cover image Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year

Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year

Tavis Smiley, with David Ritz, read by Tavis Smiley. Hachette Audio, , unabridged, five CDs, 6 hrs., $35 ISBN 978-1-4789-2868-3

Smiley, a veteran public broadcasting host and prolific author, chronicles the last year in the life of the civil rights leader, highlighting the more difficult facets of King’s political and personal journey that contemporary audiences may not fully grasp. Smiley takes on King’s point of view in the midst of often contentious interactions with advisers, friends, and confidants. Smiley provides a naturally engaging voice, drawing on his television and radio background, and his warm demeanor reinforces the intimacy he aims to establish with his subject, such as when he refers to King as “Doc,” which was his nickname among his most trusted colleagues. As he move back and forth between elements of expository material, dialogue, and speeches, Smiley’s style of delivery vacillates between a straight-ahead reading of the narrative and a performance that attempts to recreate conversations from the past. These rocky transitions may deter from the overall listening experience; however, the power of the message and the significance of Smiley’s personal involvement in preserving a more vibrant record of Dr. King’s life cannot be denied. A Little, Brown hardcover. (Sept.)