Elvis in Texas
Author: Lori Torrance with Stanley Oberst
Publisher: Wordware Publishing
Take a really good plot, an interesting group of characters, add some good writing, a red herring here and there, a pinch of comedy and a soupcon of literary licence and you end up with "Blue Suede Clues."
Daniel Klein shook the Elvis fiction world in 2000 with "Kill Me Tender," in which he uncovered a hitherto unknown side of Elvis Presley -- the amateur sleuth, the USA's answer to Agatha Christie's Hercules Poirot! Klein's remit was somewhat more difficult, though, for whereas Poirot was purely fictional, Klein's hero was one of the best-known names in the world. It was an amazingly daring thing to do to try to create a fictional version of Elvis that fit in with the real Elvis. Nevertheless, Klein succeeded in "Kill Me Tender" and has done so yet again in his follow-up novel, "Blue Suede Clues."
The tale is set at the end of the shooting of Elvis's latest film, "Kissin' Cousins." Elvis is not pleased with his progress in film acting and is only too happy to take on the challenge of solving the mystery of who killed an attractive bit-part actress on an MGM film lot -- a murder for which a former US enlisted soldier who served with Elvis in Germany has been placed in prison.
Sounds contrived? Perhaps, but the remarkable thing is that Klein manages to build an enthralling tale, very much in the line of a Christie murder mystery, without stretching the truth too far. He incorporates characters we are familiar with -- Priscilla, Joe Esposito, Top Parker, for example -- and adds to these numerous fictional characters who are well portrayed and really have substance. Klein even includes links back to "Kill Me Tender" so that this new side to Elvis has a certain continuity.
Klein manages to get into Elvis's way of thinking very well, and this is especially the case in the way he treats Elvis's attitude toward Parker and the way his career is going at this somewhat unfortunate period. Personal aspects of Elvis's life are used to add colour to the tale -- his conflict as a surviving twin and his relationship with his mother, for instance. But this all fits so well and adds to what can only be described as an excellent mystery story that should appeal to all lovers of this type of book, not just Elvis fans.
Not only does Klein succeed in giving us a thoroughly enjoyable, easy-to-read story, he includes some amusing writing, too. I especially like the description of warmed-up ribs served on French porcelain: "The ribs looked like beef jerky. The china looked embarrassed." The story just rolls along and Klein's mixture of fact and fiction is well thought out and successful. The mystery comes to a surprising conclusion and the tale is wrapped up with a wonderful segue into Elvis reality.
The big question is, when will the film be made? The story is an ideal candidate to be picked up by a producer and, indeed, there are rumours that this has already happened with Klein's first Elvis mystery, "Kill Me Tender." The big mystery there, of course, will be who will be chosen to play Elvis!
Don't be put off by the fact that "Blue Suede Clues" is Elvis fiction. Other such books have used Elvis's name as bait, some have used Elvis as a secondary feature, others have been more in the realms of science fiction. This story, however, places Elvis as the central protagonist, is woven into realistic and recognisable features of Elvis's life and, above all, is an excellent read.
copyright February 2002
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