Bob Cannon
July 18, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

As the power behind Elvis’ throne, Colonel Tom Parker was one of rock’s most elusive figures, and EW contributor Alanna Nash spent five years chasing his shadow for The Colonel: The Extraordinary Story of Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis Presley (Simon & Schuster, $25). Nash details his childhood as Andreas Cornelis van Kuijk in the Netherlands, from which he may have fled in 1929 to escape a murder rap. Arriving in the U.S. and taking a new name, he worked as a carny and learned to fleece an unsuspecting public (he later wrangled a 50 percent commission from Elvis). Parker humiliated flunkies, refused any offers that might challenge Elvis artistically, and ignored the singer’s obvious drug problem. Parker was a hustler and control freak — and thanks to Nash’s portrait, he’s no longer such a mystery.

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