Book Review: "Elvis Decoded"

Elvis Decoded A Fan's Guide To Deciphering The Myths And Misinfomation, Patrick Lacy, AuthorHouse, USA, 379 pages, Illustrated, ISBN: 9781425955908

For some reason, since The King's death on a steamy, hot day in Memphis on 16 August 1977, the Elvis world has been one continually characterised by outlandish claims, wild theories and muddled information.

Illegitimate children; Elvis murdered; Elvis faked his death; secret Elvis recordings; "Elvis" double replaces The King after the Army; Elvis abducted by aliens...these and a lot more have tantalised the world since that fateful day in 1977.

Finally, someone has done the research, gathered the facts and put it all together in one book! Patrick Lacy is to be congratulated on Elvis Decoded, a powerful, yet flawed, decimation of many of the unfounded theories and claims that have been the fodder of an eager tabloid media and an even more eager Elvis underground movement.

For the latter, arguably theirs is an interest fired by an uncontrollable, inflexible and subliminal psychological compulsion...or is it in fact too flexible?

Elvis Decoded traverses a very wide spectrum of information. Within its covers the author discusses, dissects and destructs myth after myth using structured investigative research and logic.

That these professional imperatives are missing from many of the sensationalist books and magazines published about Elvis will not surprise many, but it is pleasing to finally see a cogent, well argued case across so many of the myths and misinformation which have scourged the Elvis world.

Some of the engrossing topics addressed are:
  • the Forest Hill Cemetery break-in
  • Dick Grob's controversial book, The Elvis Conspiracy
  • what really happened on 16 August 1977
  • the 1994 autopsy
  • the bone cancer theory theory
  • the Elvis is alive theories
  • the infamous cough syrup incident,
  • the meeting of the President and the King
  • Elvis' will
  • Dr Nick post 1977
  • Lisa Johansen
  • Gail Brewer-Giorgio
  • Bill Beeny and DNA
  • Dr Donald Hinton

While the author addresses a wide range of fascinating topics, the key driver of Elvis Decoded is Elvis' death in 1977. This is necessary given how the intersection of many of the myths and misinformation in the Elvis world.

A strength of the book's narrative is the author's willingness to explore a range of possible scenarios for each myth and to logically analyse each one. Lacy's dialectical approach to his subject matter is a correct methodology even if you do not agree with every one of his conclusions.

In presenting his argument the author essentially concerns himself with publicly available materials rather than the perverse, and at times incredulous, writings that dominate the mysterious Elvis underground. Through the use of factual investigation, a series of scenario based examinations and well thought out chronologies, Patrick Lacy has produced a wonderfully illuminating, challenging, and thought provoking book.

Lacy researched Elvis Decoded over 10 years. He sourced out primary documents, chased down leads, discounted the fallacious, and employed logical analysis in looking at the evidence like a forensic scientist. The result will please many fans, while the "true disbelievers" will undoubtedly scurry to the dark recesses of their cognitive dissonance to regroup and mount a fresh attack on the unwanted intruder to their strangely textured, underground world.

The reader is treated to many detailed explorations on how, why, when, where and what, as the author takes out his investigative tools and peers inside some of the most misunderstood and incredible stories ever told.

Lacy's depth of thinking on where Elvis' body was found is both sound and pleasingly claustrophobic, as he weaves the reader into the minutae of what transpired on 16 August 1977. You literally breathe the journey with the author as he circumnavigates each of its possible twists and turns.

On the popular Elvis is alive theme, Lacy is relentless as he pierces mortal holes in many of the commonly accepted strands of the theory. While not all of his arrows hit the bullseye, the author cogently exposes enough weaknesses to seriously undermine any ongoing rational belief in the theory.

Lacy also takes a strong line against the post-Elvis death investigation by Dick Grob. Sifting through the facts, witness statements and other evidence he builds a credible case that Grob's book The Elvis Conspiracy is a very flawed work.

On the issue of what killed Elvis (the commonly reported cause of cardiac arrythmia is by definition, medically inadequate), Lacy addresses the 1994 autopsy examination. He also deftly sheds important light on the codeine vs. Dilaudid tablets issue.

One of the more prosaic issues addressed and explained in Elvis Decoded is the 1984 Muhammad Ali-Elvis photo. Lacy gives the reader the factual reality for the "Elvis" figure in the photo. Despite this information it is amazing how many people still believe it is Elvis in the photo! Therein arguably lies an important clue as to why so many Elvis myths endure.

There is also a fascinating discussion about the mystery surrounding Elvis' last will (or six wills) including a disturbing suggestion around handwriting on the will, and a fresh and revealing look at the circumstances and motivations for the claimed Forest Hill Cemetery break-in in late August 1977. Did it really happen? The reader will be surprised at what the author has uncovered.

However, despite its many strengths, Elvis Decoded is not perfect. At times the author unfortunately dices with shades of light and dark and provides 'windows of opportunity' for his detractors to counter-punch the point.

For example, Lacy's discussion of the supposed "uncashed" Lloyds of London uncashed insurance policy will be unconvincing to many as it begs a fundamental question.

Also, his structural analysis, using excerpts from other authors, ignores the fact that many authors have simply borrowed alleged fact and position from others. Using many quotes from other authors gives the impression of a wide body of differing opinion, yet in fact there may only be one or two primary positions, with secondary and tertiary writings simply embellishing, rejigging, or adding minor details or variations to the original. While in some cases Lacy's device is legitimate, on others it unfortunately only serves to muddy the waters and suggest a bigger controversy than actually exists.

Several inconsistencies in argument also detract from an otherwise thorough research and analysis. On the chronology of 16 August 1977 Lacy makes an issue that the maids did not twig when Elvis didn't call down for breakfast (taken when most people eat lunch), yet elsewhere he acknowledges that Elvis had earlier said he didn't want to be disturbed until 4pm.

At times the narrative in Elvis Decoded begs the question. Reflecting on Lacy's discussion of travel times from Graceland to Baptist Memorial I wondered what were the changes in population and traffic flows between 1977 and now in that sector of Memphis, and what potential impact they may have on the validity of the author's argument.

I was particularly surprised that Lacy also gave more weight to non-sworn testimony than sworn testimony in concluding that Dick Grob was arguably not at Graceland on the afternoon of 16 August 1977 and did not travel in the ambulance to Baptist Memorial Hospital.

There are also omissions in Elvis Decoded and there are a number of myths and claims briefly discounted without material discussion (eg. Lucy de Barbin's claim of 'mothering' Elvis' child). The de Barbin story has arguably garnered more media attention than all but the Elvis is alive storyline. In the late 1980s her book, Are You Lonesome Tonight?, led the illegitimate children charge with high sales, vast print and electronic media coverage, and a proposed Hollywoood movie.

That Lacy however chooses to discuss the more recent Elvis Presley Jr. story in considerable depth is interesting but probably not surprising given its topicality, albeit of a very minor nature compared to the de Barbin story.

There is also no discussion of Timothy James Farrell (who obtained some media exposure in recent years with his claim to be an illigitimate son) or the strangely compelling Larry Blong saga.

While they are probably too current to have been included it would have been interesting to read what Lacy makes of the repugnant claims of Jimmy and Jesse Lee Denson, and the forgotten family of Elvis Presley as told by Elvis' Aunt Lois. Perhaps in Elvis Decoded 2?

Above: Part of the vast Elvis conspiracy library

In defence of Patrick Lacy, as the author stated to EIN in recent correspondence, he had to discard a lot more than he put in Elvis Decoded. It was simply not possible to include all of his research or all of the stunning myriad of colorful stories which make up the mythological Elvis underground. (And at 379 pages his book is already both a very impressive size with a very impressive content!)

For this reason, the hobo featured in the closing stages of the film Finding Graceland is discussed while the "Elvis" like figure in Home Alone is not. Operation Fountain Pen (being factual verifiable) is included, while the dubious Operation Phone Book is not.

I suspect these potentially flawed structural approaches to his work leave Lacy open to the same thing he criticises many of the proponents - accepting unverified facts, offering his own subjectively derived opinion based on research, and begging more than one question.

Having said this, these weaknesses do not devalue the essential core of Elvis Decoded. Patrick Lacy's work is a long overdue and necessary one. For far too long proponents of wild Elvis myths and misinformation have been able to operate in a context lacking a cohesive counterpunch addressing their position. While there is still some way to go to fully counter the extravagant stories of the Elvis underground, Elvis Decoded potently succeeds in derailing many of the ridiculous myths uncritically accepted by too many fans.

And as with any good work of investigative research, the fact that on some issues it raises questions rather than provides satisfying answers, only serves to reinforce the complex nature of our society and its multi-layered shades of black, white, gray and color. Sadly, establishing the full truth is not always possible.

Verdict: Patrick Lacy's Elvis Decoded is a much needed exploration and expose of many myths and misinformation in the Elvis world. It is not perfect, but it is an impressive start in sensibly assessing the mythical Elvis world in a studious, rigorous way, devoid of fanciful rhetoric. It is essential reading for anyone seriously concerned with finding the truth.

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Reader Feedback

Ida Ritter: I believe with certainty that EIN did a fair and balance review of this book.  As others said already many questions are still unanswered and some borrowed from other authors and books.  The myth is still there and will still leave us to make our own conclusions, no matter how much anybody tried to unveiled it.

I would like to add though that the legend that Elvis Presley is, and to my very thought out opinion, and the reason why since his beginnings people were drawn to him was not only because of his great voice, and that very particular way he interpret every song with his special signature.  He represented a change in the history of this country and the world, he confronted and endured many situations for his own believes, he touched so many because with the way he portrayed himself showed this country and the world, that a change was needed and he dare to make that change in spite of the controversy and the critics he received, but at the same time he was trap in his own magia, (magic) and with the wrong people around himself to get advise and orientation was not able to find the way to handle his fame and fortune.

I admire this man not only for his music but for creating a different way of looking at things, from the way you fix your hair, to the way you dress and the way you talk, withoug forgetting his humble beginnings,  and not even digging into the obscure side of his life is going to change that; or the legend that he is. I must add though that something is really there when there are so many drawn to write books and take time to search pursuing what really happened to Elvis as is the case of Elvis Decoded.

This book is nothing new, and still leave us wondering and with the same questions without answers, we are at the beginning point.
Thanks for letting me comment on this book and review

Beatrice Franklin: Elvis Decoded is to be welcomed in the Elvis world. I have waited a long, long time for someone to publish all of the stories and give us the truth of what is going on.

John Walker: Having read only three chapters of Elvis Decoded I must say I am disappointed at its content. Indeed a great deal of solid research is apparent, but Patrick Lacy also displays an obvious disdain for Dick Grob. After declaring he has no vendetta against Grob he goes on to attack his book with strongly worded and emotional langauge. Lacy acknowledges Al Strada's medical training but from my quick reading is strangely silent on Grob's law enforcement background. Balanced?.....I don't think so. Elvis Decoded is too much a transparent agenda rather than a wholly objectively reasoned case.

Gina Hawksworth: Elvis Presley is about his music. Why is EIN wasting its time with something most fans couldn't care about and are not interested in? More music please!!!

Carla Hernandez: I don't usually comment on these things but after reading so much conspiracy drivel on EIN I have been compelled to write in. I can't believe people are actually interested in this stuff. I find it ridiculous and offensive. Can't we celebrate Elvis not drag his name through the mud.

Barry Friedman: I started reading Elvis Decoded last week. I'm about half way through and enjoying it. I've learned a lot I didn't know before. I agree with the reviewer though it doesn't answer all questions and the authors style is sometimes subjective.

Linda Sowers: I will not be buying an Elvis Decoded 2.  The flaws in this book outweigh the strengths.  Funny, the author did 10 years of research and still wasn't able to verify who was in the poolhouse picture.  I disagree with the reviewer's statement that "It is essential reading for anyone seriously concerned with finding the truth."  However, I do agree with the reviewer's statement that the author was "accepting unverified facts, offering his own subjectively derived opinion based on research, and begging more than one question."  With a few exceptions, his own subjectively derived opinions prevailed throughout this book.  Lacy is on the opposite side of the fence from Dr. Bill Beeny, but there was no need to call him "a wealthy right-wing religious fanatic."  That's a tad too subjective to me.  Anyone interested in finding truth book would be better off doing his/her own research and not waste their money on this book.

AJ: If you weren't confused before reading Elvis Decoded ; you will be after struggling through this thing. The author has decoded nothing. He's "borrowed " from others books and appears to love giving you three or four answers  to one question. Answers given by different people, but HE concludes which is the better answer. Oh my, I was afraid of this. Once again; a big fat zero !! NO facts, no proof. Just his conclusions.  He must think a lot of himself.

While it sells at a reasonable price, for a book ....we're doing the same thing, but for free .And you get to choose your own answers.......;-}

While I think EIN has done a pretty fair job in its review ......I don't consider myself or anyone I know to be part of any "underground" anywhere. There used to be one I heard; but they seem to have grown up or gotten too old to really care anymore. It's too bad others can't just give all that a rest. It only existed in the minds of ones that let it anyway. All you gotta do is turn off your computer .....

Ann Turner: EIN has finally done it! A balanced review, not one of their either all for or all against posts. This is how reviews ought to be.

Tony Kingston: I very much enjoyed your review of Elvis Decoded.

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