Cover image for Chasing King's killer : the hunt for Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassin
Title:
Chasing King's killer : the hunt for Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassin
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9781338227246
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Unabridged.
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5 audio discs (5 hr., 41 min.) : CD audio, digital ; 4 3/4 in.
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Compact discs.
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Summary:
James Earl Ray and Martin Luther King, Jr. had two very different life journeys -- but their paths fatally collide when Ray assassinates the world-renown civil rights leader. This book provides an inside look into both of their lives, the history of the time, and a blow-by-blow examination of the assassination and its aftermath. --
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Summary

Summary

An astonishing account of the assassination of America's most beloved and celebrated civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, by NY Times bestselling author, James L. Swanson.

NAACP Image Award Finalist
Chicago Public Library Best Book of the Year
Kirkus Reviews Best Young Adult Book of the Year

* " James L. Swanson's] masterful work... reveals, in gripping style, how one individual can impact history." -- Booklist , starred review

In his meteoric, thirteen-year rise to fame, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led a mass movement for Civil Rights -- with his relentless peaceful, non-violent protests, public demonstrations, and eloquent speeches. But as violent threats cast a dark shadow over Dr. King's life, Swanson hones in on James Earl Ray, a bizarre, racist, prison escapee who tragically ends King's life.

As he did in his bestselling Scholastic MG/YA books Chasing LIncoln's Killer and "THE PRESIDENT HAS BEEN SHOT " , Swanson transports readers back to one of the most shocking, sad, and terrifying events in American history.


Author Notes

James L.Swanson is the Edgar Award winning author of the New York Times bestseller Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer. In 2009 in Newsweek magazine, Patricia Cornwell named Swanson's Manhunt and Truman Capote's In Cold Blood as the two best nonfiction crime books ever.

In 2006, Entertainment Weekly magazine named Manhunt one of the ten best books of the year. Swanson has degrees in history from The University of Chicago, where he was a student of John Hope Franklin, and law from the University of California, Los Angeles. He has held a number of government and think-tank posts in Washington, D.C., including at the United States Department of Justice. He serves on the advisory council of the Ford's Theatre Society.

His other books include the acclaimed photographic history Lincoln's Assassins: Their Trial and Execution, as well as Chasing Lincoln's Killer, and adaptations of Manhunt and Bloody Crimes for young readers. In 2014 his title, The President Has Been Shot!: The Assasination of Joh F. Kennedy, made The New York Times Best Seller List. James L. Swanson was born on Lincoln's birthday.

(Publisher Provided)


Reviews 6

Publisher's Weekly Review

As he did in Chasing Lincoln's Killer and "The President Has Been Shot!", Swanson offers an absorbing chronicle of the lead-up to and aftermath of the assassination of an American leader. After a concise account of King's upbringing in a close-knit, religious Atlanta family and a childhood lived under Jim Crow, Swanson tracks his speedy ascent to becoming the "beloved living, breathing symbol" of the civil rights movement. Photographs, extensive quotations from a variety of sources (press reports, King's writings and speeches, court records), and other documentation (including a previously unpublished letter from J. Edgar Hoover that underscores the FBI's harassment of King) provide an immediate look at his pivotal role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, lunch-counter sit-ins, and the 1963 March on Washington. Just as compelling is Swanson's insight into the background of King's enigmatic killer, escaped convict James Earl Ray. The details of Ray's efforts to transform and disguise his appearance, the planning of the assassination, and his flight from authorities are riveting and disturbing. Ages 12-up. Agent: Richard Abate, 3 Arts Entertainment. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Horn Book Review

With intensity and clarity, Swanson documents the lives of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and James Earl RayKings assassinand the paths they each took to collide, tragically, on April 3, 1968. Sprinkled throughout the narrative, and adding immediacy to the accounts, are direct quotes from well-known speeches (by King, Robert Kennedy, etc.) and personal recollections from acquaintances of King and Ray. Staunton delivers the narrative with well-measured pacing and grace. The audio recording features a rousing foreword written and read by Congressman John Lewis that inspires listeners to learn from historys past tragedies to fuel the will to keep on moving forward and upward. roxanne hsu Feldman (c) Copyright 2018. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Many Americans remember James Earl Ray's gunshot that killed Martin Luther King Jr. King experienced a near-death encounter earlier in 1958 when a mentally ill woman stabbed his chest, narrowly missing his heart. The event reinforced fatalism in King and sets a foreboding tone for this masterful work akin to Swanson's previous success, Chasing Lincoln's Killer (2009). Following a foreword by Congressman John Lewis, the text gives a short biography of King, highlighting his rise as a civil rights leader. It takes on thriller pacing as it portrays, in alternating segments, King's ceaseless work and Ray's escape from prison and eventual plot to assassinate King. Occasional maps and time lines help readers track pivotal movements. As King delivers his stirring Mountaintop speech during his last public appearance, untrained hit man Ray stakes out a position to shoot. And as the public mourns King, the search for Ray becomes the largest and most expensive manhunt of the time. Packed with period photographs, the book gives illuminating details, such as how J. Edgar Hoover was ordered to take charge of Ray's capture. It concludes with numerous conspiracy theories and ponders what message King would deliver today. Copious back matter offers a wealth of additional information. This immersive history reveals, in gripping style, how one individual can impact history.--Leeper, Angela Copyright 2018 Booklist


New York Review of Books Review

How should adults present the grave injustices throughout black history to young readers? Biographies can help. HISTORY IS A STORY like any other, but black history is a story so devoid of logic that it frustrates the young reader. The young readers in my house, told of slavery and segregation, asked in disbelief: "What? Why?" We - the parents of black children, the parents of all children - still need to tell that story. It comforts the adult conscience to remember that amid history's grave injustices there were still great lives. Hence, I suspect, the preponderance of biographies for children published to coincide with Black History Month. Among that genre's newest arrivals are names familiar to adults, as in THE UNITED STATES V. JACKIE ROBINSON (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $17.99, ages 4 to 8), written by Sudipta BardhanQuallen. This picture book is more interested in young Robinson's less-known act of resistance during his Army days than in his later, trailblazing career as a baseball player. It's nice to have an athlete celebrated for personal integrity over physical prowess, and R. Gregory Christie's pictures bolster this, evoking a Robinson who is strong and sure, but also smiling, warm, and ultimately, triumphant. Ella Fitzgerald is more than a familiar name; understanding this, Helen Hancocks has called her new picture book ELLA QUEEN OF JAZZ (Frances Lincoln Children's Books/Quarto, $17.99; ages 4 to 8). Hancocks's illustrations are superb - bright and suitably retro in style. But her tale takes a turn that is not the one Fitzgerald deserves. The focus is mostly on how Fitzgerald's friendship with Marilyn Monroe helped her career, and the movie star, alas, upstages the singer. BEFORE SHE WAS HARRIET (Holiday House, $17.95; ages 4 to 8) is a straightforward picture-book biography of the exceptional Harriet Ttibman. In minimalist verse, Lesa Cline-Ransome begins with the woman in her dotage, then walks readers back through her years as suffragist, spy and liberator - but also, importantly, as a woman who simply wanted to be free. James E. Ransome's lovely watercolor illustrations capture Ttibman's daring, her joy and her dignity. Sandra Neil Wallace's BETWEEN THE LINES: How Ernie Barnes Went From the Football Field to the Art Gallery (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman, $17.99; ages 4 to 8), illustrated by Bryan Collier, is a beautiful testament to a quintessentially American life. Wallace and Collier celebrate both Barnes's success on the gridiron and his subsequent reinvention as an artist. As in "The United States v. Jackie Robinson," athleticism is a secondary concern; early on, we see the young Barnes in a museum, wondering where the black painters are, and the story ends with contemporary young museumgoers being shown Barnes's art. This choice makes the story so satisfying, and just what you want at bedtime. In LET THE CHILDREN MARCH (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, $17.99; ages 6 to 9) Monica Clark-Robinson tells one girl's story of the 1963 children's march on Birmingham. Frank Morrison's illustrations are loose and modern in spirit, enlivening the history lesson. It's understandable to want to channel Martin Luther King Jr.'s oratorical gifts when writing about him, but sometimes the metaphors strain. Still, the book's message is clear and bracing: King understood that it's children who will lead the way, and the man's faith in the future is reassuring even now. Two biographical compendiums, Vashti Harrison's LITTLE LEADERS: Bold Women in Black History (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $16.99; ages 8 to 12) and Jamia Wilson and Andrea Pippins's YOUNG, GIFTED AND BLACK (Wide Eyed Editions/Quarto, $22.99; ages 7 to 10) are, by contrast, not bedtime reading but texts that belong in any home library, to be revisited again and again. Wilson's book celebrates a variety of black achievement; there are biographical sketches of Kofi Annan and Stevie Wonder, Solange Knowles and Naomi Campbell, accompanied by Andrea Pippins's illustrations, full of verve but also quite dignified. The candy-colored pages and straightforward stories are hard to resist, and will doubtless forever shape the way many readers think about Wangari Maathai and Langston Hughes. Harrison's book focuses on great black women, and it's lovely to see Lorna Simpson and Gwen Ifill ascend to the ranks of Marian Anderson and Bessie Coleman. Harrison wants readers to imagine themselves in such august company; her adorable illustrations depict all of these figures as a little black girl, an everygirl, in a variety of costumes and backdrops. Harrison and Wilson have similar projects. But which book is better? I'd like to point out that my sons own around 40 volumes on the subject of trucks. Young readers deserve both these books. FOR OLDER READERS The person most qualified to tell the tale of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the man himself, as gifted an intellect as he is an athlete. Written with Raymond Obstfeld, his autobiography, BECOMING KAREEM: Growing Up On and Off the Court (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $17.99; ages 10 and up) is aimed at middle grade readers but could and should be read aloud to younger kids. It's a tale by a wise elder - about basketball, sure, but also about cultural, political, social and religious awakenings, big stuff narrated in a very accessible way. MARTIN RISING: Requiem for a King (Scholastic, $19.99; ages 9 to 12) is a collaboration by two of children's literature's most well-known names, Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney (who happen to be married). It's a work of verse, with some prose end matter to help elucidate the poems, and it will reward a reader sophisticated enough to grapple with language and metaphor. Andrea Davis Pinkney frames her poem cycle about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s last months with the figure of Henny Penny, the bird who either worried or prophesied, and she makes King's death feel as significant as the falling of the sky above. It is, of course, a terrible and sad story, but one in which Brian Pinkney's illustrations manage to find beauty. King is an evergreen subject, so significant and complex that the story of his life and death can withstand repeated tellings. James L. Swanson's CHASING KING'S KILLER: The Hunt for Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Assassin (Scholastic, $19.99; ages 12 and up) is a departure, less classroom text than airport thriller. It's a bit like sneaking kale into brownies: Swanson offers plenty of context on King's activism and his turbulent times, but frames the book as a manhunt for James Earl Ray. This approach makes education feel more like entertainment, and will prove seductive to even a reluctant older reader. My children are too young, yet, for Swanson's thriller and the Pinkneys' elegiac tribute, or maybe I simply want to believe that they are. They have a lifetime of reading ahead, particularly if they are to meet Dr. King's expectations for them. For now, my boys can suspend disbelief and accept that Pippi Longstocking can lift a horse and plays with pistols. But they won't be able to believe what happened to Dr. King in Memphis. Who among us can? RUMAAN alam is the author of two novels, "Rich and Pretty" and "That Kind of Mother," which will be published next month.


School Library Journal Review

Gr 7 Up-A detailed, well-organized, and vividly illustrated history of Martin Luther King Jr.'s role in the civil rights movement and U.S. political history-and the killer who assassinated him. After introducing King, the first section of the book develops with a chapter for each year beginning with 1956 and continuing to April 23, 1967, the day that James Earl Ray escaped from prison. The second section gives a synopsis of Ray's early life and criminal history, describes his prison break, and details his wanderings before arriving in Los Angeles in November 1967. Swanson intersperses Ray's travels with a discussion of changes in King's work, specifically his opposition to the Vietnam War and his "Poor People's Campaign." The third section begins on March 17, 1968, as Ray and King both leave California. King headed to Memphis to support sanitation workers, and Ray followed and planned the murder. King's activities, private conversations, and public statements leading up to April 4, counter Ray's surveillance of King and preparations for the murder and his escape. The assassination unfolds moment-by-moment, as does Ray's flight from the scene. The final section covers responses to King's death from his friends and the public and efforts to apprehend his killer. Swanson includes a discussion of Ray's motives, theories regarding other conspirators, and analysis of Ray's claims of innocence, but his final words are a tribute to King's lasting legacy. The source notes are copious and clear enough to serve as a guide for continued study. -VERDICT A top pick for YA history collections.-Kelly Kingrey-Edwards, Blinn Junior College, Brenham, TX © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Kirkus Review

Swanson, bestselling author of Chasing Lincoln's Killer (2009), here explores all aspects of the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.From the foreword by Congressman John Lewis to the epilogue, this volume places Dr. King and his loss in its historical context. The story begins with a detailed look at an unsuccessful attempt on Dr. King's life, a foreshadowing of what was to come. Dr. King's life and work to gain full civil and economic rights for all Americans are presented briefly, but the crux of the narrative is directed at the assassination; the man behind it, escaped convict James Earl Ray; and the aftermath. Swanson describes the events that brought King to Memphis, Tennessee, as part of a larger push for economic justice. In addition to the real-life thriller aspects of the hunt for Ray after King was shot, Swanson's narrative adds poignant details, such as the experiences of King's heartbroken aides and their reluctance to cooperate with law enforcement as well as the nation's mourning of Dr. King. He also addresses conspiracies around the assassination as well as distrust of the FBI due to their wiretapping of King and other activists. This is page-turning nonfiction that captures the tenor of the times with meticulous research and a trove of photographs. Exhaustive, exemplary backmatter further enhances the text.An important contribution to the understanding of a complex period in United States history that still reverberates today. (Nonfiction. 12-adult) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.