From previous books I've read on my great moon program binge, I’d developed something of an ambivalence toward the two astronauts who are credited with writing this book. "The Right Stuff" did not paint a flattering picture of Al Shepard, and I'd twice recently come across the comment that most of the Gemini and Apollo astronauts did not know why Deke Slayton had selected each of them for particular crews until they read his autobiography several decades later.
My opinion of these gents has certainly improved from reading this book. While the prose did run to the overblown at times, I appreciated the emotion behind the words, and particularly enjoyed the expression of the deep friendship these two clearly shared. I was interested to find out so much about the Apollo Soyuz mission, which is not a topic that my previous reading had done more than briefly touch on. It was also interesting to see the famous faked photo of Shepard's lunar golf-shot. I liked the little snippets describing Louise Shepard’s experience of some of Al’s adventures, and was delighted to realise that these two stayed together, among so many astronaut divorces. The account of the Apollo 1 fire was the most gut-wrenching I've read so far; I teared up as I read that as part of the investigation, a replica of the capsule was built and set alight.
I'd love to know the extent to which the book really was written by Al and Deke, rather than the two journalists who are credited with assisting. Slayton succumbed to cancer before it was published, and an Amazon reviewer states that he was an author in name only. Shepard certainly seems to have been a smart enough guy, and effective enough communicator to have had an active part in authoring this book. I’m glad to have read it.