On this day, in 1943, Homer Hadley Hickam Jr was born. His is probably not a name that will be familiar to a great many of our readers, but we’d argue (politely but firmly) that it should be.
Homer H. Hickam, Jr wrote one of the stand-out books of 1998: Rocket Boys. It told the story of his formative years, growing up in a coal mining town in West Virginia. His home town of Coalwood was the sort of place where a boy went to school to learn to read and write and count, but only as a means of killing time until he was big enough to follow his daddy into the mines. The kind of place Hollywood has used a hundred times as the background for coming-of-age, that-might-have-been-your-life-but-it-won’t-be-mine, young-boy-rebels-against-his-father movies. No place, in short, for a young man who looked up at the night sky on October 4th, 1957 and decided that he wanted to be part of the Space Race.
We’d heartily recommend Rocket Boys to anyone who loves the Sense of Wonder space exploration stories of the Golden Age. Of course, we realise that for many people, reading time is in short supply and it’s hard enough to fit in all the books you know you want to read, without having to make room for ones you think you might enjoy. How lucky for those folks that the excellent Rocket Boys has been adapted by Captain America director Joe Johnston into the equally excellent film October Sky.
Spoiler alert: Hickam ended up working for NASA. And how he got there is a hell of a story – in book or film form.
Happy Birthday, Homer Hickam, Jr!