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Killing the Dream: James Earl Ray and the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Paperback – April 4, 1999

3.7 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews

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The Black Presidency by Michael Eric Dyson
"The Black Presidency"
Rated by Vanity Fair as one of our most lucid intellectuals writing on race and politics today, this book is a provocative and lively look into the meaning of America's first black presidency. Learn more

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

It's been 30 years since Martin Luther King Jr. was shot to death in Memphis, an event that reverberated throughout a startled country still coming to terms with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Like Kennedy's, King's assassination sparked conspiracy theories about who or what faction was ultimately responsible for his death. Did James Earl Ray act alone? Or was he a patsy?

In Killing the Dream, Gerald Posner, author of Case Closed, brings to light interesting new evidence, from confidential files to previously undisclosed facts, in an attempt to discriminate rumor from truth. Posner looks for answers to questions about where the fatal shot was fired from, the role of elite military personnel who were present in the area, and what social connections drove Ray in the year leading up to the murder.

Besides focusing on the day of the assassination and the courtroom battles that followed, Posner's book also offers a detailed examination of Ray's life, from his years in the army to his career as a petty hood. This well-researched study of the characters and the events preceding and following the murder makes for an honest, non-sensationalist journalistic account of events that have been distorted and convoluted over time. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

YA-One of the most enduring mysteries of the 20th century is who killed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Although James Earl Ray confessed to the shooting and was convicted, a few years ago he recanted his confession and claimed he was innocent. Several alternate theories have arisen about who the "real" killers were, ranging from a second sniper to a covert team of Army Green Berets to the mob. Posner examines the background of this "conspiracy theory" starting with the events that preceded April 4, 1968, the assassination itself, and the hunt for the gunman. He then goes into great detail on the life of James Earl Ray. He ends with an examination of the various theories on who was behind the slaying and has gone to great lengths to determine the veracity of each one. Posner's superb research makes this a valuable addition to high school libraries.
Robert Burnham, R. E. Lee High School, Springfield, VA
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; 1st Harvest ed edition (April 4, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156006510
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156006514
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #971,473 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Martin of ABC News says "Gerald Posner is one of the most resourceful investigators I have encountered in thirty years of journalism." Garry Wills calls Posner "a superb investigative reporter," while the Los Angeles Times dubs him "a classic-style investigative journalist." "His work is painstakingly honest journalism" concluded The Washington Post. The New York Times lauded his "exhaustive research techniques" and The Boston Globe determined Posner is "an investigative journalist whose work is marked by his thorough and meticulous research." "A resourceful investigator and skillful writer," says The Dallas Morning News.

Posner was one of the youngest attorneys (23) ever hired by the Wall Street law firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore. A Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude graduate of the University of California at Berkeley (1975), he was an Honors Graduate of Hastings Law School (1978), where he served as the Associate Executive Editor for the Law Review. Of counsel to the law firm he founded, Posner and Ferrara, he is now a full time journalist and author.

In the past, he was a freelance writer on investigative issues for several news magazines, and a regular contributor to NBC, the History Channel, CNN, FOX News, CBS, and MSNBC. A former member of the National Advisory Board of the National Writers Union, Posner is also a member of the Authors Guild, PEN, The Committee to Protect Journalists, and Phi Beta Kappa. He lives in Miami Beach with his wife, author, Trisha Posner, who works on all his projects (www.trishaposner.com).

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Having read several books on MLK's assassination, and well over 100 on JFK's, I am not what you would call anti-conspiracy. When you mix in the fact that I found Posner's "Case Closed" to be absolutely horrible, well, you can understand why I expected to hate this one as well. Boy, was I wrong.

Posner's study of James Earl Ray and the MLK is far more reasoned - and reasonable - than "Case Closed" ever hoped to be. He does a terrific job of painting a portrait of Ray as a potential killer. And, while debunking most of the existing conspiracy theories, Posner does not dismiss conspiracy entirely. In fact, he implies that Ray conspired with his brothers to commit the crime in order to collect the bounty on MLK placed by a St. Louis man.

Read with an open mind and you just might be surprised!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The author has amassed an amazing amount of research and tells a gripping "whodunnit". But it is filled with "he must have" and "he probably" and other inferences that left me feeling that the whole story wasn't there. His closing thoughts are that Ray killed King for a twisted desire for notoriety and for money. But money from who?

He makes the case that Ray's travels after the murder were funded by robberies, not by the mysterious "Raoul". This seems plausible after learning that Ray was an experienced robber. But other than a $50,000 bounty that Ray "probably" heard about in prison, there is nothing in Posner's account that suggests that Ray was counting on a payday. Posner attempts to debunk various conspiracy theorists. The saddest part of the book other than the murder itself is that King's family was taken in by a nutty conspiracy tale.

As a reader, I think Posner's data is accurate and logical. But I think he should have admitted that the case isn't truly closed. By that I mean it seems pretty clear that Ray was the trigger man and not a patsy, but he wasn't a virulent racist, he was a robber and not a hit man, and there was no obvious pot of gold at the end of Ray's actions. I was left wondering "why did he do it?", not "did he do it?"
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Format: Paperback
Contrary to what you might have heard elsewhere, Posner does not discount the possibility of Martin Luther King having been killed as the result of a conspiracy. But he makes it clear that if such a conspiracy existed--and if it did, it was likely concocted by a racist St. Louis businessman--James Earl Ray was at the heart of it.
As in his "Case Closed," it is the life story of the assassin himself that emerges from this book as the most compelling tale. Ray, the oldest son of a dirt poor Illinois family, is mercilessly teased as the "smelly, dirty" kid in his grade school class when his family moves to Missouri. He begins a life of petty crime as a teenager, graduates to armed robbery and spends most of his adult life in jail. He is virulently racist, though this is not what drives his crime spree. Ray simply wants to make money, to hustle his way through life, drifting from one flophouse and brothel to another until he is caught, inevitably, by the police. Soon, he is a "four-time loser." By the time he makes it to one of the toughest prisons in America--the Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City--he is a smart, seasoned criminal. It is in Jeff City that he likely hears about the $50,000 bounty being offered by a St. Louis segregationist to kill King. When he breaks out of Jeff City at the bottom of a large cart filled with bread loaves (after trying unsuccessfully twice before), he roams the country trying out a variety of schemes to make money, including buying hundreds of dollars worth of film equipment and sex manuals with the idea of making porn flicks.
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Format: Hardcover
After more than 30 years the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and possible conspiracy still weigh heavily on our collective national consciousness. Enter journalist Gerald Posner and his book, Killing the Dream: James Earl Ray and the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. published by Random House. Posner, author of the controversial best seller Case Closed which found Lee Harvey Oswald to be the lone assassin of JFK, sets out to close the book on the King case as well. Readers familiar with Case Closed will recognize the layout, style, and conclusions in Posner's new book, although he does leave the door to conspiracy open this time around. Another similarity is Posner's ability to gain access to information. In Case Closed, he was able to study of the files of Edward Wagmann, an attorney for Clay Shaw. This time around, Posner and his wife were the first researchers to examine the archives of George McMillan, who gained the trust of the Ray family during research for his book, The Making of an Assassin. ...
So does the book "close the case" on the assassination of Martin Luther King? As in Case Closed, conspiracy theorists should find plenty of material in the book that can be disputed. One such issue is Ray's purchase of expensive camera equipment, which Posner contends that he planned to use in a porn venture. His source for the porn statement is Ray's brother, Jerry, who is hardly a Gibraltar of truth.
Aside from a few issues that may never be resolved, Posner has done an admirable job of showing motive, means, and opportunity for James Earl Ray to kill Dr. King. He has demonstrated again his ability to find new information and gain access to sources that others can not. This book will probably not do much to help Posner vacate the title of "The man conspiracy buffs love to hate". It will, if readers keep an open mind, answer the question, "Who killed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.?"
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