Is there a more American story than Homer Hickam's? Born in a dirt-poor mining town in West Virginia, Hickam's destiny was written in coal dust: He'd follow his father into the mines, mortgage himself to the company store and work until an accident or black lung disease killed him. Instead, spurred by Sputnik and America's scramble to beat the Russians at the space game, Hickam and three high school buddies turned an extracurricular interest in rockets into a ticket out of poverty. Hickam's memoir, Rocket Boys,
charmed critics even as its sheer, page-turning readability prompted suspicions that his recollection had subtly bent real events to the rules of ficti...