SKY OF STONE: A Memoir
Retired NASA engineer Hickam became a minor mass market celebrity in 1994 after a last-minute 2,000-word filler for Air & Space magazine (he spent three hours writing about launching homemade rockets in 1950s Coalwood, W.Va.) brought an avalanche of phone calls and letters. He expanded the article into 1998's bestselling Rocket Boys, filmed as the critically acclaimed October Sky (1999). Four hundred schools now use his memoirs in their curricula. The latest episode takes place in 1961 during young Hickam's first summer vacation from college, shortly after a foreman's death at the mine that Hickam's father supervises. Hickam (nicknamed Sonny) plans to read Robert A. Heinlein and meet girls in Myrtle Beach where his mother, Elsie, has a new dreamhouse, but Elsie insists he return home since his father is being accused of negligence in the foreman's death. Stuck in Coalwood, Sonny takes a difficult job laying track. Amid Sonny's travails with unrequited love, the track-laying competition and being stonewalled by his father and the locals when he asks anything about the death, state and federal inspectors arrive to investigate. Hickam prolongs the suspense in this cleverly constructed, richly detailed mystery peppered with colloquial dialogue and vivid characters. This pleasing book only reinforces his oeuvre. (Oct. 9)
Forecast:A preview excerpt in The Coalwood Way paperback (Sept.), an author tour (including a keynote speech at the Ohio Library Council Conference), promotion at Coalwood's Annual October Sky Festival, an unabridged audiobook and large print editions, and Hickam's popularity promise skyrocketing sales.
Release date: 10/01/2001