Email Interview With Daniel Klein

Jul 25, 2000
Email Interview With Daniel Klein
Two weeks ago "Kill Me Tender" a fictional "Elvis murder mystery" by Daniel Klein came out. This book tells the story of Elvis investigating the death of two of his fan club presidents. "Back from his tour of duty in Germany but just isn't turned on by the music the way he used to be. Between dealing with his Machiavellian manager, the hangers-on and childhood pals crowding his Graceland mansion, the King tries desperately to get his heart back into Rock and Roll. But how can the King sing when young girls -- the presidents of his fan clubs -- are dying all over Tennessee? Elvis suspects foul play. To prove it he has to find the killer". There are many links to Elvis actual life in this book which makes it worth reading it, especially for an Elvis fan. After reading the book (click here for the review) we asked Daniel to participate in one of our Email-Interviews, so we could get to know "the man behind the mystery". Daniel Klein agreed, and even revealed something about a new .... well find out for yourself. Can you tell us something about Daniel Klein, the person? I'm just about the age Elvis would be today, give or take a few years (and there are a few years you can have). I was a bright little kid so they sent me to Harvard where I studied philosophy which was fun, but probably a waste of money considering I was always more interested in popular culture than classical culture. It was at Harvard that I first heard about Elvis from a good friend in the philosophy department who did a matchless imitation (with ukulele.) After writing for TV for several years, I finally made it as a book writer and now live in Massachusetts's Berkshire mountains in a small town with my wife, Freke Vuijst, a correspondent for Dutch television and a Dutch magazine magazine. Our daughter, Samara, is now at Columbia U. studying philosophy and wants to be a writer -- so the beat goes on. Can you tell us something about Daniel Klein, the author? I've written 20 books, mostly non-fiction (to support my fiction habit), humor, and 5 novels. I've always been more interested in entertaining my readers than in being an "artiste" -- forgive me, I'm just not the deep type. One of my thrillers, "Embryo," was a hit; another, "Beauty Sleep," was a near-hit. Incidentally, I love writing -- nothing more satisfying for me than getting a story going that works. What made you write this book featuring Elvis? Long story. I did a novelty/humor book about Elvis called, "Where's Elvis?" (Penguin Studio, pub.). It was a parody of the "Where's Waldo?" kids books and a send-up of the "Elvis Sightings" phenomenon that was entitled, "Where's Elvis?" It was tongue-in-check "documented photographic proof" that Elvis still lives and included photos of Elvis at the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, at Nixon's funeral, O.J.'s trial, etc. (Of course, it was all PhotoShopped by my collaborator, the art director, Hans Teensma.) I have to say that some Elvis people were not amused by it and I can understand why. But the point was to have fun with the Elvis Sightings phenomenon, not to poke fun at Elvis himself. The book was kind of a hit, so the publishers sent me on a national tour. I was about to leave when the aforementioned Elvis fan/friend (with ukulele) sent me both volumes of the Peter Guralnick biography, saying I'd better read this before I made a fool of myself on TV. I read the biography and was knocked out! Both by the quality of the book and the superb quality of the man it chronicled. I had never before realized what a remarkable person Elvis was in ways that did not directly have to do with him as a performer: his mind, his interests, his spiritual longings and quests, his tender heart...etc. etc. In short, I was knocked out by Elvis Presley the person. Two of Elvis's interests that resonated for me were his interest in law enforcement and in medicine, two special interests of mine. And thus the idea for the Elvis Detective series was born. I thought: What if Elvis had been able to really pursue this genuine interest of his? You obviously "studied" Elvis, why did you still put in some "time-errors" in the book? Some, I admit, were carelessness. Others (like the TCB belts) were because I thought these touches worked well and wouldn't upset those in the know. I realize now that the latter was a mistake and hope to avoid such mistakes in future installments. Do you have plans to write more mysteries starring Elvis? Yup. One in the works now. Takes place during the filming of "Kissin' Cousins" -- that's all I should say now; it's a mystery, doncha know. Are you an Elvis-fan yourself? Wasn't before I read Guralnick, but am now -- big time!!! What, in general, is your favorite Elvis stuff? I'm eclectic, but probably like the gospel stuff the best. I'm a devotee of gospel in general -- it moves me. Name your favorite Elvis song, movie, album. Song: "Now or Never" -- personal reasons; I was brought up on "O Solo Mio" and was thrilled to hear the English version. Coincidentally, later in life Aaron Schroeder, who wrote the English lyrics, became a friend. Movie: "Kissin' Cousins" -- again, personal reasons. I know it's one of the low quality quickies he turned out, but it has it's charm and I get a real kick out of seeing him playing two different roles -- and playing them well. Album: too hard to choose; if pressed, I guess I'd have to say the '50s RCA Masters compilation. What is your favorite Elvis site? Elvis In Print (; a writer's weakness, I'm always interested in books first, I guess. How do you remember Elvis' passing? Clearly. I was in the garden picking some veggies when my Dutch wife yelled the news to me from the kitchen door. (She had to do a radio story about it for Dutch radio.) At the time, I was not the Elvis fan I am today, but nonetheless I felt something important had happened -- that an epoch was passing. What is your favorite Elvis book written by somebody else? The Guralnick bios, especially the second volume ("Careless Love"), because of the depth that his subject developed (and suffered through) in the last half of his life. Who do you think we should interview in the future? And which question(s) should we ask? I recently became friends with a guy named Joby Baker, now a painter married to the songwriter, Dory Previn, but once a B-movie actor who appeared in "Girl Happy" with Elvis. Baker has great anecdotes he tells me, many of them showing how wonderful -- and sly -- Elvis's sense of humor was. If you wanted to contact him, you could just ask for stories of Elvis on the set -- they are terrific! likes to thank Daniel Klein for taking the time to answer our questions and offering us the possibility to get to know "the man behind the mystery". Does Elvis solve the mystery ? ... find out yourself at Amazon Dan's Website.
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