Magazine article New Internationalist

[Dreamer]

Magazine article New Internationalist

[Dreamer]

Article excerpt

(Payback Press, ISBN 0 86241 926 3)

Charles Johnson's eloquent novel traces the last years in the life of Martin Luther King. It begins in Chicago in 1966 when a man bearing a striking likeness to Dr King steps forward and offers to act as a decoy for the overstretched and underprotected civil-rights leader. The man, Chaym Smith, is seemingly the moral and spiritual antithesis of King. An embittered Korean War veteran, he is a loser, a cynic, possibly even a murderer. Nevertheless, he shares with King a taste for esoteric theology and philosophy and believes that, with better luck, he could have been King.

Almost against his better judgement, King agrees to take him on and instructs his aide Matthew Bishop to coach Smith in his role as stand-in. Alternating chapters contrast the attempts of Chaym Smith to seem like Martin Luther King with King's own internal battle against self-doubt and the contradictions of conducting a non-violent struggle against a vicious and hate-riven system. …

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