In April 1967, James Earl Ray escaped from the Missouri State Penitentiary by smuggling himself out of the prison bakery in a breadbox. He drifted to Mexico, then to Los Angeles, where he attended bartending school and volunteered for the presidential campaign of Alabama Governor and staunch segregationist George Wallace. During this time, Ray's racist beliefs became an obsession, and he became fixated on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. - so fixated that in 1968, Ray left California, and began to stalk King through the American South.
At the same time, King was planning a bold new movement, the Poor People's Campaign. He was plagued by hate mail and death threats, exhausted, and he feared that the nonviolent civil rights movement to which he'd devoted his life was losing its way. But he was still devoted to the cause of racial equality and tireless in his efforts, which included travels to Memphis to help mobilize support for the sanitation workers' strike in early 1968.
Sides traces King's and Ray's steps towards the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, and does an especially fine job of conveying the heaviness of King's last days. He then goes on to examine the lesser-known story of the ensuing manhunt for James Earl Ray as he attempted to flee the country after assassinating King.
Sides succeeds in telling a compelling, suspenseful story with thoughtful, responsible research. In a relatively brief space, he also draws a striking portrait of the tumultuous social and political landscapes of the late 60s that will make readers eager to read further about this period and the individuals and events that shaped it.