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Book Review: ‘Elvis Presley, CIA Assassin’ by Andy Rausch

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On a recent edition of online radio’s Dave White Presents, author Andy Rausch admitted his Elvis Presley, CIA Assassin was inspired by Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. But while both mash-ups play with the concept of putting historical figures in oddball circumstances, Rausch is correct when he notes the books are very different animals. Most importantly, Elvis Presley, CIA Assassin is laugh out loud hilarious, and it’s funny for a number of reasons.

First is the oral history format. The story is allegedly told from alternating viewpoints in interviews and transcripts which leads to some unusual exchanges. For example, Rausch’s Elvis meets with Richard Nixon in 1970 and, against all odds, becomes a CIA agent. He leads the team of burglars who break in the Democratic Party offices in the Watergate Hotel which yielded nothing. After that failure, well, here are two historic memos:

Memo from Gordon Liddy to Richard Nixon, dated June 9, 1972:

I realize the project has as yet yielded absolutely no results, and I am willing to take the blame for that. I would recommend that we send those guys back in there again. This time we’ll send them to take photographs of virtually every document in there and we’ll put so many bugs in there they’ll need a damn exterminator. What do you say?

As for the photograph of the guy’s dick, it does look Cuban, but you can’t be sure because of the dark lighting. That could be anyone’s dick.

Memo from Richard Nixon to Gordon Liddy, dated June 9, 1972:

All right, we’ll try it again. We can call this Project Gemstone Two. What do you think of that name? I came up with that myself.

As for the penis, I’m pretty sure it’s Cuban. I’ve seen a Cuban penis or two in my day, and I’m completely certain it’s Cuban. I even had Pat and Tricia look at it, and they both think it’s Cuban, too.

Many of the other “revelations” are told by mystified interviewees who can’t understand how anyone would take “John Burroughs” — Elvis’s nom de guerre — seriously. For example, Elvis seeks out a teacher to instruct him into how to become a Samurai warrior and finds one who takes him to a deserted island for training. The problem was the teacher was not an actual Samurai master but rather an actor who played one in a movie. Speaking of fakes, to create a cover for his spy work, Elvis seeks out an impersonator he more or less trains to fill in for him on stage. The problems here are the impersonator, at first, is better at being Elvis than Elvis, then becomes the “fat Elvis” of the ’70s, enraging the King who is in perfect shape fighting Commies in Bangladesh. The new King ultimately beds Priscilla who doesn’t notice the difference but finds the fake a better lover.

The one consistent narrator throughout is Bo Whitaker, the only member of his entourage Elvis trusts with his secrets. Presley even forces the CIA to accept Bo as his sidekick despite the fact Bo couldn’t pass the most elementary of exams. Bo is one of those people who, should he read a book like this, would seriously wonder if it was true or not. Bo is part of the team when Elvis leads a squad in Viet Nam to rescue a captured batch of entertainers including three Playboy bunnies and the Partridge Family. Elvis is all about finding the bunnies — Bo is much too devoted to saving his own secret passion, David Cassidy. After Bo acquires a cantankerous monkey, he names it after Cassidy and the monkey becomes the third wheel in future adventures.

It would be a bit unfair to describe too many of the places Elvis, Bo, and David Cassidy go as a key element in humor is surprise, and every page of Elvis Presley, CIA Assassin is full of the unexpected. Elvis himself is taken back by the CIA’s decision not to let him fake his death in a heroic attempt to save a baby, a bald eagle, a baby bald eagle, or the President’s children in a final blaze of glory. Instead, they have a contest to figure out the most embarrassing way for Elvis to die. Get the picture?

Admittedly, after 1977, the stories move more into Vampire Hunter territory, meaning they get strange and bloody, but less amusing. Elvis has to wipe out CREP — the Committee to Resurrect Elvis Presley — has a pointless stay in Iran, and turns out to be the real killer of John Lennon. Not much to laugh about here. But by this point in the story, you gotta stick around to see how it all comes together. Suffice it to say: the CIA has other ex-rock stars now serving as agency assassins.

You don’t have to be an Elvis fan to enjoy this imaginative flight of fancy. If you’re one of those for whom the master of Graceland is close to being a religious icon, well, you might track down Bo to complain about this portrayal. Apparently, he’s been serving duty as a roadie for Tom Petty, Jackson Browne, and others, so he shouldn’t be too hard to find.

To hear the audio interview with Andy Rausch mentioned above, you can download it or listen to it on the player at:

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