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Killing the Dream : James Earl Ray and the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Hardcover – March 31, 1998

3.8 out of 5 stars 56 customer reviews

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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.

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.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 446 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (March 31, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375500820
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375500824
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 6.5 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #668,574 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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
Posner has been shown to be a plagiarizer of the first order; this book is full of misleading half truths. For a well documented retelling and real investigation into the King assassination, read "An Act of State", by William Pepper, who was active in civil rights as a lawyer and who represented the King family in a civil suit in the late 90's against those known and unknown who participated in a very clear cut conspiracy to kill Martin Luther King. The jury found the State of Tennessee, the Memphis Police Department and the Federal Government guilty of conspiring to kill Martin Luther King. Posner is apparently even unaware that the gun allegedly used by James Earl Ray was demonstrated NOT to be the gun used to shoot King; furthermore the bullets found with the alleged killing weapon were metallurgically different than the bullet removed from King years later. This assassination, Like Kennedy's was clearly a conspiracy, involving both the federal government and the mob.
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Really great book. It provides so many facts but the author does a great job of putting things into a "story" process. Also, the research done was tremendous, incredible to read footnotes all throughout this book.
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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
Gerald Posner did an outstanding job in his research concerning Dr. King 's assassination. He took the time and effort to investigate the myriad conspiracy theories and shoot down each one with facts. It's well worth it to buy this book.
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If you want to read every single fact about the assassination as well as the truth debunking the conspiracy spinmasters this is the master class. The amount of details and research are exhausting. Posher solved the JFK murder in his book "Case Closed." He proves in this book not only that James Earl Ray killed King, but how and most importantly why. Just the footnotes cover more than 70 pages. Posher does not disappoint.
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The author goes into great detail about the murder of MLK, and debunks, one by one, the conspiracy theories. This book was written while James Earl Ray was alive and still fighting the legal system, so the author felt the responsibility to expose Ray, his lies, and how they affected innocent people.
I bought this book after reading Hellhound on His Trail by Hampton Sides. While that is a fascinating account of the crime and the movements of the killer, it paints him as a methodical and cold-minded criminal. In Killing the Dream we get to see him as a much more hesitant and confused individual.
Some chapters delve into the wildest conspiracy theories, which are mostly forgotten by now. I skipped through those chapters. Overall this is a great book. Seriously and professionally written, as well as thoroughly researched.
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I was a little girl living near Memphis at the time of the shooting. i'm also an avid true crime reader and history buff but had never read anything on MLK. I found this book excellent reading with an unbias slant, almost textbook style with all footnotes and bibliography. It was great to see the making of a killer unfold with the background of Ray. I knew MLK's life from history but knew nothing about Ray. I loved this book as a true crime story.
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