A fascinating and disturbing look at complexities underlying a shameful historical epoch.



A labyrinthine investigation into conspirators linked to James Earl Ray, convicted assassin of Martin Luther King Jr.

Investigative researchers Wexler and Hancock (co-authors: Shadow Warfare: The History of America's Undeclared Wars, 2014, etc.) dive deeply into an unsavory American underground in which the determination to destroy King ran deeper than commonly remembered. “The solution to King’s murder is simple,” they write. “The same kind of racists who had been trying to kill King for years had finally succeeded that April 4.” Regarding Ray, they note “his role is only one strand in the overall web.” Assembling a chronological narrative, the authors examine an alliance between the violent White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and wealthy businessmen, which offered a bounty on King’s life dating to at least 1964; word spread in Southern prisons, where Ray would learn of it. Ray is portrayed as a money-hungry career criminal, leading to speculation that he pre-empted a larger conspiracy or overstepped his role. Wexler and Hancock suggest that this racist network, reeling from the passage of civil rights legislation, saw King’s death as key to starting a full-scale race war, inspired by the ascendance of Christian Identity, a religion combining anti-black racism with anti-Semitism, and by violent fringe political groups such as the National States’ Rights Party. The authors claim these factors have been underexamined, arguing that adherents “viewed King as an agent of the Satanic-Jewish conspiracy.” While Klansmen ramped up a campaign of violence around 1967, King “shifted his priorities to issues of social and economic justice,” lessening his support among mainstream Americans and black radicals questioning nonviolence. As for Ray, the authors meticulously reconstruct his wanderings before King’s murder, showing a hapless fugitive rather than a committed terrorist: “Events in Memphis do not suggest a well-planned conspiracy, certainly not if Ray was the designated shooter.” Their account is clear, though reliant on supposition and a dizzying cast of unsavory characters.

A fascinating and disturbing look at complexities underlying a shameful historical epoch.

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61902-919-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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