Hampton Sides (born 1962 in Memphis, Tennessee) is an American historian and journalist. He is the author of Hellhound on His Trail, Ghost Soldiers, Blood and Thunder, and other bestselling works of narrative history and literary non-fiction.
Sides is editor-at-large for Outside magazine and has written for such periodicals as National Geographic, The New Yorker, Esquire, Men's Journal, and The Washington Post. His magazine work, collected in numerous published anthologies, has been twice nominated for National Magazine Awards for feature writing.
Ghost Soldiers (Doubleday, 2001), a World War II narrative about the rescue of Bataan Death March survivors, has sold slightly over a million copies worldwide and has been translated into a dozen foreign languages. Erik Larson, author of The Devil in the White City, praised Ghost Soldiers as a "Great Escape for the Pacific Theater," and Esquire called it "the greatest World War II story never told." The book was the subject of documentaries on PBS and The History Channel, and was partially the basis for the 2005 Miramax film, The Great Raid (along with William Breuer's The Great Raid on Cabanatuan). Ghost Soldiers won the 2002 PEN USA Award for non-fiction and the Discover Award from Barnes & Noble. The book's success led Sides to create The Ghost Soldiers Endowment Fund, a non-profit foundation dedicated to preserving the memory of the sacrifices made by Bataan and Corregidor veterans by funding relevant archives, museums, and memorials.
Blood and Thunder (Doubleday, 2006) focuses on the life and times of controversial frontiersman Kit Carson, and his role in the conquest of the American West. A critic for the Los Angeles Times described Blood and Thunder as "stunning, haunting, and lyrical," while The Washington Post called it "riveting, monumental...authoritative and masterfully told." Blood and Thunder was named one of the 10 Best Books of 2006 by Time Magazine, and was selected as that year's best history title by the History Book Club and the Western Writers of America. Blood and Thunder was the subject of a major documentary on the PBS program American Experience and is currently under development for the screen.
Hellhound on His Trail (Doubleday 2010) is about the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the largest manhunt in American history to capture James Earl Ray, who pled guilty in 1969 and served the rest of his life in prison. Sides, who is a native of Memphis, is the first historian to make use of a new digital archive in that city, called the B. Venson Hughes Collection, which contains more than 20,000 documents and photos, many of them rare or never before published. Sides’ research forms much of the basis for PBS’s documentary "Roads to Memphis", which originally aired May 3, 2010, on the award-winning program, American Experience.
Hellhound on His Trail reached #6 on The New York Times Best Seller list. Janet Maslin of The New York Times called the book "spellbinding...bold, dynamic, unusually vivid," while a reviewer in The New York Times Book Review suggested that Hellhound "may be the first book on King that owes less to Taylor Branch than Robert Ludlum." Time Magazine said Hellhound "unfolds like a mystery—one read not for the ending but for all the missteps and near misses along the way." Critic Laura Miller, writing on Salon.com, described Hellhound as a "meticulous yet driving account that is in essence a true-crime story and a splendid specimen of the genre." David Garrow, author of a Pulitzer-winning biography of King, wrote in The Washington Post that Hellhound was "a carefully constructed true-crime narrative" and "a memorable and persuasive portrait" that "makes a valuable contribution to the historical record."
A native of Memphis with a BA in history from Yale, Sides lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with his wife Anne Goodwin Sides, a journalist and former NPR editor, and their three boys, all soccer players. He is a past fellow of Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, and the Japan Society, and an Edwards Media Fellow at Stanford University. He is an advisory board member of the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference. Sides has guest-lectured at Columbia, Yale, Stanford, Colorado College, Southern Methodist, the Autry National Center of the American West, the American Embassy in Manila, Rehoboth Christian School, and the National World War II Museum, among other venues and institutions. He has appeared as a guest on such national broadcasts as American Experience, the Today show, Book TV, the History Channel, Fresh Air, CNN, CBS Sunday Morning, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, The Colbert Report, Imus in the Morning, and NPR's All Things Considered.
- Stomping Grounds: A Pilgrim's Progress Through Eight American Subcultures (1992)
- Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account of World War II's Greatest Rescue Mission (2001)
- Americana: Dispatches from the New Frontier (2004)
- Blood and Thunder: An Epic the American West (2006)
- Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin (2010)
- Hampton Sides articles for Outside Magazine
- Interview with NPR's Fresh Air, 10-28
- Doubleday website for Sides's history, Blood and Thunder
- Website for Sides's anthology of journalism, Americana: Dispatches from the New Frontier
- Interview at Outside magazine, 10-06
- Review of Blood and Thunder, by N. Scott Momaday
- Interview on Blood and Thunder at the Pritzker Military Library
- Booknotes interview with Sides on Ghost Soldiers, September 30, 2001.