Many people have looked forward to what seemed to be the final book on Andreas Cornelis van Kuijk a.k.a. Thomas A. Parker a.k.a. The Colonel. The book is written by Alanna Nash who has previously written ”Elvis Aaron Presley: Revelations of the Memphis Mafia” and “Elvis: From Memphis to Hollywood'” (with Alan Fortas).
As with most biographies this book starts with the early years. Knowing the city of Breda only as an important city in the Dutch-Spanish war and as former location of the Dutch Elvis meetings (both dreadful events), it is good to learn something about the old days of the city. For non Dutch people the first chapters may be a bit long as introduction. They might wonder when Elvis is going to pop up, but according to the title it is the story of The Colonel… and Elvis is just coincidentally present.
Although it is foremost the biography of the Colonel, most of us will probably buy it with Elvis in the back of our heads. The beauty of this book is reading Elvis’ rise to fame from another point of view, The Colonel’s (business) view that is. In Elvis biographies The Colonel plays a big role on the background, in this book it is vice versa. The general opinion most people have of The Colonel will not change reading this book; the true colors of this illegal immigrant are clearly shown. His hunger for power and recognition, his greed for money, his need to humiliate others and show them who is the boss and his fear for representatives of the U.S. determine the way he lived, loved and did business. You will have to read the details yourself, but you will not end with a pretty view on this man.
The strange thing is that Elvis and the Colonel had conflicts almost right from the start, but kept there (business) relation going from day one until the very end (and the Colonel tried to keep it going even after Elvis untimely death). The question why they never broke up is not answered in this book and will probably remain unanswered.
On about two third of the book the main focus is lost. The main character is no longer the Colonel, but Elvis. The realization of the 1968 Comeback special is a very interesting read, but it is written from Elvis’ perspective while this is The Colonel’s biography. New for us was that Elvis got so exited during his first stage performance he ejaculated in his black leather suit.
Elvis return to, and demise in, Vegas are the subject of the remainder of the book. Especially Elvis’ drugs / medicine abuse is told in (too) great detail. That, problems in his personal life and the omission of new challenges (would have been great to see him perform at the Pyramids in Egypt) made Elvis loose interest in everything, including life itself. There was nothing to stop it …
Overall the story is told in a pleasant way, and the many anecdotes illustrate a very “interesting” life. There are a few flaws in the book (naming “Blue Moon Of Kentucky” Elvis’ first single, while it was only the flip side) and of course there is some speculation. The one story picked up by the press was of course the allegation that in his early years Dries bludgeoned to death a young woman in his home town of Breda in The Netherlands, before fleeing to America. Although a small part in the book, it is a basis for more speculation on why this man did what he did and the way he did it. But we do wonder if all assumptions can be true.
The question that remains is “who was Takin’ Care Of Business”? Did The Colonel look out for himself or his client, and when did these two subjects shift places and why didn’t Elvis take care of his own business?. He made some decisions at moments to finally do what he really wanted to do, but somehow the Colonel had a control over him and Elvis listened to the old man.
The five years this book took to write and the details Alana uncovered make this a very interesting read. While reading it we learn a lot about this man, and that helps understanding the way Elvis’ career evolved. But the most important questions and mysteries remain unsolved.