Elvis — or his ghost — rocks the joint!


SUSPICIOUS MINDS by Paul Bishop
E-book 2011

This book gave me an evening of pure entertainment. It’s full of formatting glitches, a typo or two and some grammar miscues, but most of time I was so busy laughing I breezed right on by. Elvis isn’t really dead; he’s in a witness protection program. When he bounds onstage to perform at an Elvis Impersonators show my computer rocks.

Funny though it is, SUSPICIOUS MINDS is a crime novel and Paul Bishop has the bona fides for it. He spent 35 years with the Los Angeles PD, twice winning Detective of the Year awards. Currently he is a Detective III. A prolific writer, he’s the author of three crime fiction series, plus stand-alones. His blog features a collection of vintage Crime Detective book covers.
http://www.bishsbeat.blogspot.com
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SUSPICIOUS MINDS was a “trunk book,” a good book that publishers don’t want to take a chance on, so the author puts the manuscript in a trunk for another day. In his Forward, Bishop wrote:

“Some books are just plain fun to write, and so it was with Suspicious Minds — a crazy Elvis conspiracy novel with a character — Cole Ramsey — who stepped onto the page fully formed. … Sometimes, parts of a trunk novel are cannibalized by the writer and dropped into other novels. In a different form, the finale of Suspicious Minds morphed into the finale (without the Elvises) of my novel Chalk Whispers. With the advent of e-books and e-publishing, I wanted to bring Suspicious Minds out of the trunk and into the light of day.”
****
SUSPICIOUS MINDS, the story –

March 1977, New Orleans, St. Louis Cemetery No. 2: Gordy Fontaine and Lew Sutton, DEA partners, show up for the burial of drug dealer Zachary Arceneaux. Trouble is, there’s someone else in the coffin, while Arceneaux, guarded by two FBI agents, sits in a limousine watching his own funeral.

As the coffin is lowered, Gordy jumps on top of it and unscrews the lid, revealing the wrong corpse. The traditional jazz band strikes up like all heck breaking loose and in the melee an FBI agent is shot in the leg. It’s a wild shot from the limo but Gordy gets the blame and goes on the lam.

June 1977, an arena in Indianapolis: Gordy buys a ticket to an Elvis concert. They’ve been friends ever since Elvis showed up at a DEA office wanting to help in the war on drugs. Gordy meets Elvis in his limo after the concert. The wheels begin to turn.

August 1977, Graceland, Memphis: Outside the Graceland gates, a man runs through a crowd of weeping mourners yelling that Elvis is not dead; it’s a hoax. Nobody pays him any attention. Of course Elvis is dead. It was on radio and TV.

April 1996, West Hollywood, California: Cole Ramsey, a popular Elvis impersonator, gets a call from his sister, Joella, a deputy at West Hollywood Station. She wants him to find a safe place for a straggler who claims to be Elvis Presley. He looks like death warmed over and is asking for a DEA detective named Gordon Fontaine. He has no ID and there’s no DEA agent named Gordon Fontaine, but there is something about the straggler … if Cole would just check him out …

Cole is a talented and affable young man with many friends. He calls in some favors that lead him to a sanitarium. So far, so good, but it’s a set-up, and the chase is on. Gordy Fontaine has that evil old thug Zachary Arceneaux in his sights. And Elvis … well, that would be telling. The ending is a pip.
****
This is one of the funniest books I ever read. I know … I know… I’m easily entertained, but I can’t help laughing when I read lines like this:
**”Cole didn’t just march to a different drummer he boogied with a whole different orchestra.”
**”It was a good scam, but it was being wasted on a guy who if you blew in his ear would thank you for the refill.”
****
The story’s the thing in this book. It grabbed me from the beginning and never let go.
****

So … was it really The King?

Review: CAT IN A JEWELED JUMPSUIT

by Carole Nelson Douglas

In a week when Hurricane Isaac swamped the GulfCoast, the UN said it did not plan to invade Texas, and Rosie O’Donnell announced that she is married, had a heart attack and is selling art on eBay, CAT IN A JEWELED JUMPSUIT was a blessèd relief.

 So, is Elvis alive? Maybe, maybe not.

 CAT IN A JEWELED JUMPSUIT’S Prologue is from Elvis’s POV, with Elvis – or his ghost – watching TV and reflecting on his life as it was according to the tell-all books written about him. Quoting: “Only one who hasn’t been heard from on the grand glory days and sad last nights of Elvis Aaron Presley is the King his own self. And even that isn’t impossible. Heck, all the King’s men had mostly used ghost writers to get their side of things down on paper. And here he was one. The King laughed …”

Chapter One, from Midnight Louie’s POV, is exquisite, with ML watching himself in a TV commercial as he descends a grand staircase with all the aplomb of Fred Astaire. Keeping in mind that this book was written in 1999, you shouldn’t be surprised that ML is watching a VCR tape while his owner, Miss Temple Barr, fusses with the recorder, winding and rewinding the tape in her efforts to keep the commercial running.

Temple is a public relations freelancer, on retainer from the Crystal Phoenix Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Her boss is Van von Rhine, wife of Aldo Fontana, one of nine Fontana Brothers. Brother Nicky Fontana owns the Crystal Phoenix. The nine Fontanas keep a low profile most of the time, but never fear, they are around.

With a new “Elvis” hotel—the Kingdome—going up on the Strip, Van von Rhine instructs Temple to snoop around and report on its progress. An upcoming publicity stunt is an Elvis Impersonator competition. Elvises of every size, shape and theme converge on Vegas.

When Quincey, a teenaged girl who is to portray Priscilla, gets death threats, her mother comes to Temple for help. Temple hires six of the Fontana Brothers to serve as bodyguards disguised as Elvis impersonators.

Further muddying the waters, an Elvis sound-alike begins to call the Mr. Midnight radio show. Matt Devine, the show’s host, doesn’t take him seriously but listeners do. Groupies wait in the studio parking lot so they can get Matt’s autograph simply because he talks to The King. Matt tries to discourage them by asking why Elvis would wait so many years to show up again. One of the true believers says, “He knew how to make an entrance.”

(quoting)

Matt recognized pure faith when he saw it. He had never seen it shown to anything other than a religious figure. Maybe the shrinks who identified Elvis as a shaman, a primitive holy man, weren’t all wet. Didn’t the faithful visit the burial shrine at Graceland every August, and every day of the year, making it second only to the White House in annual visitor count?

(end quote)

The FBI shows up wanting copies of the radio tapes. When the wedding dress designed for Quincey’s appearance as Priscilla is slashed to bits, her mother takes her out of the show. The FBI persuades Temple to replace her.

Meantime, Midnight Louie slinks through the story, always under the radar but ever alert in his zeal to protect Temple. His unlikely accomplices are an 18-foot anaconda and a chimpanzee with his own jumpsuit. Unlikely they may be, but they’re effective. With Temple as bait and a killer disguised as an Elvis impersonator, the show goes on. The results are totally unexpected. The ending is a gas. So, is Elvis alive? I’ll never tell. 

August was for Elvis Week and a blue moon. Give a listen to YouTube’s 1956 recording of Elvis performing “When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold.” It’s early Elvis, when the voice was pure and the beat was easy. It’s at http://tinyurl.com/8mwwro8.

Bob Kurland — when nice guys finish first


Bob Kurland photo from web site of OSU Alumni Hall of Fame 2009.

There was no Final Four when I was a student at Oklahoma A&M. There was no Sweet Sixteen, no March Madness. The only madness was World War II, going on around the globe 24/7. But there was also basketball. There was Coach Henry Iba, and there was Bob Kurland, who was seven feet tall.

The story is that Coach Iba recruited the tall 17-year-old with a steak dinner and a bus ticket from St. Louis, MO to Stillwater, OK. Both men became legends in the sports world. Then the teams were the Oklahoma A&M Aggies. Now they’re the OSU Cowboys.

I’m sure Iba and Kurland didn’t look down the road to anticipate the changes they made, and neither did I. I just thought that Oklahoma A&M had a great basketball team, and Bob Kurland was one of the nicest guys I’d ever met.

In 1944 I sat next to him in Biological Science class, a class so large that it was held in an auditorium. We were seated alphabetically. Bob was “K” and I was “L.” If I learned anything in “Bi-Sci” I promptly forgot it, but I never forgot Bob –smiling, soft-spoken, always polite. He teased me by calling me “Greer” – insisting that I looked like the movie star Greer Garson. As if!

I’m not a fan of pro basketball. The players are too tough and the games are too predictable. It’s a case of my team makes a goal, then your team makes a goal, back and forth, and whoever’s ahead when the buzzer sounds win the game.

It’s nice that the USA team won a gold medal in this 2012 Olympics, but I didn’t watch. When I read that USA squeaked past Spain I thought of Robert “Bob” Kurland and looked him up on the Internet. The facts and stats of his basketball career are all over it. He was the first 7-footer to play the game. He could stand under the net and bat the ball in. Because of him, the NCAA passed the rule against goaltending.

He led the Aggies to NCAA championships in 1945 and 1946. Professional teams weren’t allowed into the Olympic Games in those days so Bob turned down pro offers. He played for the Phillips 66ers in the National Industrial Basketball League from 1946 to 1952. He has two Olympic gold medals, one from the 1948 Summer Games in London, the other from the 1952 games in Helsinki.

Bob had a long career in the corporate world before retiring and moving to Florida.
He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1961. On the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame web site there’s a photo of Bob looking exactly as I remember him, plus his biography.

The web site lists highlights of his career:
*All-America, 1944, 1945, 1946
*Led Oklahoma A&M to NCAA Championships, 1945, 1946
*Helms Foundation Player of the Year, 1946
*First two-time Olympic Gold Medal winner, 1948, 1952

The Naismith Hall of Fame web site is at http://tinyurl.com/8dajjpb.

There’s a YouTube video featuring Kurland at:

http://tinyurl.com/96en3qo

The photos are grainy, obviously scanned from old newspapers, but it’s a nice tribute by the OSU Alumni Association Hall of Fame 2009.

Sometimes nice guys do finish first.

Little sister

Where does it go, time? It is just a blur. My little sister, Carolyn, died almost a year ago — August 6. Her birthday was yesterday, July 21.

I miss her more than I can say. Memories crowd in. She was part of my life for all of my life.

Somehow this old photo survived my many moves. It was taken in 1948, at the Junior-Senior Prom, Oklahoma A & M College, Stillwater. I’m the one on the right. Carolyn and her date, Charles are on the left. They got married at the end of that school year and had a long and eventful life together.

How young we were! It’s just as well we didn’t know what the future held. It would have scared us half to death.

The Perfect Lanky Man

*** 

Photos: Story board for my second mystery novel — in the works, more or less;  My “perfect lanky man,” photo snapped in 1937 in Central California.
****
There’s been some conversation this week on the DorothyL mystery list about romantic shenanigans in mystery novels, and the sexiness of “lanky” men.

It reminded me that somebody posted a review on Amazon saying she didn’t like the perfect man in my mystery novel, ABSINTHE OF MALICE. Too perfect.

Ha. There’s no such thing as a too-perfect man.

I’ve known two perfect men in my life. I was married to one of them and I invented the other one. As long as I was making him up I decided he should be every girl’s dream — rich, handsome and sexy. What’s not to like? I hope that negative review won’t deter a potential reader.

Besides, it’s not as if my fictional perfect man never made a mistake. He let my protagonist get away, spent more than 20 years married to the wrong woman, lived long enough to regret it, backed up and started over. A perfect man is not afraid to admit his mistakes.

It was only after my husband died that I realized he was the role model for my fictional perfect man. In going through Ed “Curly” Browning’s files I came across a snapshot I had never seen before. Taken in 1937 when he was a strapping youth, it was like a slap upside the head. There was the guy I had been writing about without even knowing it.

Physically there’s not much resemblance between the fictional man and the real one. What they have in common is attitude, a mind like a steel trap and a sense of humor. My fictional perfect man has a solution for every problem. Ed understood how things work.

Twenty-five years ago he was the only person I knew who had a computer. Sears was the only store in town selling them and Sears had only one for sale — a Commodore 64 — so that’s what Ed bought. I came home from work one day and he had broken some kind of code and printed out reams of that machine’s programs.

Probably not a big job in those early days but even today’s computers are basically a box with a set of programmed commands. I miss his expertise every day of my life.

The memories are bittersweet. The men we choose to grow old with sometimes leave us too soon. As the author in charge of her characters, I assure you that will not happen to my fictional protagonist and her too-perfect man.

Their further adventures are still in the works—a book getting its umpteenth revision. Thank goodness for my story board. I only have to rearrange the sticky notes stuck on each chapter square. The story board leans against wall and the pictures have stared back at me for months going on years. I cut them out of old Vanity Fair magazines, and they fit my characters perfectly.

If the pictures could sing, they would be singing Jelly Roll Morton’s song, Hesitation Blues – “How long … how long do I have to wait?” In fact, I use the song in my sequel-in-progress, working title METAPHOR FOR MURDER.

And if my perfect man were still around, the book would have been finished because he would have asked me every day, “Are you working on your book?”

Stay tuned ….

Turn up the AC!


Whew! Temperature about 104 today. Supposed to hover around 100 through the July 4th holiday.

Winds from the south about 10-20 miles per hour.
Heck. In Oklahoma that’s practically no wind at all.

But we are lucky. The wildfires in the West and the floods in Florida are terrifying to watch on TV news. By comparison, Oklahoma is a regular Garden of Eden in these first days of summer.

Counting my blessings —

Oklahoma and the Booze Beat


Photo taken in an Oklahoma City nightclub, 1950, during bring-your-own-bottle days.
****
For the third time in 58 years Oklahomans are considering a constitutional amendment involving drinkable spirits. In 1959 Prohibition was repealed. In 1984 selling liquor by the drink was voted in. This time the proposed amendment addresses wine sales in grocery stores.

If the ballot language is approved by the state Supreme Court, a group called Oklahomans for Modern Laws will have to collect 155,216 signatures and must have them submitted 60 days before November’s general election.

For those who haven’t been weirded out by something else this weekend — I’m passing along a joke sent to me earlier by my Cuzzin John Mac. Just don’t tell anyone where you read it. My apologies to WalMart. It’s the 900-pound gorilla and makes an easy target. Personally, I love it. Don’t know what us poor folks would do without it.
****
Here’s the joke, probably making the rounds of the Internet as we speak.

WalMart announced that they will soon be offering customers a new discount item … WalMart’s own brand of wine. The world’s largest retail chain is teaming up with E & J Gallo Winery of California, to produce the spirits at an affordable price, in the $2-5 range.

Wine connoisseurs may not be inclined to throw a bottle of WalMart brand into their shopping carts, but “there is a market for cheap wine,” said Kathy Micken, professor of marketing. She added, “But the right name is important.”

Customer surveys were conducted to determine the most attractive name for the WalMart brand. The top surveyed names in order of popularity are:
10. Chateau Traileur Parc
09. White Trashfindel
08. Big Red Gulp
07. World Championship Riesling
06. NASCARbernet
05. Chef Boyardeaux
04. Peanut Noir
03. I Can’t Believe It’s Not Vinegar!
02. Grape Expectations
And the number 1 name for WalMart Wine:
01. Nasti Spumante

The beauty of Wal-Mart wine is that it can be served with either white meat (Possum) or red meat (Squirrel).
****

Weep No More

“When sorrows come, they come not single spies, But in battalions.”
William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 5.

Memorial Day came and went. June 6th was the 68th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy in World War II. The Internet was awash in reminiscences by surviving veterans. Still, I just couldn’t seem to write about the veteran who was on my mind.

A longtime friend, one I’ve known since we were a couple of skinny high school kids, died on January 9, just a few days after his 87th birthday. He was the last member of his B-29 crew to die. In an e-mail a year ago he wrote that the next to last survivor of his crew had died and he wept when he got the news.

I like to think he will weep no more, that he and his buddies are together in the next life – young again, fit and full of the old can-do spirit.

My high school friend, Le Triplett, was a radar-navigator on a B-29 stationed in the Pacific. Before he was old enough to vote he had flown on 33 bombing runs over Japan, many of them in a plane named The Gamecock.

He steadfastly refused to tell me about his experiences, except for one brief story about firebombing Tokyo. That air raid was said to be the single most destructive air raid of the war, and it was during that raid that American flyboys encountered something new to them – the jet stream.

Le’s recollections of the March 1945 raid over Tokyo:
***
On our first raid on an aircraft plant at OTA we hit the jet stream, something we had never heard of. We were on the bomb run for over 30 minutes, bucking head winds and practically standing still according to ground speed, and the sky was buzzing with Jap fighters. Who knows where our bombs landed.

Weather and the jet stream made our first missions a big waste. That’s when (Gen. Curtis) LeMay took command and sent us in on low level night raids with fire bombs.

The raid ovcr Tokyo on March 10 — I have never been so scared in my life. Our plane was tossed around like a leaf. We were caught in thermals, winds rushing up, downdrafts pulling you down at high speed. The pilot and co-pilot really bent the controls bringing us out of a dive. I thought we had bought the farm.
***
When Le came home his troop ship sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, a sight he never forgot. He moved to Colorado and enrolled in college under the G.I. Bill of Rights. There he met and married a beautiful girl named Nancy, and they raised a family in Greeley, Colorado. Le enjoyed a long and productive career in the field of education. For years he attended the high school reunion at Moss Consolidated High School near Holdenville, Oklahoma, and contributed books to the school library. He also attended the annual reunions of his bomb group.
***
From the World Wide Web:
Firestorm over Tokyo
“The 334 B-29s that bombed Tokyo on March 9 – 10, 1945 did so with impunity releasing some 2,000 tons of bombs. The fires that raged joined and created a firestorm that burned out 16 square miles of the city – killing 83,000 people and injuring 41,000 more. 267,171 buildings and structures were destroyed leaving a million people homeless. It turned out to be the single most destructive air raid of the war.”
***
The photos:
1) Gamecock’s original crew
Front row: second from left, Le Triplett, radar-navigator.
Back row: second from left, Henry Berg, radio operator; second from right, Eric Gran, co-pilot, later Aircraft Commander on Gamecock’s fatal flight.
Gamecock photo courtesy of Dan Fay

2) Nancy and Le Triplett, Pat Browning and Carolyn Smith, Oklahoma City, June 23, 2005
***

Stormy weather

So far this week has been a terror, with wind and hail Tuesday night beating on my windows like the world coming to an end. Tonight seems calmer, although high winds are supposed to kick in about midnight. Well, maybe, maybe not.

Last night our tornado siren went off while I was eating supper. Bummer! I just took my plate and went to my walk-in closet and finished supper and finally the siren stopped.

It made for an uneasy night’s sleep so today I settled my nerves with a trip down Memory Lane — I listened to The Beatles on You Tube.

Paul McCartney singing “When I’m Sixty-Four” brought back some great memories of a trip to London. My niece and I took a taxi out to McCartney’s house and the cab driver serenaded me with “When I’m Sixty-Four.” Then he hoisted my niece up to look over the wall into McCartney’s yard.

Now Sir Paul is rich and famous and 69 and I am way past. I’d give anything to be 64 again. It was a good year.

Oh, well — I love the recording, but — gulp! — Paul sounds like he’s about 12 years old. If my voice has changed that much I must sound well over 150.

The tatty old photo of Yours Truly stepping into the taxi was snapped with a Polaroid camera. The photo of Paul McCartney is from Wikipedia.
The You Tube recording of “When I’m Sixty-Four” is at:
http://tinyurl.com/7aafsc4

Remembering Mother: Mother Said

Faded old photo taken in Lisbon 1975.

“Root, hog, or die,” Mother said.

This was the mantra of a woman who got her master’s degree by going to graduate school summers and weekends while she raised five kids and taught school, and did household chores without electricity or indoor plumbing. I remember that every time I think I’ve reached the end of my rope.

In hard times, we wore hand-me-downs and homemade clothes. Mother said, “If your hair looks nice and your shoes are polished, that’s all that matters.”

My bad hair day has lasted a lifetime. My shoes look old the second time I wear them. Maybe it’s because my big toes turn up, or maybe it’s because of Mother’s bunions. I inherited her feet along with her sense of humor.

Mother said, “If you’re wearing a smile, nobody notices your clothes.” I’ve relied on that assurance for most of my life, smiling like an ad for toothpaste, but now—it’s criminal what aging does to teeth. When I began losing mine, Mother said, “You have 50-year teeth, just like your father.”

At the bottom of the Great Depression we lived in a small rural community that traveling salesmen always managed to find. Mother swapped whatever she could for whatever she wanted. She swapped eggs and chickens and jewelry that she never wore.

The summer I was 12, Mother and I were on the front porch shelling peas when a car came up our red dirt road and parked in our front yard. A man wearing a straw hat and seersucker suit got out. He was selling subscriptions.

Mother swapped a sapphire ring for The Ladies Home Journal and a ruby ring for The Kansas City Star.

“My children are my jewels,” Mother said, and gave him a smile as bright as the morning sun.

Years later, when I visited her in the hospital after she broke her hip, Mother said, “I suppose you all turned out as well as could be expected. At least none of you was ever in jail.”

Her opinions, warnings and admonishments have stood me in good stead. At the time I would have said they went in one ear and out the other. I would have been wrong. They come back to me in some way almost every day.

My brothers and sisters and I have aged well, all things considered. Our jewel-like luster has dimmed but we’re still at large.

Mother, I think, would be pleased.

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