out of the air on that April evening, when the best and worst of America met in Memphis. Christian Science Monitor
  • Impossible-to-put-down…HELLHOUND ON HIS TRAIL is a masterful work of narrative nonfiction, one that benefits from its author's considerable talent as both a researcher and a writer. And as a result of his efforts, we not only have a greater understanding of King and Ray, but also a book that is every bit as good as any of the fiction thrillers being written these days.  Sides has made an art form out of what Truman Capote called the "journalistic novel.  In fact, the best works in this genre are the ones that locate the dramatic within the known.  And no one does it better than Hampton Sides. Associated Press
  • A riveting re-creation of a tragedy…HELLHOUND doggedly pursues the story of MLK’s murder. Magazines and newspapers have a name – "tick-tock for the kind of story that re-creates an event or decision as if it’s unfolding all over again. Sides’ compelling HELLHOUND is an extended tick-tock that reads like a tragic novel. Through Sides’ use of novelistic pacing, details and descriptions, he creates suspense that will propel readers through a slice of history.
  • A taut, vibrant account....chilling in detail and particularly haunting in evoking the confusion and pathos in the minutes following the single crack of Ray's rifle. Los Angeles Times
  • Sides is a crack research artist with a feel for both halves of the American chronicle, the grandeur and the violence....meticulous....a page turner, and something more: It brings the disquiet of an era fully alive. Bloomberg
  • Sides' account....is special for at least four reasons. First, his reporting on Ray's difficult-to-unearth squalid life constitutes remarkable journalism. Second, Sides' brand of literary journalism makes the saga compulsively readable. Third, Sides' re-creation of the effort to capture Ray, which begins on Page 166 of a book topping 450 pages, provides a law-enforcement angle that is fresh. Fourth, Sides is a Memphis native, so he writes about the killing staining his city with a passion that resonates.....Sides does, however, offer a character sketch that avoids portraying King as a plaster saint.....Compelling Dallas Morning News
  • Sides' book, meticulously researched, reads like nothing so much as a novel....sense of immediacy.... creating plenty of plain old-fashioned suspense that makes the reader's heart pound, even though the tragic outcome is known in advance.....I have rarely read a better work of narrative nonfiction.....Sides' fine book brings [this time period] brilliantly back to life....Among other things, this memorable book serves as a chilling reminder that a single loser with his finger on the trigger and mayhem in his heart can bring an entire nation to its knees. The Portland Oregonian
  • Exhaustively researched, fast-paced and at times minute-by-minute telling....To Sides' great credit, this is a feat of shoe-leather reporting and research....astonishing....briskly alive Austin American Statesman
  • As urgent a page-turner as any crime novel — a feat Sides accomplishes without sacrificing historical detail and insight....vivid historical context,....Sides places the King assassination in its historical context, paints memorable portraits of both killer and victim, and writes a true crime story as gripping as a fictional thriller. He also reminds us that, although King's assassination occurred more than four decades ago, some of the forces that drove it are disturbingly familiar in this era of vehemently antagonistic politics. St. Petersburg Times 
  • An authoritative, engrossing narrative....thoroughly researched but executed with the pacing of a fine novel and a dash of top-notch police procedural....meticulous....the tragedy that Sides has so ably captured is how a giant of American life was so quickly erased -- and the course of history irreversibly altered -- by a cretin as small as James Earl Ray. Miami Herald
  • Salute author Sides for a carefully researched and crisply written account....Sides crafts careful profiles of his major characters St. Louis Post-Dispatch
  • Sides' meticulous yet driving account of Ray's plot to murder King and the 68-day international manhunt that followed is in essence a true-crime story and a splendid specimen of the genre — a genuine corker.....Sides deftly constructs the book so that the killer's character becomes the mystery Salon
  • [Sides] masterfully recreates the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.....captivating....Like any good thriller, Hellhound on His Trail is full of movement....creates an especially riveting portrait of King’s last minutes....Though the outcome is clear, we are nonetheless rapt—and then devastated—by Sides’s treatment of this historical event. Time Out New York
  • Nailbitingly riveting Newsday
  • Hellhound unfolds like a mystery--one read not for the ending but for all the missteps, gotchas and near misses along the way. Time
  • 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
  • “We see a panorama and a whole history, intricately laced with wonder and meaning, coalesce into a story of epic proportions, a story full of authority and color, truth and prophecy . . . Sides fills a conspicuous void in the history of the American West. New York Times Book Review
  • “An ambitious and sprawling account of the winning of the American West . . . A riveting account of a vast swath of history with which few Americans are familiar. The New Yorker
  • “Stunning . . . Both haunting and lyrical, Blood and Thunder is truly a masterpiece. Los Angeles Time
  • “A brilliantly realized portrait on an epic scale. . . captures a pivotal moment in U.S. history in marvelous detail. . . . Authoritative and masterfully told. Washington Post Book World
  • “A beautifully written, mesmerizing account of the greatest American story between the Revolution and the Civil War. . . . Like Shelby Foote, he has mastered the grand, sweeping style without sacrificing the well-chosen characters, events and minutiae that bring history to life. USA Today
  • “Few stories are as gripping as the one that Hampton Sides tells here. . . . Mesmerizing New York Magazine
  • “Riveting and patriotically stirring. New York Times
  • “Thoroughly researched and artfully told . . . . A compelling story filled with colorful characters. San Francisco Chronicle
  • “The greatest World War II story never told. Esquire
  • “Searing…A complex crime mystery that shifts the focus from Dr. King to his killer…Gripping.”

    Wall Street Journal

  • “A riveting recreation of a tragedy…Through Sides’ use of novelistic pacing, details, and descriptions, he creates suspense that will propel readers through a slice of history.”

    USA Today

  • “Viscerally dramatic…Spellbinding…Both Dr. King and Ray come to life in these remarkable pages.”

    New York Times

  • “A taut, vibrant account…Chilling in detail and particularly haunting in evoking the confusion and pathos in the minutes following the single crack of Ray’s rifle.”

    Los Angeles Times

  • “Enlightening…A valuable contribution to the historical record [and] a memorable and persuasive portrait.”

    Washington Post

  • “Nail-bitingly riveting.”

    Newsday

  • “Remarkable journalism…Compulsively readable…[Sides] writes…with a passion that resonates…Compelling.”

    Dallas Morning News

  • “Gripping, exciting, and engrossing…Hits us with the shuddering intensity of a high-speed collision.”

    Times (London)

  • “Remarkable…A window on the passions and contradictions of an era.”

    Christian Science Monitor

  • “Sides’ meticulous yet driving account of Ray’s plot to murder King and the 68-day international manhunt that followed is in essence a true-crime story and a splendid specimen of the genre—a genuine corker.”

    Salon

  • “A carefully researched and crisply written account…Sides crafts careful profiles of his major characters.”

    St. Louis Post-Dispatch

  • “Extraordinary…Remarkable journalism.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “Impossible to put down…A masterful work of narrative nonfiction, no one does it better than Hampton Sides.”

    Associated Press

  • “Meticulously researched, reads like nothing so much as a novel…creating plenty of plain old-fashioned suspense that makes the reader’s heart pound.”

    Oregonian

  • “As urgent a page-turner as any crime novel—a feat Sides accomplishes without sacrificing historical detail and insight.”

    St. Petersburg Times

  • “An authoritative, engrossing narrative…Thoroughly researched but executed with the pacing of a fine novel and a dash of top-notch police procedural…Meticulous.”

    Miami Herald

  • A 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Best Book for Nonfiction
  • A 2010 Washington Post Best Book for Nonfiction
  • A 2010 Christian Science Monitor Book of the Year for Nonfiction
  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • A 2010 Time Magazine Top 10 Book for Nonfiction
  • A 2010 O Magazine Best Book in Nonfiction
  • A 2011 Edgar Allan Poe Award Nominee for Best Fact Crime

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Terence Bryant | 2/20/2014

    " My buddy and I were discussing the topic of MLK and he recommended this book. It Was a page turner and I couldn't stop. It captures a lot of info and really detailed and chilling facts about MLKs death. Hampton Sides is an amazing author. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Joe | 2/8/2014

    " Good read but it helped being in Memphis at the time of the shooting. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Anna | 2/6/2014

    " Great nonfiction book that reads like fiction. The depth of the author's research and great storytelling makes this fly by. I definitely recommend this book. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sheryl | 2/2/2014

    " This book is captivating! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lynne | 1/25/2014

    " Sides is an outstanding writer who can shape massively detailed research into a kind of psychological thriller. He keeps you asking questions like is Erik Galt really James Earl Ray, what is Ray's background, was he acting alone? In addition we get the historical context of Civil Rights movement, particularly interesting to me, since I lived this history! It is ironic that we were listening to this when the assassination attempt on Gabby Giffords was made. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kate | 1/24/2014

    " Amazingly thorough without ever dragging. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Tim | 1/23/2014

    " Stunning book in its depth and detail. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Nancy | 1/21/2014

    " Fascinating look at what happened during those fateful years. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Gwen | 1/9/2014

    " Even though I know the story about the assassination of Martin Luther King this book was really interesting, well researched, and well written. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Elisa | 1/3/2014

    " Fascinating story. I enjoyed how skillfully the author told the facts--it read like a novel but was completely factual. The suspense of the chase built very nicely. I enjoyed the colorful portrayal of figures like J. Edgar Hoover. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mark | 12/11/2013

    " An exciting work of narrative history - the author bounces back & forth between James Earl Ray and MLK JR, leading up to that fateful night in Memphis... and then continues on through the manhunt & capture of Ray following the assassination. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Colleen | 10/4/2013

    " I really enjoyed the book if one can use the word for something so tragic. It answered alot of questions, though the big ones of motive and whether or not Ray acted completely alone still seemed up in the air. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Edward Marritz | 9/10/2013

    " You might think that a book so richly detailed as this would bog you down. In fact, it's the details that add context and propulsion. Hampton Sides weaves the trail of Dr. King with the more circuitous, opaque road that James Earl Ray took which eventually brought them both to Memphis. Compelling. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Andy Russell | 7/23/2013

    " Very interesting book on the assassination of MLK and the ensuing manhunt for James Earl Ray. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 John | 5/27/2013

    " Very interesting story of the man who killed MLK. I feel confident after reading it that James Earl Ray was a psycho who acted alone. The book was so well researched and written that I already ordered another book by Hampton Sides. Great book. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lucy Briggs | 5/23/2013

    " Stephanie Lincoln recommended. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rebecca | 1/27/2013

    " You would think that for someone who likes history as much I me, I'd already know a lot about the MLK Jr assassination but I was surprised at how much I learned. The book was well written...reminded me of The Devil in The White City. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Seeking Sister | 1/11/2013

    " Wow. I learned so much. More later..... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Joel | 12/3/2012

    " Another good book by a good writer "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Linnet | 11/10/2012

    " The book is written like a novel . . . easy to read how (not why) James Earl Ray goes after MLK, and how the FBI went after him. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Spence | 8/17/2012

    " Very well written and informative. I love books like this because I never knew this even happened. Outside him being killed everything else was news to me. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kimberlee | 6/8/2012

    " A really great book to listen to, well written and very interesting. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Nannie Bittinger | 9/8/2011

    " 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. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Madeline | 7/30/2011

    " I learned a lot I did not know about that time, but it wasn't gripping reading, as I had thought I heard. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Alisha Jo | 6/6/2011

    " I read this book because I knew nothing about the man that killed MLK. I was amazed by James Early Ray and the things that we was able to do. Escape prison twice and be on the run for almost 2 years. Truly a man with mental issues. I recommend this book to everyone. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 vicki | 5/21/2011

    " Strange that factual information can be made into a page-turner..but that is what Sides created so well in this tale of Dr. King's assassin. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Vivian | 5/13/2011

    " Excellent research and good writing make this a compelling read. I couldn't put it down! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Joel | 5/3/2011

    " Hampton Sides builds tension and suspense in the true story of James Earl Ray. Even though I knew what was going to happen, it read like the best thriller. Another great example of putting history in context, teaching and thrilling at the same time. Loved it! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Gail | 4/26/2011

    " An interesting historical nonfiction account of the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. by Eric Gault better known as James Earl Ray. Brings to life America during the civil rights movement by writing side by side accounts of what each man was doing during the same time period. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Missyreid | 4/13/2011

    " I don't think that I learned anything in public school. This book is good because it reads as a story versus historical book. Maybe all history books should be like that. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Robin | 4/13/2011

    " Wow! This was a great read, history come alive, very compelling. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Hillary | 4/4/2011

    " This book was fantastic! Could not put it down and learned so much. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sheila | 4/1/2011

    " Extremely well research and written....an incredible story about an incredible time in our history. "

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About the Author
Author Hampton Sides

Hampton Sides, a native of Memphis, is an award-winning editor of Outside and the author of the bestselling histories Blood and Thunder and Ghost Soldiers. He lives in New Mexico with his wife and their three sons.