Reviewed by Nigel Patterson, March 2021
Joe Shooman’s new book is an offbeat look at parts of the Elvis story. As the publisher states in the Introduction, despite the litany of Elvis books, the world needs another one… and this it:
But this isn’t your bog-standard rehash of the same old Elvis tropes, those tawdry tales of largesse and tantrums, the salacious sweet and scandal books that seem to reproduce between themselves each year. What would be the point of that?
We decided instead to look for the weird and wonderful…. We don’t endorse the left-field ideas of course, but we do present them for your entertainment.
The A-Z entries are a diverse, eclectic collection, from the well-known to the weird and controversial. Each entry is afforded a paragraph or two up to a page of interesting text, with many of the entries complemented by impressive contemporary, hand drawn, artwork (I did like the full page art of Elvis dancing the Jailhouse Rock with the author’s father, Dr. A.P. Shooman).
There are several themes expressed by the entries, principally:
o Family and heritage
o Biographical elements
o Socio-cultural impact
o Conspiracy and Ripley’s Believe It or Not type claims
The familiar entries include Gladys Love Smith, Germany, Muhammad Ali, Elvis and Nixon, TCB, and Vegas. And there is much to learn from them, as the author’s narrative exhibits thoughtful contemplation and clever entry titles.
Regarding Elvis’ recording of U.S. Male, Shooman keenly observes:
An intensely unsuccessful attempt to stomp into Johnny Cash Man in Black territory. But while Cash was putting himself where his lyrics were and playing to the inmates of Folsom Prison, having gone through drug abuse issues and a mid-career slump, Presley had been bumbling about in ever faster-shoots phoned in for ever more-formulaic movies.
Similarly, the author makes an insightful observation when discussing the alternate film and song title for Flaming Star…….Black Star:
Check out the lyrics; it’s the acceptance of the inevitable, and living in the face of the final journey.
Highlighting the diversity of information on offer, other entries include Joseph Pirzada, Sherif Hanna, Morris Matlock, Religion, Scatter, Repeated Head Trauma, Vampira, Barry White, and Xylophone (can you guess in which Elvis movie a xylophone was used?).
At times, there is an almost punk sensibility in the narrative as Shooman dredges the darkest recesses of the multi-layered Elvis story and occasionally assaults the reader’s conception of Elvis Presley reality.
Also, I cannot think of any other Elvis related book in which you would find this unusual text:
….this invasive perennial grows freely throughout parts of the United States including the South. The enticing looking berries are poisonous to humans and animals, and a very unpleasant death can follow due to respiratory organ paralysis.
Readers will be surprised to learn of Gladys Presley’s little known role in Elvis becoming the King of Rock and Roll, and of the time Elvis told Beach Boy, Brian Wilson, he did not have a hit on his hands.
Other entertaining entries are those that are less well known and some that are quite obscure, obtuse and / or confronting. These include:
o That Elvis was a programmed slave of the Illuminati
o Virgil Presley (Elvis’ actual biological father)
o Elvis’ “other” bro thers, including a set of triplets
o Elvis’ letters to psychic-medium, Carmen Montez
o Queen Queenie Wahina’s Papaya (not what you might think it is)
o The “Elvis is alive” conspiracy theory with entries including Orion, The Presley Commission and (Pastor) Bob Joyce
o How Russian fans listened to Elvis’ ‘banned’ music in the 50s and 60s (Rock on Bones/Music on Ribs)
And who would have thought Elvis and Nirvana could co-exist in the same musical environment?:
Some time in 2014, a bunch of hairy weirdos up in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK, decided for some reason to cover some Nirvana songs. With the singer doing them in the style of Elvis. And Elvana were born.
Those Australian fans who believe Elvis is alive and well driving a taxi (or Uber) in Queanbeyan, NSW…… I was wrong. He is actually driving a taxi in the Cayman Islands (Reviewers note: likely for tax reasons).
There is also plenty in An A-Z of Elvis for the reader to disagree with. For instance, how could anyone say Clambake was an ‘atrocious movie’, and go on to state:
The song itself is an absolute disgrace.
(Ok, as the reviewer, I am biased on this one, Clambake being the first Elvis movie I saw after becoming a fan and one I often fondly revisit)
(As webmaster, let me reassure EIN readers that Nigel will be soon moved back into his padded-cell along with the other Queanbeyan taxi drivers who consider Clambake a first-rate Elvis movie!- Piers)
While this review is based on an advanced copy of the manuscript, it appears that the book design is strong, with excellent use of deep colours and a modern look. The cover image is a striking, offbeat image of Elvis as (David Bowie’s) Aladdin Sane, well conveying the feel of what to expect inside, where the colourful, clean imagery of the artwork and thoughtful, well placed text, work a treat.
There was the odd formatting issue and typographical error in the “draft” I was provided. I am unsure whether these were corrected for the printed version, but regardless, they were only a minor issue and didn’t detract from my reading pleasure.
As An A-Z of Elvis is only 62 pages (with an appropriate low price to match), it is a quick read. And a really interesting one. There are entries you may know well, but there are pieces of information you may have long forgotten, and as I noted earlier, there is plenty of unusual narrative to confound and confront. Did we really know Elvis?
Verdict: An A-Z of Elvis: Infrequently Asked Questions may not be for everyone (Elvis musicologists take note). However, for those interested in Elvis’ broader socio-cultural impact, it offers an absorbing, fun, and sometimes confronting look at what Elvis means beyond his music. After reading An A-Z of Elvis I was left with the feeling that as long as Elvis’ pet chimp, Scatter, is not on the Zippin Pippin, we’re probably safe.
About the author: Joe Shooman is the author of ten books that have been published worldwide. He has written biographies of musicians, books about social media, comedy books and more. He continues to work on the smudgy border and continues to listen to the songs of Elvis. He and his dad have a combined collection of Elvis books that runs into several hundred and continues to grow.
Review by Nigel Patterson.
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-Copyright EIN March 2021
EIN Website content © Copyright the Elvis Information Network.
Coming soon: Author, Joe Shooman, talks to EIN
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Book Review - 'ELVIS UK3': Recently published 'ELVIS UK3' The Ultimate Guide to Elvis Presley's British CD Releases 1983-2005' by John Townson and Gordon Minto comprises 1400 pages with over a million words plus 4,000 plus illustrations.
This examination of Elvis’ British releases is an incredibly detailed narrative and visual record of his CD releases in the UK from 1983 to 2005. The first Elvis CD, 'The Legend' (3CD), was released in the UK in December 1983. Reflecting the fledgling nature of the format, UK fans had to wait another 12 months until the release of not one, but three, Elvis albums, in December 1984. By that time, the flood gates for the CD medium were starting to strain.
As with the authors’ earlier two volumes on Elvis UK vinyl releases, the information in Elvis UK3 is exhaustive.
To say that Elvis UK3 was well-researched would be a serious understatement. There is so much information in this book that it is difficult to comprehensively review it all. While many collectors will be most interested in the technical details for each entry, the author’s narrative is excellent.
Released using the flipbook format EIN tested Elvis UK3 on four platforms - a 28” computer monitor, 14” tablet, iPad 8 and a 6.5” android mobile phone.
EIN's Nigel Patterson has spent plenty of time reading through this massive work and here presents his in-depth review ...
(Book Review, Source;ElvisInformationNetwork)
Book Review – 'Elvis 1956 July 5 to July 31 (Memphis-Biloxi-New Orleans)': Paul Belard’s latest photobook is another strong release. Focusing on a month in 1956 when Elvis actually got to take vacation.
Starting on July 5, 1956 (the day after Elvis’ triumphant concert at Russwood Park in Memphis - this will be covered in another volume), the hundreds of photos (many candid shots) show a different side to Elvis than normally associated with books about Elvis during the height of Presleymania.
.. July 1956, Elvis days off were spent deep sea fishing and relaxing before Elvis returned to Memphis on the 20th, where photographer, Lloyd Shearer, was on hand to take a slew of photos of Elvis around the city. At the end of the month Elvis returned to Biloxi....
The images are nicely complemented by a diverse and fascinating collection of archival materials.
Go here to read EIN’s detailed review from Nigel Patterson
(Book Review, Source: ElvisInformationNetwork)
(Book Review) The Jewish World of Elvis Presley (Roselle Kline Chartock): The latest Elvis related book by an academic draws attention to an issue many fans will have been unaware of – the strong affinity Elvis had with Jews and how it influenced his life. Jews were disproportionately represented in Elvis’ life and inner circle – for instance, five of the Memphis Mafia were Jews. Was it just coincidence that there were so many Jews in Elvis’ life or was there something more at work?
Roselle Kline Chartock (Professor Emerita of Education) has written an absorbing and accessible account of the importance of Jews in Elvis’ life from his Jewish roots to the many personal friendships and professional relationships he enjoyed with them.
In so doing, the author reveals that what has previously been seen as a series of anecdotes, is actually a coherent and important theme in the Elvis story.
Read Nigel Patterson’s detailed review
(Book Reviews, Source;ElvisInfomationNetwork)
(Book Review): Kid of the King (Liz Presley): The world knows Lisa Marie Presley to be the only child of Elvis and Priscilla. In this new book, Liz Presley claims to be the “older sibling” of Lisa Marie - a claim that will be met with derision and disbelief by most fans.
EIN’s Nigel Patterson offers his views on Ms Presley’s claim and the author’s wider story which traverses her struggles with gender identity (Liz was born ‘David’), a troubled upbringing, becoming successful in business, fulfilling her dream to be a singer, and, most importantly, finding “herself” and her “real family”. Regardless of what readers think of the author’s claim, EIN’s Nigel Patterson found that there is an important message reflected in Kid of the King.
Read Nigel’s detailed review
(Book Review, Source: ElvisInformationNetwork)
(Book Review) Elvis@Argentina 1963-1969 (Carlos Ares): The second volume in Carlos Ares’ series of “coffee table” books detailing Elvis’ reception in Argentina is another high quality production. With a great balance between informative text, colorful images and impressive archival artefacts, it is a worthy inclusion in any fan’s Elvis library.
It is available in English and Spanish text editions.
Read EIN Nigel Patterson’s detailed review
(Book Review, Source:ElvisInfoNetwork)
(Book Review) Destined to Die Young (Sally Hoedel): Could Elvis’ death at the young age of 42 have been avoided? This question is answered in Sally Hoedel’s thought provoking book, Destined to Die Young.
The book is the result of exhaustive research by the author who found a key factor which was to affect Elvis throughout his life – one which meant that regardless of his diet and overuse of prescription medication, he was destined to die young. The narrative is full and colorful, and its depth of detail reflects the extent of research undertaken by the author.
In her introduction, the author establishes an important context for Elvis’ longevity (or lack of longevity) and health issues, this being his family tree.... Hoedel identifies the genetic disorder as Antitrypsin Deficiency, a condition which can result in lung and/or liver disease. In this respect, her discussion of the life and death of Gladys Presley is thought provoking..
Go here to read EIN Nigel Patterson's detailed review
(Book Review. Source: ElvisInformationNetwork)
(Book Review) From Elvis in Memphis (Eric Wolfson): The 150th volume in the popular Bloomsbury Academic 33 1/3 series of music history and criticism books is Eric Wolfson’s From Elvis in Memphis (due out on 12 November).
EIN’s Nigel Patterson recently sat down and submerged himself in what is the first (and long overdue) extensive examination of any Elvis album.
What Nigel found was a deeply considered, strongly written, and thought provoking analysis of what many regard as Elvis’ finest album.
.. "In 1968, Elvis Presley was worse than dead – he was irrelevant. After helping to establish rock and roll as a cultural force and becoming its biggest star in the 1950s, he now found himself eclipsed by the music. New artists like the Beatles and Bob Dylan blew the mid-1960’s rock landscape wide open.. Elvis, once the epitome of the young and exciting rock and roll star, had become old and stale.
From the moment that From Elvis in Memphis begins with a rock and roll Odysseus returning home after “a little while”, the album refuses to settle. Over the course of the record, people drive eight-wheel locomotives, ride in long black limousines, and soar like beautiful birds...."
Read Nigel’s detailed 3,000+ words review of From Elvis in Memphis
(Book Review, Source:ElvisInformationNetwork)