A hypnotic novel intertwining the author’s past with James Earl Ray’s attempt to escape after shooting Martin Luther King Jr.
The year is 1968 and James Earl Ray has just shot Martin Luther King Jr. For two months he evades authorities, driving to Canada, securing a fake passport, and flying to London, all while relishing the media’s confusion about his location and his image on the FBI’s Most Wanted list. Eventually he lands at the Hotel Portugal in Lisbon, where he anxiously awaits a visa to Angola. But the visa never comes, and for his last ten days of freedom, Ray walks around Lisbon, paying for his pleasures and rehearsing his fake identities.
Using recently declassified FBI files, Antonio Muñoz Molina reconstructs Ray’s final steps through the Portuguese capital, taking us inside his feverish mind, troubled past, and infamous crime. But Lisbon is also the city that inspired Muñoz Molina’s first novel, A Winter in Lisbon, and as he returns now, thirty years later, it becomes the stage for and witness to three alternating stories: Ray in 1968 at the center of an international manhunt; a thirty-year-old Muñoz Molina in 1987 struggling to find his literary voice; and the author in the present, reflecting on his life and the form of the novel as an instrument for imagining the world through another person’s eyes.