Review of Killing the dream

Gerald Posner Killing the Dream. Little & Brown, 1998.

Killing the Dream is the second book by Gerald Posner to tackle a major political assassination. His first assassination opus, Case Closed, was published in 1993 and took a close look at the murder of President John F. Kennedy 30 years after his death. Posner made a strong case for Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone gunman, with no conspiracy behind his actions. Killing the Dream was published five years later, in 1998, and likewise argues that James Earl Ray fired the shot that killed Dr. King on April 4, 1968, and that Ray planned the assassination without significant help from others, though he does not rule out the possibility that Ray’s brother Jerry may have known of the plan beforehand.

Like Case Closed, Killing the Dream is well-written and thoroughly researched. The MLK assassination has a long legal history, been the subject of a major government investigation, and spawned dozens of books. Posner’s book does not, cannot, summarize all of this, but it is still a helpful introduction to the history and literature of the subject. This is not a minor virtue. Like the JFK assassination, the accretions of controversy have made it harder and harder to master the ever expanding web woven around Dr. King’s death, especially the conspiracist writings and theorizing, which are often poorly documented and difficult to understand.

Posner gives a valuable summary of the literature that has grown up around the King murder, and of the major legal developments up until 1998. For those who want to know who wrote and claimed what, there are few other works that go over this ground. This contrasts with the JFK assassination, where there have been multiple attempts to summarize at least parts of the case and the network of investigations that have been woven about the event.

More history and literature has continued to grow, barnacle-like, around the King case since Killing the Dream. was published, so Posner’s book is not the end of the story. To summarize this later material might well take another book.

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