Paradise
by Madeline Baker, Nina Bangs, Ann Lawrence, and Kathleen Nance; assorted (1999)
Leisure, $5.50, ISBN 0-8439-4552-4


When I saw this book, there it was, on the cover, Passion and romance, from the King of Aloha!. King of Aloha? Who on earth is he? Then at the back blurb was this give-away statement: "the crooning of a certain hip-shaking rock 'n' roll legend." Imagine my horror when I realized this anthology had Elvis stamped all over it!

I never liked Elvis. There. I've said it (don't bother throwing stones - I have very tough skin). I never did like that hip-gyrating fellow whom I always believe looked way too pretty for my taste. Hence my first reaction upon reading the first story, Jessie's Girl by Madeline Baker, was to run out of the house screaming like a banshee. And yes, that story was pretty bad.

So, I didn't pretty much manage to get into the spirit of things to enjoy this book. There should be a quick test on the second page for readers like me. Something like:

Do you like Elvis? Can you accept the notion of Elvis as:

(a) A vampire now working as an Elvis impersonator (ha-ha) in LA?

(b)A ghost matchmaking people via his songs?

(c)A ghost matchmaking people via other human mediums?

(d) A matchmaker who runs away from Heaven time after time to meddle with us mortals' lives?

Drop this book like hot lead if the notion of Elvis playing Momma Matchmaker or Bloodsucker Extraordinaire causes your knickers to twist into knots (or something like that).

Personal prejudice aside, if I'm to judge the stories not by how Elvis-tic they are, but by entertainment value, I'd say Madeline Baker's Jessie's Girl is as wonderful as soggy cold pasta, Nina Bangs' The Hunka Hunka and The Penny-Pincher has a wonderful title but one too many choppy sentences, Ann Lawrence's Heaven-Sent is okay, and Kathleen Nance's The Best-Laid Plans is a bit better than Ann Lawrence's story, but still not enough to merit keeping this book. I should have followed Hildy's footsteps and start xeroxing novellas in anthologies instead of buying them.

Madeline Baker made Elvis into a bland, whiny, wimpy vampire who is so mushy he makes The Marshmallow Man looks like Rambo. He finds his perfect soulmate in a dumb floozy who, in her pristine purity and innocence (read: eeeuch), couldn't put two and two together that her besotted lover is a sixth-rate Lestat-wannabe to save her life. I finished the story with relief. Goodbye Jessie and Kathy. Tell me the next time you're around, I'll make sure I'll book that flight to Mars way before you reach here.

Nina Bangs had a wonderful idea. Skeptic Julia underwent hypnosis where she was supposed to fall in love the next time she heard an Elvis song. She went to sell computer software to funfair operator Dylan who happened to have a singing mechanical Elvis nearby. Guess what happened when they met. Unfortunately, whatever comedy Miss Bangs may have up her sleeve is totally ruined by her choppy writing. Like this. Every other sentence. Someone would talk. Or do things. Like this. On and on. Arrrrrggghhhh! I picked up Miss Bangs' An Original Sin with this book,which has an intriguing premise (or so the back blurb promised), but now I'm terrified to read it.

Ann Lawrence also had a wonderful idea. Jack Ryan found himself indebted to God when he made a prayer in a baseball match ten years ago: Oh Lord, I promise I'll do anything you ask. Just let me finish pitching this perfect game.Guess what? God is now giving Jack orders via a priest to go hunting down heavenly fugitives on Earth. These heavenly beings, who, funnily enough happens to be famous well-known people. (Elvis in heaven? After reading his sordid lifestyle in those tell-all books, I'm sorry if I find myself a bit skeptical about this notion. Don't blame me, blame those books). His clues led him to the house of Elvis fanatic Tuesday Evans, whose mother, in cahoots with Mr Presley, wrecked havoc on both their lives. Too bad I can't reconcile the idea of Elvis as Momma Matchmaker with Elvis the Sex Machine to enjoy this story. That and the brewing Big Misunderstanding thingie between the two lead characters.

Kathleen Nance's story is the least paranormal, much to my relief - I've had my overdose of Elvis by now - but it is also a story where nothing much happens but talk talk talk. GG (that's her name), while on holiday in Hawaii, takes up scuba diving lesson from reluctant instructor Ric. They fight their attraction, they succumb, then they agonize over their long-term plans. That's the story.

Next time I go on a book-buying spree, I'm going to keep my eyes open. I'm adding Elvis to my no-no list, alongside Secret Babies, Bachelor Auction, Damsel and Her Bodyguard, Cowboy and Towngirl, I Got Stoned By Amnesia, and Counterfeit Spouses. Now excuse me - I have a sudden urge to play the Stones over the stereo. Loud.

Rating: 29


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