Review Los Aviones Y el Rey

Carlos Varrenti published the book ‘Los Aviones Y el Rey’ (‘The Planes and the King’), on his two major interests; Elvis Presley and aeronautics. A combination familiar to fans who, while reading this probably automatically thought of the ‘Lisa Marie’ and the ‘Hound Dog II’, the two planes once owned by Elvis. 

And where most fans just gaze in admiration at the Lisa Marie as a testimony to the status of Elvis as real Rock Star, or should we say “King”, Carlos takes us behind the image of the King and his planes. 


Design

The book comes as a 198-page hardcover book, written in Spanish (an English version is due later this year). The design is attractive and modern, with white as the base color. It has a good balance between an illustrated Elvis book and a “technical” book. Varrenti, an aeronautical engineer, knows what he’s writing about, but he is also an enthusiastic Elvis fan, and it shows. The text, including many details, is very easy to read. 

Also nice to see, is that dealing with a big subject as airplanes, that a big subject comes back in the design with a small plane-icon on each page. This shows that the author and his designer paid attention to the details. This is important when you cover a technical subject like this. 

The writing is insightful and knowledgeable, integrating the many sources into one story, illustrated with interesting and funny facts and quotes. It must have taken years of research to be able to present all this content with this much details in a very natural manner. 

The book is illustrated with many high quality black and white and color pictures of the aircrafts Elvis traveled on, including his own of course, memorabilia, technical drawings and much more. Many of the pictures were provided by Erik Lorenzen’s Elvis Files team, so Varrenti had access to a vast collection of quality pictures. Just look at the cover, what a great shot. And there are many more to be found inside. 

What really surprised me was that these pictures of Elvis, traveling from concert to concert, are usually merely used as illustrations for another story. But presented together, and in the proper historical context, they tell their own story. And an interesting story it is. This is one of the beauties of this book. 


Content

As an aeronautical engineer, and a huge Elvis Presley fan, Varrenti’s attention was immediately drawn to the two planes exhibited at Graceland when he visited Memphis. Right there and then he made the decision to bring his two ‘loves” together. And after many years of meticulous research, collecting and archiving all the information related to Elvis and his planes - photographs, video, books, snippets of text and everything else - it all came together in this book. 

In eight chapters, covering everything from Elvis’ fear of flying - he had a close call early in his career and he was aware of airplane accident that killed Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, Patsy Cline and other traveling artists - his Convair 880 (the Lisa Marie) and his Lockheed JetStar (the Hound Dog II) and the other planes he used. All are covered in meticulous detail and illustrates with stories and pictures related to Elvis using those planes. The neatly integrated quotes from the people who were there at the time, make the story come alive. 

I knew Elvis rented planes, or used planes from others – as owning a jet is an expensive hobby, even for the rich and famous like Kirk Kerkorian and Frank Sinatra – but I didn’t know he rented Hugh Hefners “Big Bunny” (equipped with a “full crew” according to Jerry Schilling’s memoirs).

Added to that, is Elvis flight diary from 1955 to 1977. Presented with little maps and pictures of Elvis at various airports or in the planes. Looking at the travel schedule, it almost seemed logical you owned your own airplane. 

The book closes with a chapter on the whereabouts of the king’s airplanes after 1977, with the Lisa Marie and hound Dog II finding their way back to Graceland and other planes ending up on an abandoned airstrip or scrapyard. 


Conclusion

Carlos Varrenti must be complimented for his in-depth research on Elvis and his planes. But perhaps even more for succeeding to present the vast amount of technical and logistical information in the proper historical - Elvis - context, keeping the focus on both Elvis and aeronautics, and at the same time presenting an entertaining read. 

This is a book that should have been written years ago, but I’m glad it has been done now by someone who know what he’s writing about. It is a labor of love, and it shows. 


More information

For more information on the book you can visit Carlos Varrenti's website >>> Los Aviones el Rey or the >>> Elvis Files website or the >>> Argentinian Elvis Shop.