The Elvis Encyclopedia, Adam Victor, Overlook Buckworth, USA, 2008, Hardback (d/j), 598 pages, Illustrated, ISBN-13: 978-1585675982.
Finally.........Adam Victor’s long awaited book, The Elvis Encyclopedia, has been released. Was it worth the wait? In EIN’s opinion……yes.
Following a one-year delay, the hefty 598 page book is not cheap, but it does contain a mine of information. Be it lists of Elvis’ singles, albums or Platinum & Gold Awards; favorite restaurants; girlfriends; film co-stars; session musicians; likes-dislikes; Elvis’ ancestry; or what is Elvis’ lowest selling record, the breadth of information that Adam Victor has gathered is staggering!
There are also individual entries for each of Elvis’ recordings and information ‘Sidebars’ on various interesting subjects. Virtually all aspects of Elvis’ life are covered!
While not perfect (no book of its type could be!), The Elvis Encyclopedia traverses the Elvis terrain in expansive and detailed fashion with many insights along the way. It is very obvious the amount of research and thought the author has put into his project.
The final product is necessarily a big book…….in size (31 x 22 x 4.3 cms), in pages (598), in weight (2.7kgs) and in content (vast).
As the title implies, Adam Victor has adopted a letter format, from A to Z, to present a seemingly endless amount of facts, trivia and commentary. The author acknowledges his book has a USA bias and this is understandable.
While the encyclopedia type format has been done before: e.g. The A-Z of Elvis (John Tobler, 1982); The Elvis Encyclopedia (Stanley & Coffey); The Ultimate Elvis (Patricia Jobe Pierce); Elvis: His Life from A to Z (Worth & Tamerius, 1988); ‘E’ Is For Elvis (Latham & Sakol, 1990) – in many respects, Adam Victor’s effort goes further (in some cases much further) than these earlier publications.
In particular, many readers will welcome Victor’s coverage of bootleg and FTD releases and the fact that his information is current to 2007.
Another strength of The Elvis Encyclopedia is the author’s near essay like entries on subjects including Colonel Tom Parker; Elvis’ Sex Appeal/Sex Life; and Elvis’ Record Sales.
The book's visuals are very strong, a pleasing mix of the familiar and not so familiar. Not surprisingly, being from the Paul Lichter Elvis Photo Archives, there are numerous rare photos. A full color and very suggestive full page visual (p. 271) is but one of many stand out photos which will entrance the reader.
The more than 400 photos are split evenly among b&w and color shots, and benefit from excellent page design, being well placed relative to the narrative.
Personally, I would have liked to have seen greater coverage of Elvis’ immense cultural impact in Victor’s work. He is particularly strong on Elvis’ music but considerably less so on Elvis’ pervasive and lasting cultural impact. While Elvis’ recordings are the essence of his appeal, more than 30 years after his death the Elvis icon has gone way beyond just his vast songbook.
Similarly, while both Albert Hand and Todd Slaughter justifiably have entries in The Elvis Encyclopedia, surprisingly absent are other iconic names such as Rocky Barra (Strictly Elvis), Rex Martin (Worldwide Elvis News Service Weekly) and Sid Shaw (Elvisly Yours).
Another area which could have been improved is Elvis’ concert appearances – providing attendance figures would have added real value.
Undoubtedly, Adam Victor’s book will please the majority of fans and general readers interested in knowing more about Elvis’ incredible career.
I also found it interesting that the author does not address arguably the dominant publishing form around Elvis today – the Internet. Prominent Elvis websites feature high quality reviews, interviews and commentary and boast a larger readership than most new Elvis book releases.
While many books and magazines are identified by author and/or name in The Elvis Encyclopedia, the few references I (have so far noticed) about Elvis websites refer to them using terms such as “according to a reputable website”. They are not mentioned by name.
Adam Victor also makes a number of sweeping statements, e.g. “It is commonly believed that Elvis made a total of 665 recordings….”. Such claims should have been supported by references.
How one perceives these issues will be an individual thing.
The Elvis Encyclopedia is not cheap. Its retail price of US$65.00, discounted to around US$30.00 by online sites including Amazon, means it is one of the higher priced Elvis books on the market. However, its large size, depth and breadth of information, and quality photographs, also means it offers appreciable value for money.
Book Design: Very Good
Photographs: Very Good (crisp & clear – from the extensive ‘Paul Lichter Elvis Photo Archives’)
Text: Informative (although at times unreferenced)
Value for Money: Very Good
Verdict: There are now two essential book purchases in 2008: Joseph Tunzi’s Elvis: ’68 at 40 and Adam Victor’s The Elvis Encyclopedia! Both have a very different emphasis, but both offer something to delight fans time and time again.
Buy The Elvis Encyclopedia (USA)
Buy The Elvis Encyclopedia (UK)
Comment on this
Jeanne Pellicani: I just finished reading your review. I agree with most of what you've said, but I'd like to add my comments.
I read every word of Adam Victor's book, struggling through to read the very small print. Yes, the photos are wonderful, but there are several errors in the factual information and some photos are labeled incorrectly. In additon there a great number of typographical errors. I understand that with this amount of material it is impossible not to have some mistakes. It is unfortunate that Mr. Victor was not an Elvis fan when he began this project, because as a fan, he would have caught a lot of these errors.
As a long time Elvis fan, who has read every book Adam Victor referenced in here and more, I do not find this book a necessary item for my collection. It's a great book for someone who doesn't have any of the earlier "encyclopedia" type books. Thanks for listening,
Colin: Thanks for a well balanced review. It's refreshing to read a review which gives the good and the bad. Overall it sounds like a good book.
Carolyn: I enjoyed your review of The Elvis Encyclopedia very much. I bought it two weeks ago and from what I've read so far it I'm liking it a lot.