ORDERS TO KILL: The Truth Behind the Murder of Martin Luther King by William F. Pepper

ORDERS TO KILL: The Truth Behind the Murder of Martin Luther King

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KIRKUS REVIEW

High-wrought conspiracy theory submitted to ""the court of last resort--the American people."" Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. fell victim to an assassin's rifle on April 8, 1968. James Earl Ray, a career criminal and committed racist (although Pepper denies Ray's racism), confessed in a plea-bargain sentencing him to 99 years in prison. Now Pepper, a former civil rights activist, concludes that King's death must have been at the hands of a cabal of enemies. Pepper legally represents Ray, who has long claimed he was set up by a man named Raoul and steadfastly maintains his innocence. Although Ray seems to have been in all the right places at all the right times, Pepper proposes that some element among King's many enemies brought about his death: the CIA and FBI, who supposedly saw him as practitioner of the ""Peking line"" of Communist theory, organized crime, and especially agents of Army intelligence. Pepper conveys these claims in a tedious recapitulation of successive legal appeals that have not swayed even the Supreme Court (hence his turning to the ""court of last resort""--recently in an HBO-televised mock trial whose jury declared Ray not guilty, and now the audience of book buyers). He offers tantalizing arguments, such as the apparent alteration of the rifle round that killed King--it was taken from the body in one piece, Pepper says, but presented in court in three fragments--and cites evidentiary contradictions and inconsistent testimony. Pepper sows plenty of doubt about the government's case, but fails to pull these doubts together into a convincing argument for who was really behind the assassination. That Martin Luther King had many enemies there can be no question. That James Earl Ray was an innocent patsy for them is another matter entirely, and Pepper does not clear his name.

Pub Date: Oct. 18th, 1995
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Carroll & Graf