Best selling author, Allen Harbinson talks to EIN

Interview conducted betwen Allen Harbinson and Nigel Patterson, August 2012

Comment on this interview


The EIN Interview (August 2012)

Intro: Allen Harbinson (aka W.A. Harbinson) is no stranger to the Elvis world. His various books on Elvis have sold well over 1 million copies and are highly regarded by many fans. A best selling author about not only Elvis, but also in the fields of UFOlogy, celebrity biography, war and fiction, Allen's latest book, Iconic Voices, has Elvis as one of five icons who he inhabits to provide a thought provoking and very funny record of social events and the rise of the cult of celebrity in the second half of the 20th century.

In one of the most fascinating interviews EIN has ever conducted, Allen discusses his colourful life:

  • his working class roots in Northern Ireland and Dickensian-like early vocations
  • his time in the RAAF in Australia
  • working in a senior position for one of the biggest mens magazine publishing houses in Britain
  • the perks of being a commissioned author
  • a guy named Elvis including Charles Bronson and Elvis
  • shenanigans in Germany while 'ghost writing' Private Elvis
  • the surprising person who taught Elvis some of his on-stage moves
  • the truth about Evita Peron
  • his period as a best selling author in the field of UFOs and writer of celebrity biographies
  • quantum theory, plus a lot more!

EIN: Allen, many thanks for taking time to talk to EIN. It is appreciated.  I’d like to start the interview by discussing your life experiences. You have had a colourful life with many twists and turns.  Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland you became an apprentice plumber and gasfitter.  That is very Dickensian and sounds like an interesting experience.  Please tell us about it.

WAH: Yes, it was kind of Dickensian. I was raised in a working-class, Protestant area of Belfast, left school at fourteen, went straight into a textile factory, first as a message boy, then as an apprentice textile fitter. However, I was only seventeen when I moved to Birkenhead, England, with my family, where I became an apprentice gas fitter with what is now, I believe, the Mersey Gas Group.

Opposite: order Iconic Voices from Amazon UK

I gained my City and Guilds Certificate,  which made me a 1st class plumber and 2nd class gas fitter, but before I could do my final year, when I was nineteen years old, my mother decided to leave my father and return to Belfast, so I was going to have to choose between them.

Instead, I applied for a £10 migrant’s ticket on a ship to Australia, on a 6-week voyage that took me through the Suez Canal and gave me the first addictive experience of my life, by which I mean travel. I disembarked at Sydney. 

EIN: Australia - the land of wide open spaces, sun drenched plains and golden beaches where sun-bronzed Aussies roam wild (EIN Note: the foregoing is an unashamed plug for Australia). What are your fondest memories of being “downunder”?

WAH: Trust an Aussie to beat the drum for his own country. Nevertheless, I’m inclined to agree with you. I loved Australia and my oldest friend to this day is an Aussie who now lives in Spain. I arrived in Australia in 1960, bummed around with a couple of English guys for a couple of months, living in a caravan, then spent a few months serving behind the counter in Woolworths, in Chatswood, Sydney, and then, because I wanted to travel, was persuaded by a friend to join the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).

I went in as a trainee telegraphist, but was already working on my first novel, a World War II epic later published as None But the Damned, so I showed the fat manuscript to Flight Lieutenant Alfred Jones, the adjutant of the School of Radio, who, luckily for me, also happened to be a former pilot who wrote short stories about RAAF fighter pilots. Because he thought the manuscript showed unusual talent, he suggested that I become a medical clerk and work in air force hospitals. He suggested this because he believed that working with doctors in hospitals would give me experience of real life – the suffering and courage of the patients and their loved ones – and would also guarantee that I, being still single and free, would get to travel a lot.

So I became a medical clerk, serving in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Canberra, and, more exotically, in Thailand and Malaya, which was then in the violent process of becoming Malaysia. My fondest memories of my nearly seven years in Australia are of falling in and out of love a few times and, though it isn’t quite Australia, of being posted by the RAAF to Thailand and Malaya, both of which were invaluable experiences for a budding writer.  

EIN: Allen, I know all our male readers want to know.  You were once a Chief Associate Editor of men’s magazines, including the legendary British publication, Men Only.  To many men that sounds like the dream job!  What exactly did your role entail and what are your memories of that time?

WAH: Another great experience for a budding writer. I had left the RAAF and was back in England, living in London and scratching a living from the odd hack novel and short stories, when one of my stories caught the eye of Tony Power, the Editor of Men Only and Club International. Tony  was as much impressed by my clear command of spelling and grammar as he was by the dubious merits of the story. He had just sacked the previous Assistant Editor of Men Only by throwing a chair at him – Tony liked to drink and snort and was more than a little volatile – so he took me on as the new Assistant Editor and later promoted me to Chief Associate Editor of both Men Only and Club International.

Since EIN has younger readers, I won’t describe my time there in detail; it only needs be said that since I was there during the Mary Whitehouse and Lord Longford anti-pornography campaigns of the early 1970s – and since the magazines were what they were – I met an incredible number of way-out characters and had an extremely colourful time. Indeed, I later used my time there – three years in all – as the basis for what turned out to be my daughter’s favourite of her dad’s novels, the outrageous, blackly comic novel, Deadlines, which satirises everything from the men’s magazine business to Female Liberation. Deadlines is also a personal favourite, because either it has its readers falling about laughing or it deeply offends them. What more could a writer want? 

EIN: During your time as Chief Associate Editor with Paul Raymond Publications (EIN Note: Paul Raymond was born George Anthony Quinn) you commissioned articles and interviews with many famous celebrities including Peter Sellers, James Mason, Quentin Crisp, Erich von Daniken, Ernie Wise and Spike Milligan.  Were you personally involved in the interviews?

WAH: No. I only commissioned them.

EIN: You must have many stories about those celebrities.  Can you share some of the more memorable stories with us?

WAH: Since I didn’t personally interview those celebrities and rarely met them, I really don’t have any celebrity stories to tell, apart from the few recounted in my autobiography. Colonel Parker, Debra Paget, Quentin Crisp, Francis Bacon, Molly Parkin, writers like Colin Wilson, Angela Carter, and so on. Details of these sometimes brief encounters can be found in The Writing Game (see Amazon link below). I really didn’t lead a celebrity life, you know. When sober I was quite retiring and actually loathed celebrity functions. In fact, when researching my books on Bronson and George C. Scott, I spent a small fortune paying other people to conduct the interviews for me.   

EIN: You were born in Northern Ireland but now live in Eire.  Why have you defected to the south?

WAH: I haven’t really defected. Like most of my comings and goings, I ended up here by accident. With my marriage dissolving at the time, I was desperately late with a commissioned – and very long - novel. So in a bid to resolve my marital problems and also finish the overdue novel, I decided to go away for a few months and friends offered me a converted cottage in Ballineen, West Cork, at a peppercorn rent. Three months later, I finished the novel, my marriage collapsed, and I became involved with someone else and remained in West Cork. I’ve been here ever since. I believe I’ve been here about sixteen years.  

EIN: How many books have you written, including those by your alter-ego, Shaun Clarke?

WAH: I don’t have an exact figure, but it’s certainly more than fifty. I can hardly believe it myself.

EIN: Iconic Voices.  Your latest book is a novel (pun intended) approach to biography and social record.  Please describe it for our readers.

WAH:  Iconic Voices is an attempt to describe satirically the development of so-called ‘celebrity culture’ over the past five-odd decades and to show how celebrities, no matter how great their talent or intelligence, have their original personalities distorted by fame.

Opposite: order Iconic Voices from Amazon USA

EIN has already described the book in its warming review, so I’ll only add that I picked my five subjects – Elvis, Marlon Brando, Norman Mailer, John Lennon, and Andy Warhol – because they were all exceptionally talented and intelligent, yet they were all, in their various ways, turned inside-out by their fame. They were also all linked by the social upheavals they lived through, so that made them doubly interesting to me.

EIN: What gave you the idea for Iconic Voices?

WAH: I don’t really know. I suspect it was just gestating in the back of my mind for months, maybe years, and then suddenly burst free. I had spent the previous nine years labouring on a massive, 2-volume novel covering the whole history of ‘the Troubles’ in Northern Ireland, and so, at seventy years old, had decided that I didn’t want to write anymore – certainly not novels. This wasn’t writer’s block – it was a conscious decision, based on my age.

Yet amazingly, one day in late 2010, at approximately four in the morning – F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘long, dark night of the soul’ – I woke up feeling as bright as a new pin and writing Iconic Voices in my head. I just couldn’t shake the idea out of my head – I couldn’t go back to sleep – so I got out of bed and sat down at my computer and typed out the first couple of pages of each of the five parts – in the exact sequence later used in the finished book. Then I went back to bed, had a short sleep, and then  returned to my study to check what I’d written, convinced that it was probably demented rubbish. When I saw that the first pages of each of the five parts were almost exactly as I’d envisaged them, I knew I just had to write the book. And I did. In three months.

EIN: After reading Iconic Voices it is very obvious how well you know your iconic subjects.  How did you research each of the five central characters?

WAH:  In truth, I didn’t have to do too much research. The books I consulted are all listed in the back of the published work. And I choose those five subjects because I already knew all about them and, with the exception of Andy Warhol, had most of the required reference works to hand. Elvis – obviously. He was and remains my favourite singer of all time and so I have every recording he ever made; and, if not having read every book written about him – so many! so much rubbish! – I’ve certainly read all the major works.

As for Marlon Brando, again, he’s my favourite actor – I’m convinced he was a genius - so I already had most of his movies on DVD and just about every book written about him. Regarding Norman Mailer, I’d read just about everything he wrote and also had most of the biographies. John Lennon? I already had all of the Beatles albums and most of their major post-Beatles albums. I also had most of the major biographies, both of the Beatles as a group and as individual artists.

In truth, then, the only one of my five subjects that I really had to research was Andy Warhol, whose work I admired without actually knowing too much about it. So I bought a lot of books on his art and on related artists. I also leaned heavily on his amazingly detailed Andy Warhol Diaries. Interestingly, of all the five subjects, he was the one who was changed least by fame. Always hugely talented and slightly mad, he remained that way to the day he died. He also loved Elvis, of course, and made a fortune by producing many art works with Elvis as his subject. No fool, Mr. Warhol!

EIN: Writing in the first person can lead to some criticism.  Does this bother you?

WAH: Not in the least. I agree with what you said in your review.

EIN: How are sales of the book?

WAH: Modest so far, but it’s early days yet. One of the problems in selling through Amazon is competing with the hundreds of thousands of other books out there. I love producing my own books, but I’m pretty useless at getting attention for them, apart from sending out the odd review copy, as I did with EIN. I’m really not that interested because, in my advanced years, I’m doing the books as a kind of paying hobby, happy to sell what I sell and rarely checking my figures.

I may also have a problem in that much as I believe my five subjects to be historically linked, fans of Elvis, for instance, may not be interested in reading about Norman Mailer or Andy Warhol, while lovers of Mailer or Warhol may not be interested in reading about Marlon Brando or John Lennon. So, while I believe the book works best as a whole, as an overview of celebrity culture, I’ve also broken it up into five separate short, cheap volumes, to cater for those individual tastes. Sales, so far, have been healthy and regular, if not earth-shaking. Will the EIN review turn me into an OAP millionaire? At my age, wishful thinking is a tonic.

EIN: Iconic Voices is available in both softcover and e-book (Amazon Kindle) formats, including the individual chapters. Is one format proving more popular than the other?

WAH: If by ‘format’ you mean the difference between POD (print-on-demand) books and e-books, my own experience is that e-books are definitely taking over and outselling the printed editions. If by ‘format’ you mean the difference between Iconic Voices as a single-volume edition, both printed and as an e-book, or as five separate, shorter works published only as e-books, so far, to my great surprise, the single edition, both as a printed POD book and as an e-book, is outselling the five separate, much cheaper, editions. 

EIN: I’d like to talk now about some of your other books. Elvis Presley: An Illustrated Biography reached #1 of the New York Best Sellers list in 1977.  That was a major achievement.  You must have been very proud?

WAH: I wasn’t particularly proud because it wasn’t a major achievement. I had written that text a couple of years before Elvis died, not even knowing he was having health problems, and the book only went to #1 in the New York bestseller lists because Elvis had unexpectedly died and my book just happened to be on the market at the time. So, in that great American way, the New York publisher printed two million copies in the hopes of saturating the market and selling at least a million.

And the book sold a million. What I felt, therefore, was an undeniable elation at my personal success, combined with an odd kind of guilt because Elvis’s death had incidentally given me what Andy Warhol would have described as my ‘fifteen minutes of fame’. So, though not having actually cashed in on Elvis’s death – I had written my text, after all, a couple of years before his passing – in no way could it be said that I felt proud at my major achievement. For me, it was a major, hugely beneficial, accident.

EIN: How many copies did it go on to sell in its various editions?

WAH: It was all so long ago and I don’t have exact figures, but no question that over the years, particularly given the many other editions released, some without my knowledge, total sales are well over a million, possibly closer to two.

EIN: It was also reissued with different titles over the years.  Are the royalties good?

WAH: The royalties were good for a while, but most of those editions are now out of print and I haven’t received a royalty cheque in years. 

EIN: Your 1992 book, Elvis Presley, was released under your Christian names, William Allen.  Was there a particular reason why you did not use your surname?

WAH: As I recall, the publisher of that particular commissioned work simply didn’t want his potential purchasers to confuse his own publication with my previous bestseller and perhaps decide not to buy it, thinking they already had the same book in a new format. So we agreed to use the pseudonym, which is, of course, as you’ve noted, not really a pseudonym but my two Christian names. I should say, incidentally, that despite taking on that commission for purely mercenary reasons – I was deeply in debt at the time – I’m still pretty proud of it, because apart from writing the text, I wrote all the captions and also contributed the many quotes from other artistes. Being reprinted many times, the book made a packet, but I didn’t, because, being in debt, I desperately took it on for a set fee and received no royalties. 

EIN: Is it true you were the ‘ghost writer’ for the book, Private Elvis (Elvis in Germany: The Missing Years) (see link above)?

WAH: Yes.

EIN: How did this come about?

WAH: It was a straight commission from Boxtree Publications, London. They had heard that I was a so-called ‘authority’ on Elvis and urgently needed a ghost-writer because the two guys supplying the supposedly ‘rare’ material were not professional writers. I say ‘supposedly’ because when I arrived at the Boxtree offices to be considered for my role in the whole affair, they had the supposedly rare photographic material hidden under a white sheet on their boardroom table. When they dramatically pulled the sheet away, I was able to confirm that the photos had been published elsewhere, long before, and were widely known to Elvis fans.

Shocked, they nevertheless sent me off to Germany, with one of their editors, to meet the so-called ‘private detective’, actually a supermarket security man, and his partner, a devoted German fan and ‘Elvis memorabilia’ collector. Now aware that the photographic  collection was not unique and had, indeed, been used elsewhere, the publishers were banking on the sensational possibilities of a secret affair that Elvis had supposedly conducted with a female German fan 

As proof, they had lots of photos showing her with Elvis. The fan turned out to be simply another German teenager who had waited regularly outside Elvis’s rented house in Bad Nauheim and eventually got to meet him and be photographed with him, though always in the presence of others. She had never even been invited into the house. 

So I returned to London with surprisingly little sensational material and, in desperation, collected as much as I could about Elvis in Germany from the now defunct clippings morgue of a Fleet Street newspaper. And we cobbled the text together from what we’d gathered between us, with me as ‘ghost writer’,  and Boxtree did a nicely designed, clever production, artfully cropping the photos of Elvis and his supposed secret teenage lover and putting them together in a mocked-up family album style to make the relationship seem more intimate. And they made a lot of money and even sold serialisation rights to Life magazine in the US.

I didn’t think much of my text, which was heavily edited, but I did enjoy the experience in general, having been given a free trip to Germany, the hotel thrown in, and having free drinkies and so on . Most of the more entertaining details of this particular package job can be found in my autobiographical work: The Writing Game: Recollections of an Occasional Bestselling Author. They’re good for a laugh.  

EIN: One of the best Elvis books of the 1990s was Growing Up With The Memphis Flash, which you wrote with Kay  Wheeler.  The book was published by Ger Rijff’s Tutti Frutti Productions and tells Kay’s story as President of the first ever Elvis fan club.  How did you become involved in this project?

WAH: God, now you’re going back! It was Kay who actually called me from Houston, Texas, to inform me that in a caption for a photo used in my bestseller, Elvis: An Illustrated Biography, I’d named her as ‘Kate’ instead of ‘Kay’ and that she hadn’t been just a ‘fan’ but had been close to Elvis during the 1950s and had, indeed, formed his first ever Elvis Fan Club. She was very nice about my mistake and I agreed to correct it for future editions. Then we got to talking and Kay told me all about her relationship with Elvis and how she’d formed the first fan club and even taught him some of his on-stage moves and was planning to write a book about it and wondered if I’d be willing to co-author it with her.

So imagining that I was on to a gold mine, I flew to Houston to spend a week or so with Kay and her husband and child, then went on to Dallas to interview her sister and other people of possible interest. I won’t go into this in too much detail – it would take up most of your editorial space. Suffice to say that by the time I returned to London, I knew that Kay’s slight, short-lived  relationship with Elvis was hardly enough to make a book, so I decided, instead, to try it as a memoir of Kay’s personal experience of growing up in desolate Texas during the dull Eisenhower years and then being revitalised by the magical appearance of Elvis as a major recording artist and teenage idol.

However, since Kay’s relationship with Elvis was neither sexual nor in any other way of serious consequence, no major publisher would take the book on.

But Ger Rijff, whom I’d met in Las Vegas through my good friend, Paul Madsen, took it on for his then 1950s-leaning Tutti Frutti Productions. So that’s how Growing Up With the Memphis Flash came into being. I should add that while the commercial potential for the book disappointed me, I enjoyed meeting Kay and the many others I encountered during the research, including the gorgeous Debra Paget, she of Love Me Tender, later recounting my experiences in more detail in my autobiographical work, The Writing Game. Indeed, that particular work is packed with lots of interesting stories relating to my Elvis writings and research. So how’s that for an Aussie, or EIN-style, free plug for my book?

EIN: You also wrote a screenplay for Growing Up With the Memphis Flash.  Was there any interest in bringing the story to the big screen?

WAH:  Interest waxed and waned. And I have to say that Kay Wheeler spent a lot of her time valiantly trying to set something up. Alas, to no avail. Which is a great pity, since it would have made a lovely little teen, or nostalgia, movie, along the lines of American Graffiti or Diner.

EIN: I’m also interested to know how you became involved with the Fort Baxter “unofficial” or “import” label - one half of the legendary Bilko/Fort Baxter organisation.  (I hope you didn’t bribe Private Doberman).  Your article ‘It’s Only Rock and Roll’ for the  4CD boxset, A Profile The King On Stage, details your trip with the British fan club in 1974 to see Elvis live in Vegas.  What was it like being with so many passionate fans?

WAH: Thanks for reminding me of that article. A lot of friends and Elvis fans have commented positively on that article, but I haven’t seen it since I wrote it and don’t even have a copy of the 4CD boxset.

I’m not sure how I became involved with it, but I’m almost certain it was through Ger Rijff, who probably asked me to write the accompanying text.

I do recall writing to Ger and asking if, in lieu of payment for the article, he could send me at least two boxsets for my kids, but he never replied. So I don’t have a copy of the article (EIN Note: EIN has provided Allen with a copy of the booklet from the boxset) and I’ve never even seen the boxset.

As for travelling with the Elvis fans to Las Vegas, I was pretty damned nervous at first, even more so when, on the train taking us from Liverpool Street Station to the airport, I was approached by an Elvis lookalike – bushy sideburns and white-stitched black jacket – and thought my worst fears about Elvis fanatics were coming true.

Then he told me that although an Elvis fan, he was the tympany player with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and that made my day.

We remained friends for a few years after that, since he also lived in London, playing for the LPO, but eventually we lost touch, probably after Elvis died, when a lot of ‘Elvis friends’ drifted away from each other.

However, back then, when I went to Las Vegas with the fans, I had a great, decidedly drunken, time, being looked after by the likes of Todd Slaughter and my Danish buddy, Paul Madsen. As for Elvis, he was putting on some weight, but not much, so he still looked pretty sensational and, though singing more ballads than rock, he sang like a dream. His charisma was awesome. 

EIN: Apart from your books about Elvis, you have written extensively about UFOs.  How did your interest in Ufology come about?

WAH: I had no particular interest in UFOlogy until my German wife’s brother, an engineer with a special interest in future sciences, sent me a one-off edition of what he felt was a neo-Nazi magazine masquerading as a scientific journal that he, my brother-in-law, had picked up at a technological fair in Hamburg. The newspaper was called Brisant. One of its articles set out to prove that modern UFOs were actually man-made craft based upon highly advanced Nazi technology.

The other was a supposed geographical article insisting that Germany claim back an Antarctic territory, Neuschwabenland, that had been ‘stolen’ from them by the Allies after World War Two. My brother-in-law felt that the two articles combined could be the basis for an interesting non-fiction book about man-made UFOs, but I felt that the material would make an even better novel, which eventually I wrote and called Genesis. That novel, about man-made UFOs, rather than extraterrestrial craft, became a big bestseller on both sides of the Atlantic and led to my secondary career as a UFO writer.   

EIN: Have you ever seen what you would regard to be a UFO?

WAH: No. But then, as physicist Stanton T. Friedman says in a quotation placed at the front of Projekt UFO: The Case for Man-Made Flying Saucers: ‘I’ve never even seen Australia, but it’s there.’

EIN: Projekt UFO: The Case for Man-Made Flying Saucers is highly regarded in UFO literature.  Please tell us about it?

WAH: When my almost 700-page long novel, Genesis, became a transAtlantic bestseller, I was persuaded by my editor to write a whole series based upon it, including a prequel and three sequels (see links above). This took a fair few years. Upon the completion of the series, I found myself with a vast reservoir of UFO information and so decided to use it as a non-fiction book, tracing the whole history of the UFO phenomenon, from early Biblical sightings to the great flying-saucer craze of the 1950s and on to today’s highly secretive, so-called ‘black technology’ sightings.

The basic thrust of the book is that extraterrestrial visitations are a fantasy, with little basis in any kind of scientific reality, and that most so-called UFOs – Unidentified Flying Objects as distinct from flying saucers – are the secret projects of a military-driven, man-made technology. I do, however, also examine other possibilities, such as the theoretical possibility of parallel or multiple universes and space-time ‘wormholes’. Given the extraordinary paradoxes of quantum theory, anything is possible. Elvis believed in UFOs, of course. He believed in much more than he let on. And don’t so many of us think that Elvis looked – and sounded - like someone who came from another planet?  

EIN: Consideration of the UFO phenomenon has come a long way since the Cold War inspired ‘little green men’ paranoia of the 1950s.  A number of researchers including Charles Fort, John A. Keel and computer scientist, Jacques Vallee, have shown the similarities between UFOs and other phenomenon such as religious apparitions, fairies et al, throughout history.  Vallee contends that UFOs and other genuine para-phenomenon are partly associated with a form of non-human consciousness that manipulates space and time.  He theorises that the intelligence behind the phenomenon attempts social manipulation by using deception on the humans with whom they interact.  What is your view on Vallee’s perspective?

WAH: I think that’s all nonsense.

EIN: What do you believe is behind the UFO phenomenon?

WAH: I believe that question remains unanswered, though I’ve presented a few possibilities in Projekt Saucer.

French edition of the best selling......... Elvis Presley

EIN: Your biography about Charles Bronson.  It has been said that Elvis and Bronson didn’t really get along during the making of Kid Galahad.  Can you shed any light on this?

WAH: As I recall it, Bronson had little truck with rock and roll music and looked down on Elvis as being an untalented teenage idol rather than a serious actor. Given that Bronson was far from being a serious actor himself, I thought this was a cheek. And Bronson, throughout his whole career, never gave as good an acting performance as Elvis did in Jailhouse Rock.

EIN: Your early Australian novel, The Running Man, was turned into a feature film entitled The City’s Edge starring English-Australia film and stage actor, Hugo Weaving.  Were you happy with the film adaptation?

WAH: It was unbearably awful and soon nose-dived into the video shops.

EIN: You also wrote the book Evita: Saint or Sinner, another of your best sellers.  Evita Peron is one of the 20th century’s very interesting public figures.  After writing your book how do you regard Evita?

WAH: I really don’t have much regard for her at all. When I finished my research, I concluded that she had a lot of courage but very little morality. She was a bad actress who became a huge political figure and confused herself with the historical heroines she’d portrayed in so many radio dramas and movies. She was a hypocrite who pretended to love the lowly workers while stealing from them and secretly hoarding the money in secret Swiss bank accounts. She was also responsible for a lot of unjustified imprisonments and torture.

After writing the book, I was invited to attend the London premier of the Evita musical. Outside the theatre, crowds were demonstrating angrily at the Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber glamorisation of such a tyrant. When I saw the musical, I found myself agreeing with the demonstrators. No surprise, then, that when my book was published, it led to a lot of angry letters, mostly from women who had clearly taken their view of Evita from the musical and, later, from the movie, rather than from the historical facts. I can’t think of another book I’ve written that gained me more abuse. Just go to the readers’ letters on Amazon. 

EIN: Evita Peron, like Grace Kelly, was an actress who married into high office.  Are there other similarities between the two women?

WAH: There are no similarities between those two women. One, Grace Kelly, had class and talent; the other, Evita Peron, did not.

EIN: In your writings you have moved between non-fiction and fiction.  Do you prefer one over the other?

WAH: As I said earlier, I recently spent nine years writing, under a pseudonym, a 2-volume, 1,300-page novel about the Troubles in my hometown of Belfast. When I finished it, I knew that I would never write another novel again. And I won’t. So if I do any new writing in my rapidly shrinking future, which I doubt, it will almost certainly be non-fiction.

EIN: Of all your books, which is your favourite and why?

WAH:  I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I might incriminate myself... Ah, what the hell...? Iconic Voices. It came out of nowhere and I loved writing it and I still love dipping into it. No matter how proud I may be of some of my other books, I can’t say that about them. 

EIN: Do you have any plans for another Elvis book?

WAH: No. Absolutely not.

EIN: What is next for Allen Harbinson?

WAH: A few more old books republished as e-books, more travelling, more red wine, and then what we all try not to think about... You just can’t get away from it.

EIN: Allen, is there anything else you would like to say?

WAH: Yes. Play a few Elvis songs when I’m dead. I want to go out with style.

EIN: Allen thank you very much for taking the time to talk with EIN about Elvis, UFOs, and the rest of your very colourful and interesting life. We wish you all the best with your future ventures and adventures.

Read EIN's review of "Iconic Voices"

Comment on this interview

Reader Feedback

BP (Australia): GREAT INTERVIEW! I’ve ordered the book.

Abby: I really enjoyed your interview with Allen Harbinson I didn’t know he’d written so many books.  I got The Illustrated Elvis at a jumble sale for $2.50.

Barbara T (England): Loved the interview!  Keep up the good work.

About W.A. (Allen) Harbinson: W. A. HARBINSON was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1941. Leaving school at 14, he became first, in Belfast, an apprentice textile engineer, then, in Liverpool, England, an apprentice plumber and gas fitter. At 19, he emigrated to Australia and enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), serving as a medical clerk in Australia, Thailand, and Malaysia. Returning to London six years later, he became the Chief Associate Editor of a variety of men's magazines and then began his long career as a freelance writer.

His published works include a Number One US bestselling biography, THE ILLUSTRATED ELVIS (1975); two bestselling novels, GENESIS (1980) and REVELATION (1982); and a British bestseller biography, EVITA: SAINT OR SINNER? (1996). He is the author of the epic 'Projekt Saucer' series of novels, which remained in print for most of the 1990s. The five novels in the series are: INCEPTION, PHOENIX (nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, 1995), GENESIS, MILLENNIUM, and RESURRECTION.

Harbinson's early Australian novel, THE RUNNING MAN (1967) was turned into a feature film, THE CITY'S EDGE. He has also written for radio and adapted various film scripts into book form. In total he has written more than 50 books on a wide range of subjects.


Most of Harbinson's works are now available both as POD books and Kindle ebooks and can be purchased from Amazon and other book-selling Web sites.

W. A. Harbinson has two grown-up children, Shaun and Tanya. Now divorced, he lives alone in a townhouse in West Cork, Ireland. He continues to write.

Harbinson's latest novel (written in the first person), ICONIC VOICES, is a wonderful socio-biographical page turner about five iconic figures from the second half of the twentieth century. Naturally, Elvis is one of those icons.

Visit the W.A. Harbinson web site


EIN Website content ©

Copyright the Elvis Information Network.
Elvis Presley, Elvis and Graceland are trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises.
The Elvis Information Network has been running since 1986 and is an EPE officially recognised Elvis fan club.


























Have you read?
'48 Hours To Memphis' FTD CD Review:
Blue Hawaii - The Movie- EIN special spotlight:
When Roy Orbison met the King
Shawn Klush and Donny Edwards In Australia - Review:
'Elvis in Vegas' Special book PREVIEW:
Elvis By Special Request '71 At 40 (Book Review):
"Kissed By Elvis" Janet Fulton Interview:
'1956, Elvis Presley’s Pivotal Year':
'The Elvis Files Vol. 4' Book Review:
'Young Man with the Big Beat' In-Depth Review:
'Fashion For A King' FTD in-depth Review:
"ReBooked At The International'- in-depth Review:
EIN interviews John Scheinfeld director of  'Fame & Fortune':
EIN Spotlight on Alfred Wertheimer:
Jerry Leiber Interview for EIN:
SONY/RCA 2011 Future CD Release Details:
ELVIS WEEK 2011 - the stories and reports
Elvis Paradise Hawaiian Interview - with Peter Noone:
'Stage Rehearsal' FTD Review:
Elvis' 1956 Mystery Kisser Found!
Elvis Amarillo ’77 FTD CD Review:
'Elvis On Tour November 1971' Book Review:
Sam Thompson, Elvis' bodyguard, 2011 Interview:
'48 Hours To Memphis' FTD CD Review:
Shawn Klush and Donny Edwards In Australia - Review:
Elvis By Special Request '71 At 40 (Book Review):
'The Elvis Files Vol. 4' Book Review:
'Young Man with the Big Beat' In-Depth Review:
'Fashion For A King' FTD in-depth Review:
"ReBooked At The International'- in-depth Review:
'Stage Rehearsal' FTD Review:
Elvis Amarillo ’77 FTD CD Review:
'Elvis On Tour November 1971' Book Review:
-'Elvis At Madison Square Garden' An In-Depth Report:
'Spanish Eyes By Request' GRM CD Review:
MRS 'G.I Blues - Café Europa Sessions' Review:
'Losing Graceland' Book Review - plus Micah Nathan Interview:
'Good To Be Back' CD Review:
'Bringing It All Back Home' CD/Book Review:
'The Final Curtain' Deluxe Box-Set Review:
'The Elvis Files Vol. 2' Book Review:
'The Complete Elvis Presley Masters' in-depth Review:
'VIVA ELVIS'- The King Butchered! CD review:
'The Complete Elvis Presley Masters' in-depth Review:
Articles (Spotlights)
Shawn Klush and Donny Edwards In Australia - Review:
"Kissed By Elvis" Janet Fulton Interview:
EIN Spotlight on Alfred Wertheimer:
SONY/RCA 2011 Future CD Release Details:
ELVIS WEEK 2011 - the stories and reports
-'Elvis At Madison Square Garden' An In-Depth Report:
'Elvis Memphis to Madison 1977' The Gas Station Incident:
'Heartbreak Hotel '- 55 years ago today:
John Lennon And Elvis: It was "Thirty Years Ago Today"
Elvis Statues & Memorials - an EIN Spotlight:
Remember 'The King' with Music:
'Elvis Tattoos' and EIN Spotlight:
SONY/RCA 2010 Future CD Release Details:
ELVIS WEEK 2010, EIN Exclusive reports:
Elvis' 1956 Mystery Kisser Found!
EIN Spotlight on 'Girl Happy':
'Elvis Forever' London concert Review:
'The Original Elvis Tribute 2010'- An Elvis band on Tour:
'Elvis Meets The Beatles':
Elvis or Michael Jackson - who is the bigger star?
Dark Side of the Colonel


EIN interviews John Scheinfeld director of  'Fame & Fortune':
Jerry Leiber Interview for EIN:
Elvis Paradise Hawaiian Interview - with Peter Noone:
Sam Thompson, Elvis' bodyguard, 2011 Interview:
'Losing Graceland' Book Review - plus Micah Nathan Interview:
James Burton Interview - Rick Nelson & Elvis:
Elvis Drummer Jerome "Stump" Monroe EIN Interview:
Donnie Sumner Remembers his friend Sherrill Nielsen: 
Lamar Fike EIN Exclusive Interview
Jamie Aaron Kelley - EIN Interview:
Ernst Jorgensen interview about 'The Complete Masters' and more:
D.J Fontana Interview - Elvis Week 2010 special: 
Red West Interview:- 2010 Elvis week special
Linda Thompson - Interview Special:
Elvis in 1969 - Ann Moses & Ray Connolly Interviews:
Ernst Jorgensen interview about 'On Stage' and Elvis' Legacy in 2010:
Paul Lichter
Dr. Nick talks to EIN
Alanna Nash
Ernst Jorgensen (2009)
Ron Brandon - Elvis in Tupelo
Jimmy Velvet
Eliza Presley (Part 1)
Paul Monroe
Duke Bardwell Interview
Sandi Miller Interview:

Lamar Fike


Best of Elvis on YouTube
Graceland cam
EPE's Multimedia Elvis Gallery
Sirius Elvis Satellite Radio
Elvis Radio (ETA's)
Elvis Express Radio
Ultimate Elvis Radio
Elvis Only Radio
"Images in Concert" PhotoDatabase
Radio Interview: Vernon & Gladys Presley
Sanja's Elvis Week 2007 Photo Gallery
'EIN's Best of Elvis on YouTube'
The Music of Elvis Presley - Australian Radio Show
All about Elvis
All about Elvis Tribute Artists
All about Graceland
All about Lisa Marie Presley
Ancestors of Elvis
Art Archives
Book Releases 2009
Contact List
Elvis and Racism
Elvis as Religion
Elvis Film Guide
Elvis Online Virtual Library
Elvis Research Forum
Elvis Rules on Television
Graceland - The National Historic Landmark
How & where do I sell my Elvis collection?
Is Elvis the best selling artist?
Links to Elvis' family & friends
Links to other Elvis sites
Marty's Musings
Online Elvis Symposium
Parkes Elvis Festival 2009 (Australia)
Presley Law legal archives (Preslaw)
Presleys In The Press
Sale of EPE (Archives)
6th Annual Elvis Website Survey
Spotlight on The King
"Wikipedia" Elvis biography
Did You Miss?
50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can't Be Wrong - the most 'covered' Elvis album of all-time
Spotlight: Elvis Film Posters
FTD Review: An American Trilogy
Book Review: Elvis: A King in the Making
Interview: Vic Colonna - the Dangerous World of Bootlegging Elvis