Blue Suede Clues (2002/2022) by Daniel Klein

1963, and Elvis Presley is at something of a crossroads. His wife Priscilla is unhappy at his “friendship” with Ann-Margaret, and he is tiring of his film career. He has just finished filming “Kissin’ Cousins” and is desperate to find a worthwhile project to follow it. In the meantime, an old army friend, “Squirm” Littlejon, has asked for his help from behind bars in a California jail.

“Squirm” was accused of killing a young actress while he was working as a stuntman on the MGM lot, but Elvis is convinced that he is innocent. With the help of Squirm’s lawyer, Elvis heads off to find the truth – only to find himself blackmailed with photographs of himself and Ann-Margaret and up against a murder charge of his own.

Dean Street Press has mostly reprinted classic crime, but on the 3rd of October this year, they will be releasing (along with five more Anthony Bathurst titles) the four Elvis mysteries written by Daniel Klein between 2002 and 2004. Those books are Kill Me Tender (rubbish title),  Blue Suede Clues (better title), Viva Las Vengenence (the jury’s still out) and Such Vicious Minds (awesome title!)

I found this one a bit tricky, as it’s always odd to read things about people who are still alive – how exactly does one include a fictionalised Priscilla Presley in a novel and not get sued? Genuinely curious about that one. Even Elvis, dead for 45 years now (crikey I’m old) seems a dodgy choice for a lead character. He’s treated sympathetically though, trying for more than just the fairly insipid films that he was making at the time, although not presenting him as flawless, for example his semi-regular pill-popping.

All in all, this was an interesting enough read, but not quite my sort of thing. It took me a long time to get the hang of a real character (who I’m old enough to remember, just) being the sleuth, and I still wasn’t quite with it by the end of the tale. It’s a well-told tale, though, with a satisfying denouement that draws a nice parallel with Elvis’ own life.

Overall, an interesting curiosity that fans of the King may well find very interesting.

Blue Suede Clues is out on October 3rd from Dean Street Press. Many thanks for the review copy.

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