DIXIELAND ~ A Night in Shelby Forest

Dixieland Be aware that this story takes place in the deep South, 46 years ago. Times and attitudes have changed. You may find some of the language strong and offensive but please bear with it, the story is well worth it.

A minute or two after 6:00 p.m. on the evening of April 4th 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was struck down by a single assassin’s bullet on a balcony outside the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.  As the civil rights leader lay dying, his killer somehow slipped through a protective cordon of more than 200 heavily armed state, local and federal lawmen, and simply vanished.

How the assassin managed to penetrate that tight security ring and then escaped undetected is only the first of many questions about Dr. King’s murder that have never been satisfactorily explained.  Though James Earl Ray, a petty criminal with a disastrous track record of botched robberies, was ultimately convicted of having single-handedly planned and carried out the killing and was sentenced without trial to life in prison, virtually no one close to the case believes that Ray could have been solely responsible.

Accordingly, in February of 1997 when James Earl Ray petitioned the state of Tennessee for a trial, the son and wife of Martin Luther King, Jr. came forward to plead on his behalf, so that, to paraphrase the public statement of Dexter King, the truth might finally be known.

But, as had happened many times before during the preceding 30 years, James Earl Ray’s petition for a trial was denied on an obscure technicality of Tennessee law.  His own death in 1998 sealed forever whatever unrevealed truths Ray may have been willing to reveal in a court of law.

It is not the purpose of this fictional work to determine whether or not the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. was committed by a lone gunman or the final act in a wide-ranging conspiracy aimed at destroying both Dr. King and the entire civil rights movement in the United States.  Rather, Dixieland is the author’s attempt to reveal the climate of fear, racial strife and paranoia that made Memphis, Tennessee the ideal venue for a political assassination in the early spring of 1968.

All of the characters in this novel are fictitious.  The events associated with the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike and Dr. King’s several visits to the city prior to his April 4th assassination are based on documented historical fact and a variety of unpublished personal recollections of those dark and turbulent days.



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