In the Shadow of Elvis, Perils of a Ghostwriter
by Rico Austin
What would you do if you found out that your father or mother was a famous celebrity and the truth had been hidden from you for most of your life? What would you do if your father was someone that you admired, emulated and revered and just didn’t know you were his son? Well, let’s start from the beginning and introduce two important players. First, let’s meet award winning author Rico Austin who I personally know is the author of My Bad Tequila and Arizona Is Where I Live, which are two outstanding books. One tells of his life and the other about the state of Arizona where he lives. The story begins with some background about the author, his trip with his wife and some friends to Iceland and a chance encounter with a man that would soon become more than just a close friend. Walking into a familiar restaurant he noticed a couple enjoying some hot wings. Not wanting to burn his palette he ordered his medium hot and struck up a conversation with this man and his wife. While talking it came out that Rico is an author and the man in question jumped at the chance to explain that an author was just what he needed and guess why? You got it he wanted someone to write his story for him as a ghostwriter, submit it to an agent, equally share the royalties and hopefully bring to light his well kept family secret.
I bet you are now wondering what that secret is and why Rico decided to take this man up on his offer but not before spending some time with him, getting to know his friends, enjoying some great tequila and finding out they had a lot in common. Just who is this famous person he is related to? Well, he found out in an odd way when he went to visit his sister and happened to see something in one of her drawers. The papers revealed who is really parents were, the identity of his adoptive parents. John Dennis Smith is the legitimate or Illegitimate son of the King himself: ELVIS! During his conversation over chicken wings/ hot and medium he finds out this man is the son of The King Himself: ELVIS.
As Rico decides to assist and ghostwrite this story he learns something that might change his mind. What happens when he finds out that someone else was enlisted to write this book? What happens when he learns a proposal was sent to a well-known literary agency? What about this other author and how would this be dealt with in a professional way? Could he trust John or would he face the same fate if things did not go well? But, Rico is smart and when push comes to shove he asked the right questions understood why John released the other author and the steps that he had to follow and guidelines to create a proposal that would be accepted. Let’s not forget that he has a full time job, instructional classes to give and family. But, Rico manages to follow all of the guidelines and the book is written, the proposal shared, the preface and much more as I begin to read: Let the Boy Sing: Elvis is My Daddy: John Dennis Smith and Rico Austin.
First of all there are two books, one is Rico’s journey writing this book and the second is the book itself that he ghost wrote. Let’s learn something about John Dennis Smith: I.D. Smith was the half-brother of Gladys Smith Presley. Believe it or not, but Gladys Smith Presley was his grandmother and Elvis’ mother’s brother who helped bring up John. John loves to sing and has received many awards. His high tenor voice can be heard throughout the south with the many bands that he was with. His adoptive parents were related to Elvis but there are tons of family trees that can be sited related to John, Elvis and both families. His real mother’s name is Zona Marie and both authors spotlight her within the first few chapters of the book. Robert Smith was Elvis’s grandfather and have many other children and wives before marrying Doll Mansell his grandmother. He relates how he was on the Lawrence Welk show and many others as a kid. Let the Boy Sing: Elvis is My Daddy is a print on demand book created by a company in Oklahoma.
Rico never really understood why John decided to have him write this book. He was a popular singer with an over 1.5 million dollar book deal, claiming Rico would get over a half a million dollars but first, Tate Publishing wanted their piece of the pie which was thirty eight hundred dollars. So, why did Rico decide to pay for the book? Why did he object to working with the Carlburg the first author? Why was he fired? This book tells the real life story of Smith and describes even more this other man’s work ethic and the fun Rico had promoting My Bad Tequila is equal to the fun he has promoting this one. Karen Albright Lin was the first author or ghostwriter he enlisted to help him. Checking all three of his co-author’s birth certificates, the DNA results he begins by discussing the premise behind the book, the amazing marketing and the many venues they will explore and the sample chapters that are included beginning with how John felt when at 27 years old he learned just who is father was and the mixed feelings he felt. Sharing as John says the same DNA as Elvis would change his life but not his career goals. Wait until you see the photos you won’t be able to put the book down until you read all of the sample chapters and find out how Rico finally got it published and the mystery of the literary agency and whether they agreed to accept his proposal. Can he prove all of this and what about Elvis’s family? Will they believe him? Let’s continue and learn more. The first two sample chapters elaborate on how he learned about his parentage but the heartfelt meeting between him and Zona Marie followed by more about her life is quite compelling and you will have to learn more by reading it for yourself.
What makes this novel unique are the many voices you hear, the different books that are highlighted and the many experiences Rico relates. Learning more about his ghostwriting experience, the underhanded scheme pulled by a man named Rich, the reneging of the contract and the miscommunications, you begin to wonder why Rico would even continuing with this endeavor. An encounter that caused Rico to have a serious medical scare, many trips with friends, learning more about Connie and her Elvis collection, this novel has many different layers that the reader will be able to easily uncover. One thing for sure once you start reading the book you won’t stop until you find out just what happened to the final deal with John Dennis Smith. Relating the events using a timeline we get to experience the actual events ourselves, the book signings, meeting Starsky, which is exciting enough, many other celebrities, parties, fun times and even finding time for his tire repair classes, Rico’s energy and drive are never ending or more like an everlasting battery that never wears out.
The end result of this project will definitely alert anyone thinking about ghostwriting to think twice about the project, make sure you check out the person that you are ghostwriting for and something my Dad always taught me: Get it in writing and notarized. When a handshake is your word and your word is not gold, the rest is just plain fabricated, forged or just a sham.
Learn more about this talented author when you read his bio. Learn more when you read pages 124-125 and read the awards he has received for his first novel My Bad Tequila. Elvis might have been John Dennis Smith’s father and he might have agreed to want Rico to write his story but one thing is for sure and what happens you just won’t believe, but the pictures within this book speak volumes, the original samples are quite interesting and the end result you will learn for yourself. In the Shadow Of Elvis: one thing is for certain: this author does not walk in anyone’s Shadow, he casts a beautiful picture front and center on his own. This is really quite compelling and revealing book with many lessons to be learned including trust, faith, betrayal, lies and much more. So, In the Shadow of Elvis: Perils of A Ghostwriter: A definite Five Gold Tequila Novel. Once again author Rico Austin hits the mark with another novel that takes us across many states, oceans and cities and lands us right back where he belongs.
Fran Lewis: reviewer, educator, author and talk show host of Book Discussion on Blog Talk Radio on the World Of Ink