Faux Elvis, Pat Cook, Outskirts Press, USA, 2007, Hardback (d/j), 189 pages, ISBN-10: 143270236X/ISBN-13: 978-1432702366
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Everybody has a story to tell, but not every story is fit to print in the newspaper...!JP continued to stare out the window. He turned, looked around the empty restaurant, and then he slowly let his gaze fall upon Kasey. He began to talk slowly.
"My brother's name was Jesse Garon." He paused, still afraid to open the Pandora's box of his secret. "My brother's name was Jesse Garon Presley...and my name is Elvis Presley."
Elvis continued looking out the window. Kasey closed her mouth and stared in stunned silence at JP--Elvis. Five minutes of silence passed. "JP...Elvis tell me. Tell me what happened."
A release, a reprieve, a great burden had risen like the phoenix from its sleep. Elvis sighed and fell silent.
Faux Elvis continues the trend of impressively written and entertaining Elvis novels. It concerns itself with the two weeks preceeding the "death of Elvis Presley" and the following twenty-four years after his death and funeral."
While the idea Elvis did not die on 16 August 1977 has occupied many, many pages of newspaper and magazine stories, Pat Cook's entry into the Elvis fiction sub-genre is fresh and beguiling.
The author has a pleasant, easy flowing writing style and her story has the added distinction of being historical fiction with various names and incidents based on fact. The blend of fact and fiction is a most satisfying one as it develops and unravels what is the 'story of the century'. Added interest is produced by centralising the character of Jesse Garon Presley ("JP"), Elvis' brother.
However, there is a lot more to Faux Elvis than its basic premise. An underlying theme of the story is not so much that the King is still alive, rather it is the internal struggle faced by young reporter, Kasey Costello - a struggle between her ambition to succeed and protecting the privacy of a man who wants to reveal himself to the world in his own way...in his own time.
Cook fills her central characters with an emotional depth resonating both sympathetic realism and understanding. Importantly, both JP and Kasey and are very believable.
The author paints vivid pictures with her prose, at times of inner themes:
As I sit on Merton's porch, I tried to think of his struggle against his wanderlust and his final acceptance of his place with God.....If these contradictions are analyzed instead of allowing them to be silenced, the contradictions will become a constant and insoluble problem.
At other times the evocative prose expresses youthful exuberance and the relative tranquility and lurking danger of growing up in a rural environment:
The last time my parents and I went crabbing, we went to Hickory Mound. We had nets, string, and a big bag of chicken necks. We tied the string around the chicken necks and threw the tied necks into the water. We placed our nets at the edge of the water, and we teased the crabs by pulling
the string toward us.........When my my parents were little, their parents took them crabbing in the same place. They swam in a little nook of the mound, while an alligator popped his head up and down farther out in the pond. When the alligator went down in the water, they jumped out. When his head popped back up, they went in the water. They never thought another alligator might have been in the water next to them."
Conspiracy theorists will have a field day with Faux Elvis! How Elvis fakes his death is reflective of a major theme of the infamous Elvis underground. The "plan" occupies three intriguing chapters. And who would have thought a small town like Steinhatchee would be so important to the events of August 1977!
Also, one cleverly constructed chapter features Elvis' journal from early to mid August 1977. It concludes with the poignant:
I want to be filled with a heavenly joy of living and contentment. Yet, I feel as though my happiness is like water slipping through my fingers.
The success of Faux Elvis is that while the essential narrative element is revealed at an early stage, Pat Cook's writing is so strong it invites the reader to care about and be intrigued as to the final outcome of her story.
Another strength of the author's exposition is the success she has in deftly developing a respectful admiration between her two principal protagonists. In so doing she lifts her narrative to a level beyond the normal dynamic of the egocentric driver which inspires many with routine but often unrealisable capitalist inspired dreams.
Faux Elvis is about real people with real struggles. In many respects it is a journey - not into silence, as sought by "JP" at one point ....but a journey into acceptance, an acceptance which ultimately has different dimensions for both JP and Kasey. Arguably both come to a greater understanding of not only each other, but also themselves.
Verdict: The world of Elvis fiction is a particularly rewarding one in which Faux Elvis is an intelligently constructed and valuable addition. Delightfully written and absorbing, it will appeal to all fans, regardless of your views about the events of August 16, 1977.
About the author: Pat Cook is a native of Florida. She returned to school at age 49, graduating with two degrees: Criminal Justice and Psychology. Faux Elvis is her first work of historical fiction.
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