I’d like to say I liked this novel, and at first I did. But halfway through I became so bored I didn’t know whether to finish it or throw it against the wall.
In a nutshell, it is the story of James Earl Ray, assassin of Martin Luther King, Jr., and his endless aliases and attempts to avoid being captured by the police. He reads James Bonds novels and cheap spy thrillers; he stays in fleabag hotels and employs prostitutes. He tries to be more sophisticated than he is, but his suit is the wrong thing to wear in the hot May temperatures of Lisbon, Portugal. His ears are lopsided, one bigger than the other, and he never quite fits in. We are given only the briefest glimpses into his past, brought up in Alabama with alcoholic parents, lice ridden siblings, and a growing prejudice against African Americans.
Alternating with his story, is the story of the author who is discontent with his life; his marriage, his two sons, everything gets in the way of what he wants to do: write. Or, on some pages, drink and hang out with his friends. I was interested, at first, in the difficulties inherent to writing: seeing the stack of white paper next to the typewriter, feeling the flow of ideas fall naturally into a rhythym one day, or hide into nonexistence another.
But the two storylines don’t connect very well in my opinion, and the tediousness of Ray’s efforts to escape became overwhelming to me. I am compassionate to a point. However, there are books on the Man Booker International Prize long list which are calling to me more loudly than this one.