Heartbreak Hotel (A Tribute to the King in Verse)

Jeremy Reed, Orion Books, UK, 2002, Hardcover, 245 pages,

Not illustrated, ISBN: 0-75285-159-4

Heartbreak Hotel is one of the more unusual entries in the world of Elvis literature. It sets itself apart from other books by telling the Elvis story in verse. The author is Jeremy Reed, one of Britain's best known contemporary poets.

Structurally, Heartbreak Hotel is split into chapters with various verses within each chapter. The chapters range across a variety of subject areas and are presented in chronological order with various detours into unfamiliar territory along the way.

The early sections cover the halcyon days of the 1950s (All Shook Up) while later parts focus on Elvis' final years as well as socio-cultural issues (Charles Manson) and Elvis' musical contemporaries (Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison). Jeremy Reed's verse is a no-holds barred rampage through everything Elvis Presley, challenging and incredibly evocative. He creates vivid and wild images full of color and motion:

'like crashing in the swimming pool Elvis is psycho in his groove'

'Elvis is on time hold like spike-haired Johnny Rotten or a model sashaying an exit from the catwalk'

'A scorchy credo's burning love, romance that's pepper torrid on lips cool as any rose.'

The verse titles engage the reader, traversing through challenging themes like 'Daughters of the Precious Blood' and 'Dancing on Hot Red Lips, My Love' to the more prosaic including 'Elvis at 40' and 'Pink Cadillac'.

Stir into the melting pot, Martians, an unpublished songbook and 'way out there' verse spiked with the titles of well known Elvis recordings and you will begin to comprehend the incredible diversity of theme in Jeremy Reed's poetic tour- de-force: 'There's an ape in a fun-wig purple as a split fig in Elvis' zoo'

Verdict: Heartbreak Hotel is multi-layered, colorful, over the top storytelling that confounds, stimulates and entertains. Flavorsome and at times frustrating it is a potent example of contemporary verse that haunts the back of one's mind long after it has been sampled.

Reviewed by Nigel Patterson, President, Elvis Information Network, 2002

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