Like a Fading Shadow
I found 'Like a Fading Shadow' a complex, multi-layered book, both intriguing and full of interest. The FBI, and subsequently the author, have done immense an immense amount of research into the life of James Earl Ray, leading up to and following his shooting of Martin Luther King.
Much of his time on the run was spent in Lisbon and Antonia Molina's detailed descriptions of the city and the run-down places in which he stayed are fascinating. I was intrigued that whilst trying to remain 'invisible', he nevertheless wore a suit and tie, making him stand out in seedy areas. His constant fear and alertness, which must have been exhausting both mentally and physically, are well portrayed.
Interspersed with JER's story AM tells his his own story, split between his early and later self on his journey through becoming a writer. His insights and judgements on his young self, are thought provoking. However, it was not very enjoyable.
Review by Chrissie Harries for the Three Horseshoes Reading Group
Like a Fading Shadow
This is the most fascinating of books.
The juxtaposition of the narrative tracing the Lisbon experiences of James Earl Ray and Antonio Munoz Molina through their brief but significant stays, nearly twenty years apart, in such an original fashion is totally absorbing.
I found myself beyond amazed at the detail that was amassed by the FBI and other investigative agencies about the life of ray and the time Ray was on the run. No stone unturned would be a vast understatement. Even the fact that Molina could find so much so many years later and when many witnesses had died is remarkable.
The honest examination of his own journey around the time of his Lisbon experience by Molina exposing the patterns of behaviour that he becomes so ashamed of reminds us all of that which we might rather forget and yet which is always there … for ever. We all have to forgive ourselves for as much as we have to forgive others. His use of pronouns which identify and yet obscure the people in his life is masterful in that we are given what we need to follow the narrative without undue invasion into other lives.
The brief examination of the last days of Martin Luther King is also honest and uncompromising and yet detracts nothing from the memory of the man; his humanity, frailty and his dedication to his God and his cause.
The fourth story in the book is the telling of the creation of ‘the story’, a story, any story. The very convolution of this reflection is described so that we can follow the writer’s state of mind at every stage. Making this autobiography/ biography/ exploration of the writer’s art into a novel which is so multifaceted and so enthralling.
Jennifer Malyon 17/5/2018
Three Horseshoes Reading group Burton Bradstock
This is a book with detailed informative research , amazing evocative poetic descriptions especially of Lisbon, inter woven and layered with open honest reflections of aspects of the authors life and insights into the experience of the creative writing process.
The story of James Earl Ray and the assassination of Martin Luther King is a powerful one and the main thread that runs through narrative, while the author takes us, his reader, to explore many places and ideas with the him including invoking links to other well known books. It is so well written, one could feel the wariness of JER and MLK, the tension of evading capture, the challenges and excitement of creative writing, the squalor and darkness of the run down hotels and motels and the rich descriptions of people who inhabited this world in 1968.
I would never have chosen to read a book about JER and MLK but this was so much more and I would certainly choose to read more books by Antonio Molina and indeed visit Lisbon !
Pat from Three Horseshoes Reading Group
Like a Fading Shadow is centred around two main characters; James Earl Ray, the assassin of Martin Luther King in 1968, and Antonio Muñoz Molina, the author, making the book both a memoir and a work of fiction intertwined around historical facts. Martin Luther King is featured but in a cameo role. The book pays homage to Lisbon and provides a good insight into city life there as it might have been in 1968, and when the author visited in 1986, 1990 and 2012 and has certainly made me want to explore the city.
The book was introspective about the process of writing and there are many references to characters from other works of fiction which were used to illustrate many of the issues that Molina explored. I would expect this book to have a very strong appeal particularly to other authors and would-be writers or anyone who has thought about the process of writing as it goes into great depth about some of the tussles writers face in choosing what to present and how to get inside the mind of the characters using the power of imagination.
The struggles faced by Martin Luther King were described in language which sharply contrasted with the narrative of the rest of the novel as King’s actions were richly illustrated with biblical references and in the descriptions of the latter part of his life he was portrayed as an unwilling pawn. James Earl Ray is a victim of a very unhappy childhood where his parents and a teacher in his early years make him feel alienated from society. Molina portrays himself as a man possessed by the need to write and here the language is introspective and reflective. All characters are linked in the sense that their strong imaginations transform all of their lives. The passage where the author describes the way is affected by imagination is very striking, "Literature is the desire to dwell inside the mind of another person, like an intruder in a house, to see the world through someone else's eyes, from the interior of those windows where no one ever seems to peek out."
Although the temptation was strong, I resisted the urge to look on the Internet to discover more about James Earl Ray, Martin Luther King and the city of Lisbon so that I could allow myself to be led through the story by Molina. Molinas deliberately leaves various details out and makes reference to the gaps in fiction being as important as the details that are included, comparing the gaps to the negative space in a painting.
Overall, the book was intriguing as there was no strong sense of plot, as explained by the author, “The novel is made with everything I know and everything I don’t know, and with the sensation of groping my way through this story but never finding a precise narrative outline.” The book does end with the question of where does a story begin and end which leads the reader through the mind of the author. I had expected the book to be centred on James Earl Ray however, near the end I realised he was more of a vehicle used to illustrate the writing process and the creative journey as experienced by Molina in creating the novel. With this realisation I immediately re-visited the book to enjoy it from a different perspective.
Fascinating and complex stories interwoven through the journeys of three different individuals, all male, across three different time zones and several countries. Each travelling for different reasons and searching/hoping for differing conclusions. One the writer himself, another the murderer of Dr Martin Luther King Jr., cleverly woven together. A well researched and intriguing construction which contains some beautifully descriptive elements. I was humbled by the simplicity of one character, and, struck hard by the honesty of another. Whilst I struggled with some of their decisions! By the close of the book I truly felt illuminated by the information and perspectives that had been shared. Thought provoking. One quote that will stay with me, as well as a heightened desire to visit Lisbon, is 'To love the face is to love the soul.'
(a member of the Three Horseshoes Reading Group)