Kill Me Tender
Author: Daniel Klein
Publisher: St Martin's Press
Elvis joins the ranks of Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple and Hercules Poirot when he becomes an amateur sleuth in Daniel Klein's latest novel, "Kill Me Tender". He takes upon himself the task of solving the mysterious deaths of a number of young women, all presidents of local Elvis fan clubs!
Sounds a far-fetched idea, true, but Klein pulls the stunt off in an absorbing and sometimes amusing tale and Elvis comes up trumps, though not everything in his garden is rosy! The fact that Klein is able to succeed where many others would have failed, is largely due to what is clearly his excellent insight into the real character of Elvis Presley. In this respect, the Elvis that the reader is presented with is compassionate and without prejudice: a much more accurate portrayal than is often found in so-called factual accounts!
The story itself takes place in the early sixties, some time between Elvis's return from the army and the filming of "Take Me To The Fair". (This might be an imaginary film, or an unplanned direct reference to "It Happened At The World's Fair" which carried this title for a while.) Whatever, Elvis doesn't seem all that interested in his recording commitments in Nashville and so jumps at the opportunity to start his own private investigations into some untimely deaths. This brings him into contact with members of a Southern black community, with whom he gets along famously, even to the point of having impromptu gospel singing sessions, a white bigot, whom Elvis clearly despises, and some less than understanding law-enforcement officials, amongst others. At the same time, Klein uses the story to paint a deliciously accurate portrait of Tom Parker and indicates that Elvis was none too pleased with him, either. All the while, Elvis and a couple of new-found friends continue to follow a number of leads, some of which seem to fade out, but all of which bring the tale to its conclusion: a conclusion cleverly construed not to interfere with the reality of the times.
I am sure that many Elvis fans will look at the book and consider it yet another inappropriate use of Elvis's name in order to achieve better sales figures. To do so, however, will be to miss a thoroughly enjoyable mystery story, tailored to fit the Elvis we know -- his fascination with police work and medicines, his remarkable lack of prejudice and his discontent with elements of his own career.
The only aspect of "Kill Me Tender" that prevents me from recommending it wholeheartedly is the unfortunate occasional use of unnecessary profanity.
Daniel Klein is currently working on the next book of what might well be a series of Elvis detective mysteries, so it looks as if Elvis has conquered yet another area of entertainment.
copyright July 2000
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