Books: The Fall of The King

Volume II of Peter Guralnick's masterly telling of Elvis' life

There is a red light right at the start. In 1994's Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley, Peter Guralnick movingly, and with the greatest empathy, showed the unlikely and glorious shaping of a poor white boy from the Deep South into a musical demigod. Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley (Little, Brown; 767 pages; $27.95), the second and concluding volume, is a long coast on the dark downside, a story of ugliness and indulgence and encroaching desperation.

"It is, I think, a tragedy, and no more the occasion for retrospective moral judgments than any other biographical canvas...

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