Hampton Sides’ new book, Hellhound On His Trail, which describes the stalking of Martin Luther King Jr. by James Earl Ray, is chock full of history and perspective not often taken when discussing the King assassination:
Author Hampton Sides wasn’t sure about the guy who said he had an interesting archive all about the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
And amateur archivist Vince Hughes thought Sides might be just another one of those wing nuts with a conspiracy theory to shop.
Sides was already well into his research for a book, using all the usual historical sources when he finally called Hughes. He found an astounding collection that helped turn his new book, “Hellhound on His Trail,” into something special. Though King’s life and death are well-tilled soil for historians, Sides took a new approach, crafting a compelling and unique narrative history of the stalking of King and the ensuing manhunt for his killer.
Take, for example, the roll of film Hughes had from the evening of April 4, 1968, the day King was shot at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. The iconic picture of King’s entourage pointing in the direction of the bullet is memorable, but the rest of the roll had never been published.
The first picture shot by a South African photographer covering King’s visit was of the Nobel Peace Prize winner and civil rights leader as he steps onto the balcony. The next 12 minutes play out frame by frame.
“Then, finally, you get to the picture of all the guys pointing,” Sides said. “So you can almost reconstruct the narrative of what was going on. You can see firemen coming in from the fire station, jumping over the retaining wall. You can see the weather. You can see puddles of rain. You can see all these little gritty details that come out in the book.”