Elvis leaves readers all shook up in Edinburgh writer Rick Wilson's fun new novel... uh-huh-huh
Wilson, now 77, recalls, “I was a sub editor at 16 on a national girls' magazine called Cherie. As part of my job I did this page of star gossip called A Date with Destiny - my name was supposedly Paul Destiny. I look back now and realise what fun it was. I met stars like Billy Fury, Adam Faith, Joe Brown... I interviewed all these guys.”
Hanging out with all the stars of the day there was an element of reflected glory which saw Wilson become a bit of a celebrity in his own right, he recalls, “I was interviewing Billy Fury when this female fan came up and asked if she could have his autograph. Then, because I kind of looked like these guys in those days, she turned to me and said, 'Who are you?' I said, 'I'm Paul Destiny,' and she said, 'Gonnae give me your autograph.' I signed Rick Wilson - she wasn't happy,” he laughs, before recalling another incident from his youth.
“I had a girlfriend back then who didn't believe I met all these people. She was a big Adam Faith fan so, when I told her I was interviewing him the following week I said, ‘I'll get a message from him for you and an autograph just to prove it.’ And I did. Adam Faith said, 'Not a problem mate, what's her name?' When I took it to her, she wouldn't believe me and tore it up. I met Adam Faith at the airport just before he died and told him this story and he said, ‘Blimey, l’m sorry, mate. But l did my best for you’.”
Wilson also briefly indulged his own dream of being a rock star, playing drums in a rock band called The Society Six and, at school in Montrose, boasted Molly Duncan, a founding member of the Average White Band as a pal.
“One of my big friends at school was Molly Duncan,” he confirms “I remember passing a window and hearing him blowing on this soprano sax – it was awful. I stuck my head through the window and said, 'Molly, you'll never get in a band, you're not good enough...’.”
He laughs, “Ten years later he and his band were stopping the traffic in Amsterdam where I was working at the time.”
Those memories are all triggered as we chat about his eleventh novel, The Man Who Would Be Elvis, a tale inspired by an scene he witnessed outside a care home in Stockbridge as he walked to his home in the West End.
He explains, “I was walking past the Life Care care home and there was a man singing Elvis songs to a circle of old folk. It struck me that this man looked quite respectable and that this was quite a way out thing to be doing. I thought, ‘There has to be a story here’. I'm not sure, but I think he turned out to be a financial analyst with a bank. I found it interesting that people can have this other personality... which is often Elvis Presley.”
With the kernel of an idea in his head, Wilson asked the would be Elvis if he could interview him. He declined. Instead, he turned to two best known Scottish Elvis tribute artists, Paul Thorpe and Johnny Lee Memphis to help get the colour he needed for the novel.
"These guys live two lives, they're the ordinary person living in unremarkable homes and then suddenly they're entertaining 3,000 people at the SECC," he explains
The Man Who Would Be Elvis tells the story of down on his luck supermarket manager Roderick Kirkwood. When his dad dies in a care home and he starts going through his stuff with the home manager; they find Elvis records, a full highland outfit and a white Elvis costume in his wardrobe.
At the funeral, Roderick decides to sing an Elvis song for his dad. Impressed, the care home manager asks him to come and sing for the residents. As he's about to lose his job at the supermarket he takes her up on the offer, which leads to to him acquiring an agent.
When the agent is approached by the producer of a big three-star Elvis tribute show touring to The Playhouse – one of his Elvises has broken his leg – Roderick gets his big break...
“Tangled love affairs ensue and it all gets quite silly,” says Wilson, who admits he that although a life-long Elvis fan, he depended on Johnny Lee Memphis to faithfully recreate life as a tribute artist.
“He was very helpful. I talked to him once or twice and when he read my manuscript he said I'd caught how it was. That pleased me.”
The Man Who Would Be Elvis isn’t the only novel Wilson currently has available, he has also just released Old Gold: Was it a find to die for?, a tale of cowboys and the gold rush and very different in atmosphere to his tale of tribute acts.
"All my books are different,” he says, “I just like to tell stories.”
Don’t miss: From tomorrow we will be running extracts from The Man Who Would Be Elvis for the next five days
The Man Who Would Be Elvis, by Rick Wilson, is now available in paperback, priced £6.99, here