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elvis the truth is out there
Or: why you should investigate crime writer supreme, Gordon De Marco.
Eamonn McCann, 03 Sep 1997
Elvis was murdered by the CIA. I read this for the first time over Elvis 20th anniversary weekend and it sounded preposterous. Why would the CIA want to stiff the King of rock n roll? The answer came soon enough. To prevent him exposing a company plan to assassinate Jimmy Carter.
I still wondered. Question: how could Elvis have come across info about a CIA plot to off the president? Answer: James Earl Ray, the man who killed Martin Luther King, called at Gracelands to tell him.
That was the yarn which the editor of the National Comet ordered reporter Steve Toast to check out. Toast didn t reckon it a runner either until the source turned up dead and then people he didn t know started trying to kill him.
The Comet was the class of tabloid which goes big on stories like Killer Yoghurt Stalks New England and Virgin, 10, gives birth to sheep . So Toast, who once wrote for the Times, had an acerbic, self-critical approach to the job. But he also knew enough to know that it s the same bunch of people with profit permanently on their minds who are the sperm-donors for the journalistic gene pool from which both the Post and the Comet are derived.
Toast is the hero of Gordon DeMarco s novel, Elvis In Aspic, which it is my purpose here to urge you to read.
DeMarco died last year before he d reached 50. This was his last novel. He s a crime writer in the vein of Chandler, writes out of the corner of his mouth. The sun was beginning to set high over Venice Beach, but I had other things on my mind. I miss more sunsets that way.
From Portland, Oregon, he cares mostly for Los Angeles, the way Jimmy Breslin, say, cares for New York, the way you care for a junkie lover. Plus he has a serious political purpose as he explores the black holes at the heart of American consciousness. Maybe not so much Chandler. Maybe more Hammett with harder ideas, street cred and cool.
He is author of the Riley Kovacs series of historical detective novels, mostly with political and labour movement themes. His first book, October Heat, is to be included in any list of the dozen most accomplished crime novels ever to come out of the US. Frisco Blues is about dark political intrigue along the west coast waterfront in the 40s. Canvas Prison is a cold-eyed fictionalisation of the scarifying, scarcely believable story of film actress Frances Farmer who was rail-roaded into an asylum and forcibly lobotomised in the 40s because it was unacceptable to studio bosses and the Company that she didn t hide the fact she was an atheist and had visited the Soviet Union. It s a ten times better book than the not-bad film biog Frances was a film.
DeMarco has also written three plays and two opinionated Short Histories of Los Angeles and Portland.
He s remained relatively little known on this side of the Atlantic outside the couple of thousand sussed socialists to whom he s almost a cult, except it comes across in his books he s figured every cult ever known has been scammed up by some guy so he can squirt cider in your eye.
You ll find Elvis In Aspic at Waterstones, and maybe elsewhere but only on import because, although published three years ago in the States, it hasn t found an outlet around here, which goes to prove one more time there s no accounting for tastelessness. Ask for it anyway. Originally published by West Coast Crime, Portland, OR.
It wouldn t do to blow the cover on more of the plot, but don t be misled by the entry of Rev. Swale and Twin Brother Osgood from the Jesus Is In Galilee Church whose mission in life is to rescue the truth about Jesus from putrefied Pauline secretions, St. Paul in their view having taken satanic possession of Jesus message and misrepresented and deprived it for succeeding generations of its unique timeless power and infinite glory. It hasn t escaped the attention of Rev. Swale and Twin Brother Osgood that Paul begins with a P , same as Col. Tom Parker.
James Earl Ray killed Martin Luther King in Memphis, if he killed him. In Orders To Kill, by King s close associate William F. Pepper, published in the US two years ago, it is argued that Ray was a patsy, and that King was in fact assassinated by the Company or the Mob or whomever, and that the assassins then set about framing Ray for the hit.
Ray was held in Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary, Tennessee, near Memphis, from where he escaped for two days, in June 77. He was recaptured a few minute s walk away from Graceland.
Among the individuals Pepper identifies for involvement in the King assassination is one Frank Liberto, who used to frequent a downtown Memphis eatery run by Lavada Liberto, who used to frequent a downtown Memphis eatery run by Lavada Whitlock. Ms. Whitlock recalls Liberto complaining about his wife s compulsive gambling. She also recalls him saying one day when an item about the King killing came on local TV, out of the azure blue: I had Martin Luther King killed.
Another thing she recalls him saying is that his wife even pawned the jade ring Elvis Presley had given him.
None of this matters, because it turns out in Elvis In Aspic that the CIA probably didn t kill Elvis at all, or that if they did, it had nothing to do with a plot to nut the Peanut Kid, but was just so the Company could recover the microdots under the rhinestones on the belt of the last jump-suit Elvis ever appeared in on stage (the one with the sweat-stain in the exact shape of Jesus face) which they had to do at all hazards, since the microdots had the names, addresses, motivations and modus operandi of every single person on the grassy knoll on that day they killed the last Catholic seen alive in Dallas.
And that s not the half of it.
Nml focal ns cuid dfocal ag Noel Gallagher at all. And Gallagher doesn t come from gaelgoir either. Quite the contrary.
I learned this from a Falls fellow who fumed that I belittled the language by saying on Radio Ulster that Oasis main man had the cupla focail, picked up from Irish parents. I d gone on to suggest that perhaps Gallagher was derived from gaelgoir, or Irish speaker .
Gallagher , I now know, originally referred to a person from the Gaeltacht, or English-speaking region. I d had it totally arse-about-face.
The Falls man had even checked out my scial about occasional Irish phrases in the Gallagher home and discovered there wasn t a word of truth to it. So he said, anyway, and I was in no position to bluster.
You made all that up, he charged. And so I had.
These mundane events unfolded following a broadcast on the day of the release of Be Here Now, which was the day after the students union at Queen s had taken down Irish language signs on the advice of a firm of consultants .
The union had adopted a policy of bi-lingual signs a decade ago in the name of parity of esteem between the two cultures . Unionists had immediately embarked on a ten-year whinge about Protestants feeling alienated by the sight of fmr as well as men and mna as well as women on the bog doors.
So, at last, the union executive consulted consultants to tell them what to do, and were told to tear the signs down, which they did.
My point about Oasis was that hundreds at least of those who queued in Belfast to buy Be Here Now very likely said Go raibh maith agat to the assistant who handed the CD over the counter because a fair few people in Belfast tend casually to say Go raibh maith agat to convey thanks. That and another phrase or two might be the only Irish they ever use.
Whether or not Noel Gallagher has a phrase or two of Irish, he easily could have, given his background. Even if he hasn t, it s interesting that the unchallenged boss-man of what was last year called Britpop is a pure blood paddy.
Interesting, but not strange or particularly pass remarkable. The patterns of culture which shape our societies are by no means as sharply drawn or angular as they can be made to seem in the perspectives of purists and bigots.
If culture refers to the ways we define ourselves in the world, the notion of two cultures in the North is plainly inadequate.
There are more people who occasionally or even regularly use Irish listening to Be Here Now than cupping their ears to sean nss songs. And many more on the Shankill listening to Oasis than harkening to the clatter of lambegs.
Of course, we all ought to respect differences . Lenin declared that if there was only one family in Moscow which wanted its children taught through Georgian it was the duty of the State to provide Georgian language schooling in Moscow. Not because he believed that Georgian and Russian speakers were different in any relevant or important dimension but because he believed they were essentially the same and had exactly the same entitlements.
In the same way, people who want the sounds and signs of Irish around them are entitled to have them. In bowing to the campaign against bi-lingual signs, the Queen s union allied itself with the most bone-headed section of bigoted Orangeism.
The student unionists responsible should be ashamed of themselves but probably haven t the imagination to understand why.
We don t have to define ourselves according to the things which make us different when we hold so much of culture in common. The crowd which advances the Irish language as a key signifier of Irishness is talking through its anterior orifice. But they are, all in all, fairly harmless sort of folk.
But far from harmless is the faction whose determination to marginalise and eventually to erase the Irish language signifies a desire to marginalise and erase the community they associate with it.
Incidentally, is there anybody in Ireland physically uglier than John Taylor? I think not. n