The telephone woke me out of a deep sleep so I was annoyed.

“Who the hell is this?

“I’m terribly sorry, but I’m calling from Great Britain and, due to circumstances, had to ignore the time difference. I do so apologize.”

“Who are you and what’s so important?”

He told me his name, asked me not to publish it, but to refer to him as a representative of The Richard lll Society.

“What does anyone from The Richard lll Society want with me?”

“Mr. Klein…”

“Zach, please.”

“Zach. It’s not just anyone who wants to speak to you. Indeed, no one from the Society, actually.”

“Then why the wake-up call?”

“Mr., excuse me, Zach. You must have read about the recent discovery of Richard III’s remains.”


“His Majesty has requested that we immediately fly you to the University of Leicester for an audience. An interview, if you will.”

That got me off my back and sitting up as Sue cocked her head quizzically.


“His Majesty has enjoyed your Interviews With The Dead Series and believes you to be fair, and willing to present his words accurately.”

“It’s going to take some time to make arrangements…”

“Everything has been taken care of. In fact, your plane to Birmingham Airport leaves at 6 A.M. There will be a car at your house in about, about an hour and a half. I’ll meet you at Birmingham and we’ll drive directly to the University.”

After I hung up, I felt a wave of annoyance at his, their, presumption that I’d be willing to just pick up and leave.  It quickly passed as I realized how right they’d been. It’s good to be the King–even if you’ve been dead for 528 years.


Exhausted from a five-hour transcontinental cram of British history, I sat in a quiet room  in one of the University’s libraries. Then the king was wheeled in on a cart.

Richard lll:  “Thoust form appears as I feel–bone tired.”

Me:  “You’re worse for wear, I’d say. Will we be able to conduct the interview in modern English? It would make it much easier for me and my readers.”

Richard lll:  “Of course. I’ve spent many years quietly listening to the world change above me. Though I must warn you, I might slip into a few ‘thou’s’ and other common phrases used during my lifetime. Centuries old habits are quite difficult to break.”

Me: Thank you, Your Majesty. I’ve certainly been following your excavation with great interest…”

Richard lll:  “They really did a marvelous job. Just their persistence was quite amazing–especially given my reputation. Or, the slander of my reputation, that is.”

Me:  “All of it?”

Given who/what I had as an interviewee, I had no facial expressions to help decipher emotional undertones. I’d have to rely on his voice to glean what his feelings might be.

Richard lll:  “That’s actually quite a difficult question. ‘Tis true I was forced to kill to acquire the Crown, but it truly was my Crown to acquire. It wasn’t I who decided that the True and Honorable King Edward lV’s marriage to Elizabeth was illegal. Nor was it I who declared their children illegitimate and barred from succession.”

Me:  “But you did murder several people on your way to the Crown.”

Methinks I hear a royal chuckle.

Richard lll:   “And all the wars, assassinations, ‘regime building’ since?’ Is that not murder to wear a Crown? Truly, I did kill four people. Hardly a slaughter and faced no other opposition to my crowning. It was that damnable Shakespeare, or should I say Edward de Vere, that frightened Earl who wouldn’t even disclose his name, who truly turned me into a monster. Which, of course I wasn’t. I repeat, four people. ‘Tis thus a slaughter? Dost that suggest mass opposition to my Kingship? How is it that few will acknowledge that my ascendency halted a potential civil war?”

I was still stuck by his calling Shakespeare Edward de Vere.

Me:  “The Earl of Oxford?”

Richard lll:   “The 17th Earl of Oxford to be precise. Of course it was de Vere who turned me into a deformed hunchback with a withered arm. ‘Now is the winter of our discontent.’ My Posterior–if I still had one. Lies, all lies, though well written lies, I must admit. Surely you don’t think an uneducated minstrel could write about me–scurrilous as the writing might be. Or perhaps you believed it to be Marlowe?”

Clearly Shakespeare, or de Vere, touched a royal nerve. If he still had any.

Me:  “I’ve never had a horse in that race.”

Richard lll:   “Thou means?”

Me:  “I was never concerned by who wrote Shakespeare’s work.”

Richard lll:  “Perhaps if you had been subject to hundreds of years of relentless attacks due to de Vere’s vicious fictions, you might have had, as you say, ‘a steed in that race.’

Me:  “So you deny murdering your nephews too?”

Richard lll:   “Deny? Of course I deny! Think, please. History is in the eye of who writes it and it was that ever-scheming Henry and his minions who did the writing. The Tudors’ rumoured and schemed and plotted throughout every day of my reign. Who would you expect to be accused?”

His bones began to rattle as his fury mounted.

Richard lll:  “Think! Why would I kill them? They were no threat to me; I was the legitimate Monarch. I was close to their mother Elizabeth throughout my entire reign, my entire life! Now, think again! Who were they a threat to? To Henry! Is it not surprising that no formal accusation was ever made? Henry never even produced the bodies of the dead princes for public mourning and a state funeral. Why not, if they had been slain by my hand? Because it was Henry’s henchmen who murdered them! Yes, Henry VII even brought a Bill of Attainder against me, yet no mention of the princes was made. Curious, n’est pas?

Me:  “How could Henry have killed them, King Richard?”

Richard lll:  “I would most certainly suggest that those who want the truth, and can handle the truth, take a close look at John Russell, my oft disloyal Chancellor. The mistake I made was simply ridding the Court of his person–instead of the earth!  But then de Vere and all his eloquent lies…”

Me:  “You certainly hate him, don’t you?”

Richard lll:  “Of course! He turned my hunger of justice, my reformation of our legal system, my love of country so grand I was willing to die for it into a distortion of me and my life. Even a cursory glance at my short reign will show my losses, sacrifices, my attempt to keep peace that went for naught. No English Monarch has died on the battlefield since I!

Me:  “There certainly has been a distortion about what you looked like, if this facial reconstruction is at all accurate.”

Richard lll:  “It’s quite accurate. As is the fact that while my posture was not true, I was certainly no hunchback. But I really must return to the ugliest stain upon my reputation. The princes. While true that recent historians at least argue about the truth, it took a mystery writer to discern it. Yes, The Daughter of Time, though incorrect about the murderer, speaks to my complete innocence.”

Me:  “You read The Daughter Of Time?”

Richard lll:  “Listened. A book on tape, as the moderns say.”

Me:  “Well, I certainly understand your concern about those murders if what you’re saying is to be believed.”

Richard lll:  “If!. If? If I were still among the living I’d…Dammit, man, read Sir Clements Markham. Read Horace Walpole. Read Jeremy Potter. Yes, read Josephine Tey!  If you still have doubts, return and again we shall talk.”

I could hear his weariness and decided to respect it.

Me:  “If I might be permitted one last question?”

Richard lll:  “Most assuredly.”

Me:  There seems to be a fight brewing about where to place your remains. Leicester wants to re-inter you in the city’s cathedral, but York is petitioning to have you there. Do you have a preference?

Richard lll:  “After all this time, how could I not? Though I can’t blame modern Leicester for my horrific squashed burial box, and the University did take the time to find me, I prefer York. It is my homeland and where I belong. Though I imagine they’ll do with me what they wish. I’m used to that.”

Me:  “Thank you for this interview King Richard. I never expected it.”

Richard lll:  “‘Tis a pleasure Klein, if only for an opportunity to stretch my legs. I do fervently hope you’ll be clear about de Ville’s monstrous lies. They have kept me awake for half a millennium.

‘The caricature of the last Plantagenet king was too grotesque, and too grossly opposed to the character derived from official records. The stories were an outrage on commonsense…My own conclusions are that Richard III must be acquitted on all counts of the indictment.’  Sir Clements Markham (1906)

‘Richard proved himself an energetic and efficient king’ with a proper concern for justice and the impartial administration of the law. ‘No one familiar with the careers of King Louis XI of France, in Richard’s own time, or Henry VIII of England in his own country, would wish to cast any special slur on Richard, still less to select him as the exemplar of a tyrant’. Charles Ross (1981)


I recently had the good fortune of spending time with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Since today is a celebration of his life and accomplishments, I believe it appropriate to publish the interview. We met in Providence, Rhode Island, in a quiet room off the lobby of the Biltmore Hotel. Only about 5′ 6½” his stocky build lent size and gravitas to his presence.  He wore a dark brown suit with a thin tie and settled into the couch with a contented sigh.

MLK:  “Good to be here. Don’t get around much anymore.”

ME:  “Dr. King, I was surprised you asked to meet me in Providence.”

A small smile danced across his face.

MLK:  “I knew it wasn’t terribly far from your home–mine either.

ME:  “You know, I was pretty nervous thinking about talking to you. I feel I’m in the presence of a truly great human being.”

MLK:  “I hope you aren’t nervous now. As you can see, we both have two arms and two legs.

ME:  “Dr. King…”

MLK:  “Martin, please.”

ME:  “That might be tough, sir.”

A flicker of annoyance flashed in his bright brown eyes.

MLK:  “This interview isn’t going to last very long if you insist on calling me ‘sir.’ I much prefer to be seen as a person, even a dead person. I’m getting tired of being a larger than life figure.”

ME:  “Okay, s.., excuse me, Martin, but speaking of larger than life, what do you think about your monument?”

MLK:  “I’ve always thought of myself as a kinder and friendlier looking man than the one made from that stone. I appreciate the thought and effort, but find the strife it’s caused from its conception onward…”

ME:  “Pretty ironic.”

MLK:  “Very much so. I’d rather my legacy be framed in social progress.”

ME:  “In your wildest imaginings, did you ever think this country would have a Martin Luther King holiday?”

MLK:  “Of course not, although being assassinated helped, I suppose. But at the time of my death, my approval rating was around 30 percent.”

ME:  “You kept track of approval ratings?”

MLK:  “Ahh, another shock to your fantasy about Saint Martin? As a writer who came along after me once wrote, ‘The medium is the message.’ While I don’t entirely agree with that message, it was important to understand how others saw me if I wanted my words and actions to mean something.”

ME:  “Why only 30 percent, though?”

MLK:  “I’m tempted to suggest that you ask the respondents, but I’ll give it a try. It was a moment in time when traditions were being challenged. When the vast majority of Americans were confused, upset, and bewildered by what was taking place around them. Stokely had rejected my non-violent approach toward change by calling for Black Power and aligning himself with the Panthers. So there was real fear among White people about Negro leaders.  But I think what angered many people in 1968, including allies and friends, was my linkage of civil rights, the Vietnam war, support of unions, and a guaranteed income for everybody as the way to end poverty.”

ME:  “Do you feel your non-violent approach was vindicated by the election of a Black President. Progress as a result of your efforts?”

King smiled widely before he spoke.

MLK:  “It’s certainly progress but needs to be understood within a larger context.”

I nodded for him to continue.

MLK:  “In the long run, the most important aspect of Obama’s presidency may be less that he is a Negro than the coalition he put together to be elected. I believe he was able to mobilize the constituencies needed to work for significant and progressive change. I’m hopeful that coalition will continue to act in concert. People of color, as we’re now known, young people, White people, women, unions, Gays.  All were instrumental in Obama’s election.”

It took me a moment to realize the sound coming from the couch was laughter.

MLK:  “Which is why those groups are so angry with him.  He surely isn’t a progressive.  Which is also why people who believe in real progress must understand that change comes from the ground up and not top down.”

ME:  “You sound like a member of the Occupy Movement.”

MLK:  “I really don’t belong to groups anymore.”

ME:  “But it does sound like you support their cause though many people criticize their lack of organization, that their outdoor compounds were just magnets for drug addicts and the homeless.

MLK:  “Causes is more accurate. And I do believe if they are to become relevant organizational development is essential, but the other criticisms–those sadden me. Homelessness in a land of this wealth? Drug addiction without real treatment alternatives? A justice system that metes out different punishments for drugs that White and Black people use? Worse–a country that turned its mentally ill onto the streets by closing down homes and institutions while spending billions for multiple wars? Those are tragedies and that’s why the broadest possible progressive coalition–including addicts and the homeless–is needed to foster real change.”

ME:  “People point to the election of President Obama as evidence that we, in the U.S. live in a “post-racial” society.  What’s your take?”

King’s bulky body shook and this time there was no confusion about his laughter.

MLK:  “From where I listen, the words often used are ‘level playing field.’ That, and ‘post racial’ are ways to ignore the injustice that runs rampant throughout this society. Simply look at life expectancy: white males live about seven years longer on average than Black men. White women live more than five years longer than their Black counterparts. Although researchers have suggested that genetics accounts for the differences in health and not health care access, that notion has been debunked. Wages? As recently as 2010 median annual earnings of Black men were 74, 75 cents to a White male’s dollar. Less than the Constitution’s original 3/5ths valuation.

I began to ask another question but King shook me off.

MLK:  “The issues facing our country are deeper than simply race–though race is certainly not simple. The issue of color is interwoven with economics and economics affect more than just people of color. It affects the White woman and her children who live in a holler without clean water, or no water at all, the laborer whose pensions have been destroyed by the upper class even as the upper class generates enormous amounts of money for itself, the government worker who no longer has the right to collective bargaining, the middle class who struggle to pay exorbitant college tuition. I could continue.

ME:  “You seem pretty up to date on what’s taking place here.”

MLK:  “I have plenty of time on my hands.”

ME:  “So if you were able to return would you still be as committed to non-violence given everything you just described?”

MLK:  “Absolutely. Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals. It doesn’t require murder. A society formed from blood inevitably leads to more blood. We need nothing else than to look at history for confirmation.”

ME:  “Most people don’t believe this world capable of non-violence. To use your words, ‘we need nothing else than to look at history for confirmation.'”

King smiled.

MLK:  “You’ve lost your nervousness. Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

ME:  “You didn’t have a chance to climb the stairs.”

MLK:  “The assassination just strengthened my belief that a society built upon blood never leaves that blood behind–which makes it so important that change is engendered non-violently.”

Dr. King stood and I popped off my chair.

MLK:  “I’m not interviewed much these days. Thank you.”

ME:  “Are you kidding? This was an honor.”

MLK:  “No, my friend, it was just an interview.”

“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”
Martin Luther King