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Starred review from November 20, 2017
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sources (press reports, King’s writings and speeches, court records), and other documentation (including a previously unpublished letter from J. Edgar Hoover that underscores the FBI’s harassment of King) provide an immediate look at his pivotal role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott,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.
Starred review from January 1, 2018
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 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
Starred review from January 1, 2018
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)
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