Book Review:

Elvis, Lennon & JFK

by David Chisnell, 2012

Elvis, Lennon & JFK is available in both softcover and Kindle format

Reviewed by Nigel Patterson, March 2013



From the publisher's pr - Elvis, Lennon and JFK are members of an elite club:

Elvis, Lennon & JFK is set on the evening of John Lennon's assassination in New York, 1980. Having been shot dead John finds himself in a strange room with only JFK and Elvis for company. Both try to convince him he is dead but John prefers to believe he's in the middle of some great Acid trip. Finally they succeed and John discovers that he has joined a very exclusive club. Membership requirements are that millions of people will forever remember where they were when they first heard of your death. There are only the three members.  

One of the latest Elvis novels, Elvis, Lennon & JFK, introduces the reader to a particularly intriguing theme - one which brings together three of the 20th century's most famous icons. A summit meeting of legends in their own lifetime, except that their meeting transpires post their mortality!

Not surprisingly, a key theme which drives the narrative is the struggle between each protagonist as each tries to assert dominance over the others. What transpires is that they are each forced to challenge their beliefs and view each other in a different way. But more on that shortly.

In many ways, Elvis, Lennon & JFK is a psychological drama.

The psychological aspects of the story are well crafted. Chisnell portrays each of his neo-triumvir from “inside”, reflecting their thoughts and feelings. Whether the respective thoughts and feelings are valid is for the reader to decide.

The book offers the reader plenty to ponder. A set of political undertones is interesting, including the idea that JFK was only warming the Oval office seat for his younger brother, the ‘better qualified’, Robert.

One of the problems in writing a book around three strong protagonists is that at times the narrative can become quite confusing, particularly as the respective egos clash and dodge and weave tactically attempting to achieve the upper hand.

Given who the three main characters are and the situation they are in, their natural political leanings frequently come to the fore. Right wing 'Stud' Elvis conflicts with the suspicious mind of the left wing and ascerbic Lennon, while both men clash with the political ego of JFK, with Lennon, in particular, challenging the political decisions during JFK’s time as President.

Key incidents in each of the three lives are revisited throughout the story. In Elvis’s case Priscilla and the Colonel feature prominently, and at one point Lennon hits a raw nerve involving the Colonel:

'Oh come on Elvis, you were just a cash cow, he used you' John continues to mock. 'Wrapped you round his little finger. If he said 'jump' you'd ask how high?' Oh yeah, he looked after you alright.'

'You watch your mouth, John. Nobody pulled my strings, I did what I wanted to.'

For Lennon there is a resonance around Paul and Yoko, with this passage particularly striking:

JFK is amazed. 'You're saying Yoko was your first love?'

'I am.' John pauses. 'I mean, I'd been with hundreds of girls before but none of them meant anything to me. Even with Cyn, it wasn't that big a deal. If it hadn't been for Julian we'd have never got married. But that's what you did, you know, you got a girl pregnant, you married her.'

Later, John continues his attack, this time about Elvis having never toured outside the US:

'Like the Colonel being an illegal immigrant?' John decides to twist the knife a little. 'Isn't that the truth, Elvis? He was too scared to leave the U.S. in case he couldn't get back in?'

Elvis had heard the stories. It made sense but he wasn't certain. He replies. 'I don't know, there were all sorts of rumours going round.'

'Rumours be buggered.' John continues twisting. 'The Colonel was too scared to leave and you were too scared to go without him.'

Another theme in the book is who will be remembered over time. The political history books will record JFK while the social history and pop culture library will record Elvis and Lennon. Is one person more important than the other(s) or are all three just as important in their own way? Of course, Elvis has one quality in his favour – there is only one King of Rock ‘n’ Roll! Lennon was part of the four man Beatles, while JFK is but one of 43 individual Presidents of the United States.

It is on this issue of who will be remembered that JFK's views on Elvis are transformed:

He doesn't think Elvis has a point. He can't have a point. There is no point....

JFK takes his time. Elvis did have a point. And it was a hell of a point. How did Elvis find a point like that. Guy's smarter than he thought.

Any book predicated on a meeting of three of the 20th century’s greatest icons has the potential to be both entertaining and challenging, the latter because the narrative necessarily relies heavily on long tracts of reflective thought processes and a talky approach to its main characters.

At times I felt Elvis, Lennon & JFK became a little too talky, albeit interestingly talky and I’m also not sure if the author’s (understandable) writing convention of commencing paragraphs using the titular names Elvis, Lennon and JFK, works as well as it could have.

Having said that, Elvis, Lennon & JFK is a rollicking read with the author injecting nice dollops of humour to lighten the narrative:

Another smile, Elvis takes a step forward. 'No, there's someone else,' he pauses, 'can you guess who?'

'O.K. is it Jimi Hendrix?'

'Too loud.'


'Too deaf.'

'Bill Haley?'

The smile leaves Elvis's face and is replaced by a look of surprise. 'Haley's not dead.'

Now John looks surprised. 'You sure?'

Verdict: I enjoyed my time with Elvis, Lennon and JFK as they reminisced and sparred for ascendency. This is a different type of story and one which offers the reader plenty to think about.


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