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Monday, June 28, 2021

Mama's Little Prince: A Sample In English

Mamas Little Prince: Elvis Presley in 1945.
As I promised in my previous post, this one will include a sample from my brother Mårten Melin's new book Mama's Little Prince, translated by him as it is written in Swedish. The novel was released today, it has 213 pages and the reading age is from 9 years.

But before we begin, I'd like to let Mårten himself introduce the book:

This is the story about Elvis Presley. But not the one about the world-famous entertainer, adored by millions. No, this is the story about the poor eleven-year old boy from Tupelo who just wanted to sing. And to buy his mama a pink cadillac.

It's about the boy who would be known to the world simply as ”The King”.

Dealing with issues like bullying, racism and the first big love, you really don’t have to be an Elvis aficionado to enjoy it. But after reading it, maybe you will be.

Based on true events, and thoroughly researched, the story takes place in the small town of Tupelo, Mississippi in the mid-1940’s. Elvis Presley moves from house to house with his mama (who likes to spend money) and his papa (who’s not to keen earning them). Among bullies, neighbors, friends and love interests, he plans for the future: to become a famous singer. But how is he to achieve his goal? Could the talent contest at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy show be the beginning of success? Or will the feelings of guilt, being the only surviving twin, hold him back?

This is a story told with warmth and humor, filled with both sadness and triumph. We believe it’s the first book of its kind: a novel for young people about the young would-be king, before fame and fortune came his way, when Elvis Presley was still just his mama’s little prince. Or at least, when she thought he was.

So now, without further ado, here follows a sample in English
from Mama's Little Prince.  

Chapter 15

I place the cans on top of the fence. Squeeze the rocks in my hand.

Bang! Bang! Bang!

I haven’t lost it. I hit all of them. I put the cans on the fence again, pick up the rocks. It’s the same cans I had on Berry street. Same rocks, too. I never did unpack them, not until now.

”Will you let me try?”

I turn around. There’s a black guy standing there, about my age. He’s alone, standing in the garden on the other side of the fence. I don’t answer his question, just nod towards the house behind him.

”You live there?”

”Sure. With my grandpa.”

I wonder where his parents are, but before I ask he says:

”Most people here on the Hill are black.”

I shrug.

”Not us.”

We look at each other for a while, then I hand him the rocks.

”Be my guest.”

He climbs over the fence, glancing to both sides as he does. He takes the rocks and throws the first one. He misses.

”Throw like this, from the side.”

I show him. He misses again, but he’s getting there. Third time he scores. He smiles at me and I can’t help smiling back at him.

”Name’s Sam,” he says. ”Sam Bell.”

”Elvis. Elvis Presley.”

We shake hands, just as if we’re grown-ups.

”Where did you live before you came here?”

”Mulberry Alley. But originally we’re from East Tupelo.”

 ”Got any siblings?”

 I think of Jesse, of course I do. But I just shake my head.

 ”Nah, it’s just me and my ma and pa.”

 ”Mulberry,” he says. ”That’s close to Shakerag. It’s pretty wild, I hear.”

 ”Yeah!” I say. ”There was this man, he could really play the guitar!

 Sam laughs.

 ”I was thinking of fights and stuff. You like music?”

 ”I love music.”

 ”I got something for you then. Come on!”

 I gaze towards the house.

 ”I just gotta tell mama. Follow me!”

 ”You sure?” Sam asks.

”Yeah!”

We run up to the house, it’s like a race that Sam wins. We enter, mama sits there with a cup of coffee, listening to the radio. Of course, Grand Ole Opry is on soon. But it can’t be helped, I’m too curious to see whatever Sam wants me to see.

”Mama, I’m going out with a friend.”

Mama looks at me.

”What friend?”

”A new one, he’s living next door. Sam, say hello to my mama.”

Sam, who has been standing in the hallway, takes a few steps forward and bows. He looks nervous.

”Nice to meet you, ma’m.”

Mama looks at him, surprised.

”Well, hello Sam. What you gonna do?”

”Just listen to some music, ma’m.”

Mama nods her head.

”All right. Just be back at five.”

”Thanks, mama!” I say. ”Bye!”

When I pass the window from the outside, I look up. Mama is standing there, looking at us. I wave at her, she waves back.

”Your mama’s all right, Elvis.”

I smile at him.

”I guess she is.”

               *       

Sam starts to run, I have to work hard to keep up with him.

”Let’s see,” he says. ”Yes! There they are.”

I hear music. Guitar and singing, it’s a woman’s voice.

”Who?” I ask.

”I don’t know their names, but ... there!”

 Sam is pointing to a man and a woman sitting outside a little drug store. They each have a guitar, but only the woman seems to be singing. They could be about mama’s and papa’s age.

 Look down, look down that lonesome road
 Before you travel on
 Look up, look up and greet your maker
 For Gabriel blows his horn

At first I believe they have a speaker somewhere, it’s so loud! The singer makes faces, she’s really into it, singing with her eyes closed.

I applaud them when they’re done. The woman looks at me, surprised, then she smiles. They play some more and I long to get home, to play the guitar myself. Somebody comes out and hands them sodas.

”She sounds a little like Sister Rosetta Tharpe,” Sam says.

”Who?”

”You gotta listen to her. Let's go to my house!”

”Does she live there?”

Sam laughs, then starts to run. He makes a gesture that I should follow him. Does he ever walk?

                   *   

Sam’s house looks just like ours. It smells of tobacco inside. An elderly man is sitting in an armchair, reading the paper. He looks up at Sam.

”There you are, my boy! How’s everything?”

”Great, grandpa. This is Elvis, he lives in the house behind ours.”

”How are you, sir?”

I bow, just like I’ve been taught to do in front of older people. Sam’s grandfather raises his eyebrows, then smiles at me.

”Just fine, son. Welcome to the Hill!”

”Could we use the record player, grandpa?”

”Record player?” I cry out. ”You have a record player?”

”Of course! We can’t listen to a record without a record player, can we?”

I look around. And there it is, the big brass horn is gleaming in the sunlight that looks in through the curtains. They have a piano as well. What luxury!

Sam’s grandfather laughs out.

”You gotta have a record player to hear the really fine songs. What will you play?”

”Sister Rosetta Tharp,” Sam says.

”Good choice!” his grandfather says.

Sam starts to browse through a pile of records. I want to hear them all.

He finds the record he’s looking for, puts it on the turntable and starts to wind it up. When the turntable is spinning, he puts the needle down, and soon a powerful voice fills the room. Sister Rosetta Tharpe slides on the notes, drowns out the trumpets in the background. Sometimes she talks more than she sings.

When she’s holding the last note I hold my breath. What a voice!

Music is really everywhere. Outside stores, in the church, on the radio. But with a record player you can decide for yourself when you want to listen, what you would like to listen to. It must be the greatest invention of all time.

”She sounds like the woman at the store, doesn’t she?” Sam asks.

”Uh-huh,” I say. ”Only better.”

We listen to the other side of the record. It's just as good as the first. I want a record player too. And records!

I make a promise to myself that when I grow up I’m going to have a whole room full of them.

Then it’s time for me to go, mama will wonder where I am if I don’t come home.

”It was nice meeting you, Elvis. You’re a very polite boy. Come back anytime.”

”Thank you, Mr Bell.”

I bow before I go out through the door. Sam joins me.

”You know what, Elvis? You’re weird.”

”What do you mean?”

”You don’t have to call my granddad Sir. Whites usually don’t say that to black people.”

”He’s your grandfather. He’s older than I am. Of course I will call him Sir.”

Sam gives me a big smile.

”As I said, you’re weird.”

He says it like it’s a good thing.

”See you!” I say and jump over the fence.

Sam waves back at me.

       *               

Next Saturday he enters our garden where I sit and practice. I keep playing, while he’s standing there, listening. When I’m finished he laughs a little.

”You sound like a black person when you sing.”

I shrug.

”I don’t think I sound like a black person.”

”Is that so?”

”Or a white person, for that matter.”

”So who do you sound like?” Sam asks.

I have to think about that for a while.

”I sound like myself.”

Sam laughs again.

”Wanna do something?” he asks.

”Sure,” I say.

”What do you like except music?”

”The movies! We can go to the movies! Strand has a showing at three o’clock.”

”But we can’t sit together,” he says.

”Don’t worry about that,” I say.

”And I don’t have any money either.”

”I have money,” I say. ”I can pay for the both of us.”

”All right, it’s a deal!”

We go into the kitchen. Mama gives us each a sandwich and we’re off.

”Two tickets, please!” I say.

The cashier looks suspiciously at Sam, then at me. But she gives me the tickets. I hand one of them to Sam.

”See you inside!” I say. ”Keep a seat for me.”

”What?”

”You heard.”

The house is half-filled, mostly with children. I wave at Sam, he waves back, but looks at me, uncertain.

When the lights go down, I climb the railing that separates Sam’s part of the house from mine. It’s easy.

I sit down beside him.

”You’re a fool, Elvis,” he says and laughs.

”In the dark you can’t see who’s white and who’s black, can you?” I say.

I think of music, of different voices. Is it really possible to hear who’s black and who’s white? For real?

© Mårten Melin, 2021

 If you are a publisher and interested in this book, please contact Rights director Åsa Bergman, Rabén & Sjögren Agency, at asa.bergman@rabensjogren.se  

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