In Koeff’s debut novel, a man stumbles upon a hermit who may be the King of rock and roll.
Roy Redford has a fear of flying creatures, and to battle this phobia, he’s taken up bird-watching. On a day off from his job at the High Towers Casino Resort, he visits Zion National Park in Utah. While watching for birds on a cliff face, he sees something fall—something bigger than a bird. While investigating, Roy finds a battered acoustic guitar and an ornate, red, sequined jumpsuit. He climbs along narrow, rocky pathways and eventually hears some “sweetly majestic” singing. However, the singer, a naked elderly man, doesn’t take kindly to the intrusion. From his ramshackle cabin, he blasts Roy with a shotgun. When the bird-watcher awakes, he’s inside the cabin with a bandaged right leg. Roy discovers that the hermit, though “weathered with age...was surprisingly handsome.” The man wishes to be called “Friend,” has a pet monkey named Pistol, and possesses a beautiful voice, reminiscent of Elvis Presley’s. Later, a storm brings chaos to the hermit’s oasis, and Roy must act quickly to save his life. Upon leaving, Roy promises never to tell anyone about the cabin. Yet his souvenirs—the aforementioned guitar and jumpsuit—beg to be explained. In this clever, heartfelt work, Koeff writes not just for lovers of the King, but for anyone fascinated by modern mythmaking. Roy’s sleuthing eventually leads him to Katherine Florence, a writer who’s strictly interested in Elvis-related facts, which include the existence of a twin brother named Jesse and numerous impersonators, including a man named Sid Hooper. The details of Roy’s own story lend much to the narrative, as well, such as the death of his brother, Matthew, and his casino job, in which he mingles with gamblers to conjure a good-time atmosphere. Friend’s advice to “find a job where folks are taken care of, not just taken,” is splendid and suitable for anyone. Koeff also captures the American Southwest in gorgeous lines such as, “Up ahead lie hundreds of miles of brown sun scorched emptiness...one might as well be traveling into space.”
A sparkling ode to music’s most enduring legend.