After winning the hearts of critics and audiences (all over again) in Daniel Klein's Kill Me Tender, Elvis Aron Presley returns once more to try his hand at crime-solving in a fun, suspenseful sequel.
1963. Elvis Presley has just completed filming "Kissin' Cousins," a hillbilly romantic comedy of which he is instantly ashamed. His romance with Ann-Margret has just become public knowledge and Priscilla is on the warpath. It is a critical period for Elvis, a time in which he must sort out his own contradictory feelings and make life-changing choices.
Against this backdrop, one "Squirm" Litteljon, an old army friend, contacts Elvis. Littlejon is serving life in a California penitentiary for the murder of a young actress on the MGM lot and he insists he was framed. Elvis figures that taking the case is just what he needs to escape all those people making demands of him, both professionally and romantically.
So begins a fast-paced mystery train-ride that takes Elvis from the weird world of movie stuntmen to a ground-breaking genetics laboratory in Mexico. His sidekick on this adventure is Squirm's deadbeat, Freud-spouting lawyer who has personal insight into the psychological quirks of surviving twins -- like Elvis.
Before he's through, Elvis will have to disprove a murder charge of his own and stop a diabolical film producer from publishing career-wrecking photographs of Elvis and Ann-Margret making love. Blue Suede Clues is a who-dunnit that keeps readers guessing right up to an ending worthy of only one man: The King!
About the Author
Daniel Klein is the author of the highly-acclaimed first Elvis murder mystery, "Kill Me Tender." His other mysteries and thrillers include, "Embryo" and "Beauty Sleep." He is the co-author of the humor books, "Where's Elvis?" and "Macho Meditations" and of an even dozen non-fiction books. A graduate of Harvard, he lives in Great Barrington, Masschusetts.
Read an Excerpt
Setting the Story Straight
Elvis took a flying leap over a hay bale, executed a lackluster hip twitch in mid-air, and landed ungracefully on his heels. Behind the camera, Gene Nelson, the director, was making monkey faces at him and mouthing the word, “Smile.” Elvis cranked up the corners of his mouth like he was hauling dead weights out of the sea.
“Cut!” Nelson shouted.
The playback stopped and the entire cast of Kissin’ Cousins stumbled to a halt. Nelson ambled over to Elvis with a pleading look in his pale gray eyes.
“Please, Elvis, it’s the last day,” Nelson said soothingly. “Try and look like you’re having fun.”
“I ain’t that good an actor,” Elvis replied, deadpan.
Fact was, it had taken a supreme act of willpower for Elvis to drag himself onto the MGM lot that morning to finish filling in the dance sequences. He’d been able to overlook just how ridiculous this picture was while they were on location, up in the luminous San Bernadino Mountains, but back here, hearing himself sing those god-awful hillbilly songs in playback, there was no way he could ignore how moronic it was.
“Well, I’m having fun,” Wayne LeFevre said, sidling up beside Elvis with a goofy grin. “Just pretend you’re me, Elvis.”
LeFevre was Elvis’s double. Elvis played two roles in Cousins: Jodie Tatum, a dim-witted yokel straight out of L’il Abner, and Josh Morgan, Tatum’s straight-arrow, Army lieutenant, look-alike cousin. When both cousins appeared in a scene—like in this hoedown number—LeFevre stood in for one of them.
“Man, you’d have fun at a public hanging,” Elvis muttered to LeFevre.
“At least I’d try to make myself useful—like by comforting the widow in my own obliging way,” LeFevre replied, winking.
“One more time!” Nelson called out. “Hit your marks, folks!”
Elvis rambled back to the hay bale, hooked a thumb into the pocket of his Josh Morgan army khakis, and was preparing to leap on the downbeat when he spotted Colonel Parker galloping onto the set. The Colonel’s bovine face was a mean shade of red. A newspaper flapped in his stubby right hand.
“Time-out!” Parker hollered, and Nelson flashed five fingers for a five-minute break.
“Son, we are thigh deep in cow patties this time,” Parker said, thrusting the newspaper in front of Elvis’s face.
Elvis peered down at it. The headline read “Elvis Wins Love of Ann-Margret.” It was datelined London, where Miss Ann was attending the royal premiere of Bye Bye Birdie and where she had taken it upon herself to announce to the press that she and Elvis were in love, adding, “I cannot say when, or if, we will marry.”
“Fool woman,” Elvis mumbled, even as a genuine smiled tugged at the corners of his mouth.
“Damn shot worse than a fool,” Parker snapped. “That woman’s a home wrecker.”
God Almighty, the Colonel was right. Elvis hadn’t figured that when Miss Priscilla saw this—and some damned fool would surely show it to her—she’d throw a fit and a half. She’d just flown in from Memphis day before yesterday with a bad case of jealousy on the brain, and this could put her over the top. Make her threaten to go running home to Daddy in Germany again.
“Guess we need to do something about this,” Elvis murmured.
“I’m doing it already,” Parker snapped. “Called a press conference for six sharp. We’ll set the story straight.”
Elvis watched the Colonel greet the reporters at his MGM office door, where he was decked out in knickers, a buttoned-up Hawaiian shirt, a floppy bow tie and, to top it off, Elvis’s Kissin’ Cousins blond wig set at a jaunty angle on his moon-shaped head. It was one of the Colonel’s standard gambits: When you’ve got a crisis, bamboozle them with buffoonery. After the journalists had taken their seats, he grinned at them for a full minute, then removed the cigar from his mouth and barked, “Okay, gents, one question per. And be gentle, boys, Mr. Presley has been feeling kind of put upon lately.”
Elvis lowered his eyes. The way Parker put things, Elvis always ended up sounding like some touchy mamma’s boy.
The first question came from Dunlap of the Hollywood Reporter: “Exactly how would you describe your relationship with Ann-Margret?”
Elvis leaned back in the Colonel’s leather desk chair and scratched his jaw. He was still in costume and makeup, so his fingernails scraped off a thin line of tan foundation. “I would describe our relationship as a deep friendship,” Elvis began. “Sort of like brother and sister. Yes, Miss Ann is like my long-lost sister.”
Truth to tell, he had felt a deep connection to his Viva Las Vegas costar the moment he laid eyes on her. And that connection went way beyond Ann-Margret’s sexy good looks. He’d felt from the start that she was a soul mate, some kind of female mirror image of himself.
“So you are denying that there is anything romantic going on between the two of you?” the Variety reporter said.
Elvis sat up straight and looked directly in the reporter’s eyes. “Sir, denying and affirming are awful grand words to be using when you’re talking about romance. Seem more like church words, if you know what I mean.”
From the corner of his eye, Elvis saw the Colonel grinning and nodding with approval. No doubt he thought Elvis was doing a little bamboozle of his own, but actually Elvis was trying to get a point across, so he went on. “You see, there are all kinds of ways that a man and a woman connect with one another and most of them are a mystery. Least they are to me. So it’s hard to put into words exactly the way I feel about Miss Ann. It’s a deep and complicated feeling.”
The Colonel turned to Elvis and pumped his eyebrows up and down by way of reproach; this wasn’t going the way he’d scripted it.
Ferguson from Time magazine chimed in with: “With all due respect, Mr. Presley, you’ve been seen all over town motorcycling with Miss Margret, holding hands, going into your trailer with her and closing the door behind you …”
In spite of himself, Elvis felt the sweetness of those glorious times with Ann-Margret sweep over him. The feeling only lasted a split second, but that was long enough to show in his eyes; the reporters responded with knowing smiles and started scratching furiously in their notepads.
That did it; this was going from bad to worse. The Colonel popped in front of Elvis. “Thank you, gentlemen,” he said dismissively. “I know you’ll do right by Mr. Presley in your papers. Now we’ve got stills from our new movie over on the table there. You can pick them up on your way out.”
“One last question please, Elvis.” It was Mike Murphy, the famously wise-guy reporter from the L.A. Times. “And I promise you, it’s got nothing to do with your private life.”
The Colonel started to wave him off, but Elvis stood and said, “Okay, one last one.”
“Well, I was talking with Hal Wallis the other day,” Murphy began, “and he said that he just loves producing your pictures, because with all the money he makes from them, he gets to make first-rate films with actors like Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole. Would you care to comment on that?”
It felt like a punch in the gut. Elvis reeled back into his chair. That one hurt bad, terrible bad. Far worse than anything anybody could say about his love life. No, this one got Elvis right where he lived. His great pal Hal Wallis had put it out there plain and simple: Elvis was just a money machine so Wallis could make real movies, movies that actually meant something, unlike this joke of a picture. And damnit, the Colonel had handpicked Kissin’ Cousins. He’d said the script had Elvis written all over it.
The Colonel shot eye daggers at Murphy. He yanked the blond wig off his head in what he must have thought was a gesture of fury, but it only made him look more buffoonish. Man, Elvis hated that wig. He’d hated it every time he had to put it on to play that pea-brained country bumpkin, Jodie Tatum. And at this moment, he hated it with all his heart because he saw it for it what it really was—a clown’s wig. And he was the clown.
Before the Colonel could say another word, Elvis rose again from his chair. If he had been shaky on his feet a moment before, he was steady as a rock now. He stood tall and calm and resolute in his army khakis with the lieutenant’s stripes, looking for all the world like a man in command. The entire room went dead quiet, a couple of the reporters freezing in mid-motion as they packed up their notebooks and pens.
“Let me put something straight here,” Elvis began in a low voice. “There is nothing I would like to do more than make a picture that has some real meaning to it. A picture that would give folks something to think about after they left the movie theater. Something to consider about their own lives. Maybe about their families or their country or anything else that’s meaningful to them.”
Elvis paused, looking the reporters in the eye one at a time. He felt better than he had all day and he surely knew why: He was finally speaking his own lines.
“I’m no great actor,” he went on. “No Richard Burton or Peter O’Toole. I wouldn’t kid myself about something like that. But that doesn’t mean I couldn’t do a real picture if I had the right script. And that’s the thing I want to say here. I want to find a story—a movie story—that I’d be proud to make. I don’t know what that would be, but I’m pretty sure I’d know it if I read it. So I’d appreciate it if you gentlemen would do me the favor of writing in your papers that I am on the lookout for a first-class script. I don’t care who writes it. Could be a fisherman or a truck driver for all I know. But I’m looking. And I need your help finding it. Thank you. Thank you very much.”
The reporters broke into spontaneous applause. In the doorway, Ned Florbid, the sleek MGM production manager who had wandered in during Elvis’s little speech, joined the applause, smiling broadly. And then Colonel Parker started clapping too, the blond wig swinging comically from one hand, but clapping for all he was worth. That was one of his standard gambits too: Always cheer, but cheer the loudest when you are losing.
BLUE SUEDE CLUES. Copyright © 2002 by Daniel Klein. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.
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