Daniel Klein

Elvis Presley - The King as amateur sleuth - Memphis, Tennessee

"Blue Suede Clues"

(Reviewed by Judi Clark APR 2, 2002)

Blue Suede Clues by Daniel Klein

It's 1963 and Elvis Presley is in Hollywood at the MGM studio finishing up the movie Kissin' Cousins in which he plays a double of himself as an earnest Air Force lieutenant and then as his stubborn hillbilly cousin, Jodie Tatum, complete with blond wig. Elvis is tired of these dumb movies with soulless songs and wants to make one that people will think about as they walk out of the theater. Later that day, at a press conference arranged by Colonel Parker to debunk some rumors about Elvis and Ann Margret, Presley is punched in the proverbial gut by a reporter who asks what he thinks about Hal Wallis saying he loves to produce Elvis' films because with all the money he makes he can fund real movies with actors like Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole. Elvis reacts by announcing that he'd like to do a real movie and in fact he is on the lookout for a first class script.

Naturally the Colonel is very unhappy with this unplanned question and answer period, fully aware of the deluge of scripts that will come their way. But Elvis is serious and begins right away to look through the most current box of scripts that the Colonel has already rejected. That's when he sees an old Christmas picture in the trash from his army days with a crumpled up letter from Freddy "Squirm" Littlejon asking Elvis to help him out. Squirm 's in the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi serving life for the murder of a young actress and swears on his mother's grave that he didn't do it.

It's been three years since Elvis was involved with the Fan Club murders and he thinks helping Squirm just might be the distraction he needs. Of late he's been feeling of two minds, desiring Ann Margret when he's with Priscilla and missing Priscilla when he's with Ann Margret, or like wanting to be in Graceland when he's in Bel Air and the reverse when he is in California. He's not even sure he wants to be in a serious movie. But he knows from before, sleuthing makes him feel alive. So he goes up to Tehachapi to meet Littlejon, and although he is uncomfortable with what he's hearing, Elvis also feels guilt for an event in a sandlot football game, so he decides to meet the lawyer, Regis Clifford, who obviously didn't do a good job of keeping his client out of jail. And first impressions seem to prove the lawyer is a down and out drunk.

But when Elvis reads the court transcript, he sees that Regis Clifford actually did a fairly credible job in Squirm's defense. There's not a whole lot that can be done when it seems that the witnesses all lie and one of the few witnesses for the defense turns hostile. Plus he realizes something else about the D.A. that doesn't seem to work out in Littlejon's favor. Elvis knows he's got to stand up for his old army buddy.

So Elvis embarks on an investigation that centers on the MGM studio of which he has plenty of access. And just as in the previous novel, Elvis meets some very good but unusual people who become his friends, including a Mexican scientist that's scientifically ahead of the world when it comes to DNA and forensics, but due to North American prejudice, the Mexican Scientist's lab work is dismissed.

Elvis also finds that he's doing an unofficial study about love and how it happens when it happens, yet at the same time the case involves hearing about the kinkier side of sex, enough to make this Southern gentleman blush. Elvis even learns about Freud's take on sex, love and accidents. And running from start to finish is the theme on twins, with Elvis wondering about what life would have been like if his twin hadn't died at birth - and even going as far as wondering what role he caused in that death. One thing that makes Elvis Presley very likable in this novel is that he is hardly ever unaware of the awesome responsibility of his actions and is very ready to take blame for things that happen because he got involved with them. It also makes it impossible for him to walk away from solving this case.

Unfortunately, Elvis is also learning about the siren's song and the peaceful sleep that comes when he takes the doctor prescribed codeine for a sprained ankle. And then keeps taking them.

Once again, I'm impressed with the strength of this mystery series. The Elvis character is fun as the author fits out the fictional story around the real life Elvis while making a play at the mythical personae. The novel is a good reminder of the kind of stardom Elvis experienced, and the thrill that he could bring with an impromptu concert. But, you certainly don't have to be an Elvis fan to want to read this series; you just have to like a good amateur detective story. This isn't one of those mysteries where the protagonist solves it by revealing just the right piece of information at the end. All of the clues are blatant in this novel, but only after you know who did it. O.K. maybe some readers will figure it out before the end, but I didn't. I'm not ready to join an Elvis Fan club, but I'm certainly a fan of this series.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 7 reviews

Read Chapter One of Blue Suede Clues at MostlyFiction.com

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"Kill Me Tender"

(Reviewed by Judi Clark Aug 13, 2000)

Kill Me Tender, Elvis Presley mystery

The Presidents of Elvis Presley's fan clubs are dying in Tennessee and Elvis wants to know why. The first in a series on the "Singing Sleuth" has Elvis recently returned home from his tour in Germany and restless. As Elvis sits down to his mid-afternoon breakfast, he's asked to sign a card for a second young girl to die of heart failure. Sensing that two is more than a coincidence, and feeling pretty bad that he might inadvertently had something to do with their deaths, he decides to attend this girl's funeral. Although advised against going to that part of town, he and his entourage head off to the church in his black-and-tan cadillac. It is at the church that he meets Billy Jackson, a black self-taught "doctor" and his beautiful nurse, Selma Du Pres. Sneaking out from the watchful eye of the Colonel, Elvis and his two new friends, work together to connect the dots and figure out that these deaths are murder.

In the process of investigation he confronts Elvis Impersonators, a phenomenon that started while he was away; faces the responsibility for his adoring fans; and deals with the harsh resentment from parents and even some of his peers. With his new friends, Billy and Selma, Elvis also witnesses first hand the institutionalized bigotry of the segregated South.

What makes this novel work so well is that Klein creates Elvis as a genuinely charismatic character without relying on the reader to be an Elvis fan. Using Elvis' well documented life and times as a backdrop, Klein creates a story with good sleuthing and a credible plot. The trick of it is, you don't have to be an Elvis Presley fan to enjoy this novel, but when you're done, it'll be near impossible not to be.

And where's the Colonel in all this? As usual, trying to add spin to all of the "sightings" as Elvis is sneaking about with Billy and Selma.

  • Amazon reader rating: from 8 reviews

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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)

Elvis, the Singing Sleuth series:

Other novels:

As co-author:


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Book Marks:


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About the Author:

Daniel KleinDaniel Klein is a Harvard graduate. His novel Magic Time follows the life and times of Timothy Leary and five of his young Harvard experimentees in the early days of psychedelia. His previous novels, Embryo, Wavelengths and Beauty Sleep are all medical thrillers. He is also the ghost-author or co-author of nine books of nonfiction.

Daniel Klein lives in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

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