Book Review:


Kathleen Tracy, Greenwood Press, USA, 2007, USA, Hardcover, 140 pages, Illustrated, ISBN: 0313338272

Reviewed by Nigel Patterson.  Copyright EIN, Sep 2009

"Avoid this factually incorrect and specious biography of Elvis!"

Most books EIN gets to review have redeeming features.  For the first time in a long time though I am struggling to find anything positive in Kathleen Tracy’s incredulous biography of Elvis.  While it may not rival the infamous Albert Goldman release for mean spiritedness, Ms Tracy creates her own infamous place in the Elvis world with a shoddily researched and spurious release.

I will admit Tracy has a good writing style but her reliance on information from her co-author, Earl Greenwood on the 1990 memoir, The Boy Who Would Be King: An Intimate Portrait of Elvis Presley by his Cousin, is a major concern.  Greenwood’s claim to be a cousin of Elvis’s has long been suspect, with at best, only a distant family relationship; while his colourful account of growing up around Elvis has been widely disputed by those who actually were around the King. 


Sweeping generalisations and broad claims abound in Tracy’s ill founded book:

In later years, it would become a source of intense frustration to Elvis that he was never able to locate his brother’s grave site.

He [Elvis] developed an intense dislike and resentment of other entertainers.

Of as much, if not greater concern, are some of the incidents that Tracy alleged happened in Elvis’s life.  For instance, on Elvis’ affair with Juliet Prowse during the making of G.I. Blues in 1960, Tracy records:

Elvis and Juliet hooked up back in Vegas for a couple of days before she headed to Los Angeles for some business commitments.  One evening Elvis was in his dressing room, cooling down after a performance, when a stagehand peeked in and told him Frank Sinatra was outside to see him…….Sinatra complimented him some free advice: if Elvis wanted to continue working in good health, he should make sure he wasn’t stepping on the wrong toes.

So Tracy has the reader believe Elvis performed in Las Vegas in 1960 (incorrect) and that he was effectively threatened by the Chairman of the Board!

The author also has Elvis playing most days with his ‘cousin” Earl in Tupelo and the Presley and Greenwood families often sharing dinner; Elvis spurned by the person he saw as his saviour from a painful past and uncertain future, Dixie Locke; and Elvis as a sexual predator who looked down on women:

Elvis used women with relish but considered them cheap.  His attitude toward them was harsh, even hostile, once the sex was over.

Other questionable incidents have Elvis losing his virginity to an older woman called Laura and an orgy with “cousin” Earl and 4 girls, none of whom was aged over 17.

Tracy’s bio also propagates a number of those recurring myths in the Elvis world, such as Elvis failing abysmally at the Grand Ole Opry (not true) and Elvis winning 2nd place in a talent contest at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair (again not true). 

On the first claim, the fact is Elvis didn’t fit the music mould Opry fans were used to but they offered him polite, if restrained applause at the end of his set, and Opry head, Jim Denny, did not tell Elvis he should go back to driving a truck.  On the 2nd claim, Elvis in fact finished 5th in the contest and there is even a photo to prove it in Bill E. Burk’s excellent book, Early Elvis: The Tupelo Years.

Tracy also provides alleged conversations between Elvis and others, which given the other issues of concern with her book, must be considered as being highly suspect.  When Elvis questioned the Colonel about his film career the following exchange allegedly took place (after, Ms Tracy tells us, Elvis had bristled inside):

“I thought we agreed I’d get to do some other things?”

“You don’t tamper with success,” Parker told him.  “Maybe later.”

It’s always later.  I don’t see why I have to keep waiting.”

That this book was commissioned by Greenwood Press (no apparent connection to Earl Greenwood) as part of its Greenwood Biographies series, to meet high school and library needs, is alarming.  The author’s use of alleged personal conversations and fanciful incidents means students and library goers are receiving a skewed, factually corrupt and less than quality biography.  It raises serious questions about quality control within the Greenwood organisation and the integrity of other biographies in its series. 

Verdict: Kathleen Tracy’s biography of Elvis is full of questionable incidents.  Compared to the scholarly research of Peter Guralnick or the insightful analysis of Dave Marsh, Tracy’s effort comes off as cheap, tabloid production devoid of integrity or real truth.  Read this book at your own peril, or preferably avoid it all together!

About the author: Kathleen Tracy is a seasoned author who has written many books on a variety of subjects including three about Elvis. Her other biographies include Avril Lavigne; The Life and Times of Confucious; Diana Rigg and Sacha Baron Cohen.

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