Now entering the 50th year of having to ask

excerpted from the novel





Wild Billy Hicks has too much levity in his soul to ever be dragged down by situational gravity, but there’s serious fire in his eyes when he looks through the latest same-old same-old anti-conspiracy party line explanation of the Martin Luther King assassination to hit the bookstores.  It’s two weeks before pilgrims and conspiracy theorists alike, from all over the world, will descend on Memphis for the 30th anniversary of the Martin Luther King assassination. And the 6-foot-5, 275 pound Hicks, a wisecracking combination Russell Crowe-Terry Bradshaw, movie-tv detective crossover real life star if there ever was one, is having lunch with old homey pal, a turncoat New York based investigative journalist.

They’re eating at good old reliable Anderton’s, one of the few places in Midtown you can get a decent lunch that isn’t built around The Holy Grail of bar-b-que. Church ladies and professional wrestlers alike swear by the shrimp scampi. Without missing a bite, Hicks can hardly conceal how pissed he is over Killing The Truth, as he calls the New York Times best selling anti-conspiracy tome. “You’re gonna love this piece of shit,” he laughs, tossing it across the table to Stein. “It’s shameful it doesn’t even mention Frank Holloman’s name even once! It’s beyond me how a big time reputable publishing company can publish a book about the King assassination without even mentioning the Memphis Police Chief and Fire Director. Much less without explaining he was Hoover’s pet organizational wizard. And most likely the major player in the great American-Shakespearean drama of the 20th Century. His specific duties there are a huge can of whupass still waiting to be opened, but when he “officially retired” in 1964, after purportedly helping organize COINTELPRO’s ugly dirty tricks and smear campaign against MLK for #3 Hoover honcho ( William “Dead Deer” Sullivan to run.”

At that moment, Stein is brought out of the coma Hicks’ recitation has put him in, when a tall elderly church lady type, who had been sitting two booths behind them, suddenly appears in front of their table, sipping ice tea, and begins shrieking at the top of her lungs at Hicks, “YOUR BIG MOUTH RUINED MY FAMILY’S LIFE!”                                     

“Ma’am?” Hicks looks up from his plate lunch, “I don’t know who you are or what you’re talkin’ about.”

“You know good and well I’m LOYD JOWERS WIFE!” she howls.

“Sorry, no disrespect intended, but I didn’t even know Loyd was married. And just for the record, I never said anything to anybody about him other than what he said to me when I ran into him a few weeks ago at his lawyer’s office. And frankly, I didn’t believe him when he told me, ‘If I’d known I’d get this famous from admittin’ I killed that nigger, I’d’ve confessed 30-years ago!’ And no one I told believed him either.”

Suddenly the ice tea comes flying out of her glass, across the table, splaying all over them and prematurely ending lunch.

Being hit by the tidal wave of the hopelessness usually inherent in attempting to buck the brick wall of the system with your head as a battering ram, Hicks sighs as they pull up the driveway in back of his house, then admits, “Efficiency is not what this investigation has been about, of course.  You just saw a perfect example. It’s taken me 10 years to figure out that no matter what I do, James is still no better off than he was 10 years ago. Even with Loyd’s public boasting nothin’s changed, except James Earl Ray is obviously a lot sicker than he was then, and the DAG will not officially take Jowers’ confession, so everything he says means nothing. A natural raconteur, who comes off like old Tom Paine discoursing on threats to our personal freedom one minute, while in the next making fun of those same threats with chops just across the border from the badlands he came of age in, Hicks is in neither place today, finally deciding to throw in the towel and pack up the family dog.  Gather up wife, son and daughter, put the house up for sale and leave his hometown behind for good. “Friends in homicide have warned me I’ve used up my Memphis on this case, so it looks like it’s time to move on again.”

Out in the backyard dogs are barking. Somebody’s still passed out face down drunk from the night before on top of the trampoline. Cars are backing out and pulling in the driveway at the same time. A disconsolate young punkabilly rocker forbidden by Court Order from being in the same physical space as his estranged wife, has showed up hungover from the-night-before’s gig for a (Hicks) supervised visit with his dropped-off an-hour-earlier three-year-old daughter. As glad as his bloodshot eyes are to see his tiny bundle of joy, his sandpaper lips cry out for the one last beer that will permanently bust his visitation rights, as her small hand unsteadily takes his and leads him back to Hicks’ daughter’s bedroom to play dolls with her.

Hicks is on the kitchen phone with James Earl Ray’s brother Jerry.  “Hey, Jerry, how are ya?  Wild Billy here. I got this homeboy writer Jake Stein down from New Yawk who wants to get in to interview James. He’s been here 10 days now, practically moved in with us and become one of the family. But he’s eatin’ us out of house and home, so I’d appreciate it if you’d talk to him. . . You will?  Ok, great, lemme get him; he’s upstairs gettin’ it on with my wife.  Hey, Jake, you and Miriam knock it off!  Jerry wants to talk to ya,” he laughs, then hands Stein the phone.

It’s obvious that Wild Billy Hicks is no Boy Scout. Totally disarming, off-the-wall three-rails-in-the-side-pocket shots come out of his mouth seemingly as easily as they come off Pistol Pete Maravich’s fingers down at LSU.  But put this dichotomy on the record and file it for future use; he is for real an official Boy Scout pack leader these days! Stein didn’t get farther than Weeblo himself, but 30 years ago, both of them were on the periphery of the MLK assassination, and though neither of them would have ever thought they’d be back in the middle of this thing as a journalist or Private Investigator after they left Memphis behind for the next phase of their lives, the murder obviously left strong karmic imprints on both of them.

Back on April 4, 1968, Stein was a 23-year-old Vietnam vet and rookie staffer for UPI, and Hicks was a 20-year-old ex Memphis State football player, working his way though rehabbing a potential-NFL-career-ending-knee-injury while completing the final stages of a history-political science degree by working as an Emergency Room scrub orderly at St. Joseph’s Hospital, when they brought in Dr. King’s still barely breathing body.

Running down the halls, wheeling the fallen civil rights leader’s body into the operating room on a gurney is an image that will never leave Hicks behind. Nor will the image of the Doctors working in vain to save Dr. King, as he stood silently in the background and watched.

When the life finally drained out of Dr. King, Hicks was left alone in the room to guard the empty shell. If it been anybody else in the room, they might not have noticed anything strange, or if they did, they might have freaked out when they saw translucent shadow of the soul rise like fog off the body, but in his psychedelic time Hicks had had more than his share of out of the body experiences.

“I’d rather be dead than afraid,” the spirit said to Hicks.  Over the last several years that line had become Dr. King’s mantra in fighting back the constant fear that encroached on his essence on a daily basis, but all Wild Billy saw in front of him was a poor lost soul who didn’t know he was dead.  Billy’s grandmother had been a medium of sorts, so on more than one occasion he had heard from her that ghosts were spirits that wandered the earth because they didn’t know they were dead. Once he had even witnessed her dispatching a lost soul into the next world but had never thought he would come face-to-face with the situation himself, and had the overwhelming urge to bolt the room, but realized if he did, and the spirit wandered out into the hall, it might never reach the After Life its death was entitled to.

“Truthfully, I’ve never told this to anybody before, Jake, but I never felt so small in my life as when I realized it was my responsibility to inform Dr. King he was dead. His spirit kept repeating he’d rather be dead than afraid, over and over, but what he didn’t realize was that he had nothing left to fear, and what he was in was a terrible state of grief over losing the women he loved.

“Obviously, at that point there was no way I could have known about all the different women in his life, but after I got involved in the investigation 25 years later, I could see that he had the same kind of affect on women as a rock star. Elvis had nothing on Dr. King when it came to havin’ to beat ‘em off with a stick. Of course, neither one of ‘em exactly beat ‘em off at all, but contrary to media hypocrisy it’s not about integrity, honesty, loyalty, family values or any of that other Morally Correct bullshit that tried to make it seem like Dr. King was some kind of bimbo, though it is pretty well known that Coretta was just one short putt away from filing papers for divorce when he was assassinated. From all I’ve learned about him, he wasn’t totally out of control like JFK – he didn’t turn his associates in SCLC into pimps like President Kennedy did to both his staff and the Secret Service, nor did he have to have a strange piece of ass everyday or fall prey to debilitating migraine headaches like JFK did. But he did have three relatively serious long term relationships goin’ on, and all three made the same proprietary claims on his affection as a marriage would. In the last tragic hours of his life, two of ‘em had showed up in Memphis at the Lorraine Motel at the same time, and were fighting over him.  One was long time friend, lover and colleague in the civil rights movement Georgia Davis Powers, a State Senator from Kentucky, who later wrote I Shared The Dream, a privately published book about her relationship with him that barely saw the light of day. The other was a young woman whose name escapes me, but you can barely see her on periphery of the cropped photographs of MLK’s wounded body lying on the balcony of the Lorraine.

“According to Ralph Abernathy, when that young woman showed up at the Lorraine and came into Dr. King’s room the night before the assassination, he was spending the night in another room with the Kentucky legislator. The next morning, they got into a terrible fight over what she judged to be his disloyalty to her.

“If you look at what’s going on around us, it’s not hard to make the leap that Dr. King had to die for integration to evolve to the state it’s at today. No doubt, the work he did did qualify him for sainthood, but Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was no saint, he was just a man on a mission, and men, no matter whether they’re on a mission from man or that force they call God, can always be sidetracked by the great Goddess Pussy.

“We all know that civilians don’t normally get national holidays named after them.  Of course, if you look at the government’s relationship to his assassination, it’s not difficult to deduct those holidays are payoffs to the King family to keep their mouths shut and use their bully pulpit to make hay doing business as usual, selling the MLK brand in the name of peace, love and everlasting bubbahood.  Sadly, in reality, these holidays have nothing to do with all that idealistic stuff; they’re just commerce for commerce’s sake.  The King Estate’s setup is not much different than what the Elvis Estate has to deal with. Licensing, marketing, tie-ins with hotels, restaurants and airlines to capitalize on the holiday death day and birthday specials their brands have been granted to clean up on. I wouldn’t be surprised if eventually some giant corporation comes along and buys both of ‘em at the same time.  Somebody like Kraft or Philip Morris, selling Velveeta and Pall Malls under the same umbrella. . . as smoked cheese. . .If they’ll buy that you know you can sell ‘em King and The King under the same banner, maybe even as a twofer if the holiday market is stagnant.

“Is that too cynical? Well, hey, I’d love to give Dr. Pepper credit for standing up to the fascists and trying to bring the truth out to the American people, but when you look closely at everything he’s accomplished compared to all the opportunities he’s blown you might be able to make a case that he’s a mole for the very government he’s attacking. It’s possible, when he’s through fuckin’ up the investigation of the King assassination nobody’ll ever be able to reopen it again. . .

Beginning with Pepper coming out of nowhere to grab an assignment to shoot a photo spread in Ramparts about American atrocities in Vietnam. That was in the January ’67 issue, I believe, and supposedly was what motivated Dr. King to come out against the war at River Church in New York City, exactly a year to the day before he was assassinated – if you’re looking for symbolism ( Giving that ballsy anti-Nam speech, along with putting his position out in the same magazine right after that, is almost certainly what sealed his fate. The irony of Pepper inadvertently being responsible for his so-called hero’s death. . . it’s too boo-hoo-hoo tragically tight.  As ridiculously tight as the idea that James dropped that bundle of all his earthly belongings conveniently in plain sight right outside the rooming house door moments after Loyd took out Dr. King without ever having to leave the confines of his own overgrown backyard. Then Pepper turning up years later as both the King family and Ray’s lawyer at the same time makes the story line even tighter. . . but that scenario’s a bit too neat for my antennae, ‘cause if Pepper is anything, it’s not neat. He has the most unconvincing poker face I’ve ever seen on a lawyer. Yet I’ve got to admit his resume’s astounding to behold. For a natural born bungler, he’s got some oratory skills that can elevate the conversation to exalted heights once he gets up on his self righteous soap box. Of course after he invariably steps on his tongue, that elevation’s what makes his fuckups such spectacular crashes . . . Ironically, he probably copped those preacher chops that flip him over the edge of the Mountaintop from Dr. King too. .

“Supposedly the goombas have owned his ass since he allegedly got popped for bein’ a young pedophile runnin’ some kind of man-boy-love hustle in Providence, Rhode Island. Unless that info’s part of the setup too? Everything out there on him so contradicts itself it makes about as much sense as Mac Wallace murdering LBJ’s kid sister Josefa’s fiancé, and walking out of the courtroom a free man after being convicted by a jury of first degree murder, ‘cause the Judge sentences him to five years, then suspends the sentence entirely.”

“That’s what happens when you’ve got LBJ’s lawyer defending you. Eleven jurors voted for the death sentence, and the other for a life sentence, but Mac walked. And right after that, LBJ arranged a high-powered job for him. Nobody in the lamestream ever believes that, but it’s faction, not fiction. And you can look it up.”

“Pepper’s so-called history isn’t that dramatic, but can you think of a better way to discredit the obvious truth than have a bungling idiot defend it in public? Could the government buy better publicity than that without seemingly having to lift a finger? The strategy of letting the idiot bury his own case is absolutely brilliant. It’s so out in the open nobody even notices it, or how it works.  What invariably happens every time he proves something new, he gets caught adding some kind of insignificant but easily disprovable evidence to the pie, which automatically discredits by association all the real evidence his people have impeccably gathered for him. He’s got such a public track record of incompetence behind him, at this point it’s almost impossible to determine what’s just more of the same-old same-old, and what’s deliberately diabolical on his part, without bringing down the whole house-of-cards once and for all.”

“I don’t know, Billy, he must have done some good shit to get it this far. So we’re gonna have to agree to disagree on this one for the time being, ‘cause when you put it the way you just did, we sure have wasted the last 30-years of our lives on this. . .”

“If you feel that way, then why the hell are you here, Jake?  To set yourself up to write the movie version of this travesty for Oliver Stone?”

“Well, Billy, that probably is the best reason there is to be involved in this whole mess at this point. At least a Jolly Ollie re-misinterpretation of the official lies of history is the one thing everyone I talk to can agree is the most interesting thing that’s happened to this investigation in years, but not because it’s the best shot there is to get as close to the truth as we’re probably ever gonna get – which it is – but because they can smell the money attached to it.  Hell, I can smell the money attached to it.  Ollie’s like a one man revival of a WPA works project — for conspiracy theorists. And yeah, I do have a connection to him on that level too, through an old mutual friend. But since, as you know, he’s already got somebody else writing the screenplay, that’s not why I’m here. And after meeting with him I just had the gut feeling it wasn’t going to happen with him on it anyway, ‘cause, first off, though he’s got balls of steel, when I was with him he also had the attention span of the premature ejaculation of a sand flea, which is not exactly the kind of focus you need to bring a story so all over the map like this together. And secondly, when all is said and done, though he’d already announced he was making the movie, I had the distinct impression he didn’t want to get burned again, like he was on JFK.  He had to know, or at least sense, that the burn on MLK would be a lot worse than JFK ever was ‘cause the cottage industries that have built up around the trifecta of assassinations, just since he made JFK, have exponentially grown like a shower of asteroids on steroids. The last time I heard from him, in fact, he was so spooked by the whole process that he had his lawyers call to tell me he could no longer talk to me about the project because – and you’re really gonna love this one, Billy - because, and I quote, ‘Oliver considers you his major competition to make this film.’”

“No shit?”

“I shit thee not, Sherlock. And if a virtually anonymous probably-blacklisted totally-broke writer stuck on the fringe of the cult ghetto, who can’t even raise enough to make an edgy little indie film of his own, much less cover a trip down home without selling his ass to some slimy slick as the writer who blew the big story the first time coming back home 30 years later to seek redemption, is his major competition to make a big hundred-plus-million-dollar-film on the assassination, it’s never going to get made by anybody on the side of getting out the truth.  They’ll just do the lie over again.

“Sorry you feel that way, Jake, but look, even if he work we do doesn’t change things the way we’d like ‘em to change, let’s face it, the only constant is change, and no matter what happens you’re not the same rookie reporter going after the big story you flubbed 30 years ago, and I’m not the same innocent 20-year-old hippie I was standin’ in that hospital room, witnessing Dr. King’s ghost down on his knees, cryin’ out to the women he loved, beggin’ each of them to forgive him for not bein’ true to them.

“To be honest, Jake, in those days, there’s no way I would have ever had the gall to address a man of his stature, if the pain he was in wasn’t so overwhelming that it actually pulled the words ‘they do forgive you’ right out of my mouth. ‘They want you to be free,’ I said to him, though it felt like the words were being piped through me from somewhere else. ‘They know you have to be free in order to continue your work on the other side, so they release you with love in their hearts, and wish nothing more from you than for you to continue on your journey.’

“He looked up at me then and asked, ‘Are you saying I’m finished?’

’Yes sir,’ I said, and reached out my hand for his. ‘You’ve been to the mountaintop, sir,’ I told him as our fingers entwined, ‘and you’ve seen the elephant piss.’  That voice, I realized, was more mine than what had been coming through me a moment before, so before my naturally charmin’ self fucked up his reservations, I remembered what I’d seen Granny Hicks do for that ghost years earlier over in Arkansas, and I told him, ‘You’re finished here, but your work lives on,’ and tossed his spirit over my left shoulder into the Great Divide.

“Suddenly Ralph Abernathy and another man came into the room, and began removing the personal possessions from Dr. King’s body. As Abernathy took Dr. King’s bleeding head in his arms and held him, I asked myself, ‘Did that interaction with the ghost really happen?’ Everything that took place, you understand, had happened in a nanosecond, so while it had felt more real to me than anything I’d ever experienced before, I had, after all, seen the elephant piss on more than a few occasions myself, so by the time Jesse Jackson, Andrew Young and the rest of Dr. King’s closest associates came in one-by-one to pay their last respects, I wasn’t too sure I hadn’t hallucinated the whole thing.

“You know, what happened that night has slowly fit together over the years like a jigsaw puzzle. But that night, everything happened so fast it was impossible for me to realize it was all part of the same quilt.  Starting with Dr. King’s death, some things just had so much weight in the order of things, that others had none, though through time I’ve seen how they all connect to each other and balance out.

“I mean, after the hospital’s top Doc told me to go find someone in charge, I zombied down the hall past a row of men standing guard with machine guns until I found the top ranking Hoover, then brought him back to the operating room, and listened as the G-Man told the Doc to officially put off announcing Dr. King’s death until they could get the word out to authorities all over the country, so they could prepare themselves for ‘the worst’. After that, I got puke-ass drunker than I’d ever have been in my life, and as you well know, got thrown in jail overnight with you, the Yogi and Lonzo, on DWI.

“I was still so drunk when that asshole lawyer got you and Lonzo out, I didn’t realize the Yogi was gone or I was still there (by myself) until the next morning when they herded everyone else left over in the cellblock to the backyard of Jim’s Grill to help the Parks Department cut down the brush fronting the Lorraine Motel. When I started puking the cops ran me out of the brush, and without even thinkin’ where I was goin’ I just went right on past the fire tower, out South Main, until I somehow remembered my car was parked in front of the pinball parlor. Though over the years it registered that I’d been destroyin’ evidence that morning, I didn’t consciously get what happened until I started workin’ on the case 25-years later and interviewed the first reporter who came on the scene at the Lorraine.  Everyone of Dr. King’s associates told him they had seen someone in the brush, and then a puff of smoke coming out of the woods, but when the geek’s story came out in the newspapers the next day it had been changed so that every one of the eye witnesses claimed the shot had come from the bathroom window of the rooming house.  That’s when I knew for sure, ‘the worst’, as that Hoover called it, was and is our national legacy, and can’t be changed, until something major changes inside this country. Hopefully, as more and more comes out, future generations’ perception of what happened will almost certainly 180 the official government version, despite whatever future spins are put out to perpetuate their cover-up. But by that time I’m sure this whole thing’ll be about as relevant to those citizens’ lives as the assassination of the Arch Duke Ferdinand is to us now.”



is excerpted from

from the novel


© 1975-2017 Mike Golden

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    "dick lit" is here to acknowledge the good, bad and ugly that goes with it, as it celebrates every young boy's quest to get off the next time, and every old man's quest to get off one more time, before there is no time left to get off on... »

    an excerpt from Ellen Pearlman’s

    Nothing and Everything is about the relationship of Eastern thought, particularly Buddhism, to the arts in post-war New York City —from the early 1940s to the early1960s—a handful of individuals brought about major changes in music, performance, dance, theater, installation, video, mixed media, painting, and sculpture, as the evolution from modernism to postmodernism broke down the idea of art as a practice devoted to a particular medium. The world—or life itself—became a legitimate artist’s tool, aligning with Zen Buddhism’s emphasis on enlightenment occurring at any moment.... »

    A Message from Senator Franken

    Please take 2 minutes to watch this important video.

    Alan Greenberg’s

    For three hours Ali was in the ring sparring, and the entire time he never threw a punch. When he finally stepped down I asked him what he was doing. “I’m gonna get that sucker so tired of punching me he’s gonna fall flat on his face,” Ali replied. And so the “Rope-a-Dope” was born, not in the ring in Zaire, but in a gym in Pennsylvania. »

    Up on the stage a man who looks like Klinger on Mash lifts his dress for the audience to inspect him. He has a clit. An actual clit. Then suddenly the legs spread, and PRESTO SLEAZO, there's a schlong! What a bargain! A real live hermaphrodite is about to take the skin of his female genitalia and stretch it over his male genitalia and get it on with itself »

    Great Moments in Sportz
    Professor Irwin Corey Accepts The National Book Award for Thomas Pynchon

    It happened Thursday, April 18th, 1974, at Alice Tulley Hall, and those that were there will never forget it (if they remember it at all). The National Book Awards, commercial publishing’s now defunct version of the Academy Awards was in the bottom of the ninth, down »

    Mimi & Richard Farina Live

    In 1965, Mimi and Richard Farina dropped by the studios of WTBS (now WMBR) with electric guitarist Barry Tashian (of Barry & the Remains) for music and talk with DJ Ed Freeman. Richard is on dulcimer. One of Mimi’s two guitars is tuned like a dulcimer. The explanation for the brief gap in the tape has long been lost.


    Michael Disend's RIDER OF THE JADE HORSE

    Li looked firmly into his eyes. “No! I want man who is also a woman.” Penman nodded against his will, his gaze stealing down toward the strap-on dildo she was generously coating with lube. It thrust out like a red cannon from her leather harness. Why red? Is it because she’s from China?


    Dick Lit
    Stacia St. Owens’

    “Dick lit” has been around since the first caveman’s curiosity stuck his dick into the equation when he rubbed those two rocks together around it until....
    Millie tittered, which is how girls used to be taught to laugh. Tilda wondered if this were an intentional jab.

    Barney Rosset Interview
    (The Subject Was Left Handed)