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HomeNewsArchivesHomer Hickam Jr.-- Writer, Scientist and Scuba Diver

Homer Hickam Jr.– Writer, Scientist and Scuba Diver

Nov. 20, 2007 – Homer H. Hickam Jr. was born on Feb. 19, 1943, the second son of Homer and Elsie Hickam, and was raised in Coalwood, West Virginia. He graduated from Big Creek High School in 1960 and from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute (Virginia Tech) with a B.S. in Industrial Engineering. A U.S. Army veteran, Hickam served as a first lieutenant in the Fourth Infantry Division in Vietnam in 1967-1968, where he won the Army Commendation and Bronze Star. He served six years on active duty, leaving the service with the rank of captain.
He has been a writer since 1969 after his return from Vietnam. At first, he mostly wrote about his scuba-diving adventures for a variety of magazines. Then, after diving on many of the wrecks involved, he branched off into writing about the battle against the U-boats along the American east coast during World War II. This resulted in his first book, Torpedo Junction (1989), a military history and best seller published by the Naval Institute Press.
In 1998, Delacorte Press published his second book, Rocket Boys: A Memoir, the story of his life in the little town of Coalwood. It became an instant classic. It has since been translated into eight languages. Among its many honors, it was selected by the New York Times as one of its Great Books of 1998 and was an alternate Book-of-the-Month selection for both the Literary Guild and Doubleday book clubs. The memoir was also nominated by the National Book Critics Circle as Best Biography of 1998. In February, 1999, Universal Studios released its critically-acclaimed film October Sky, based on Rocket Boys (The title October Sky is an anagram of Rocket Boys). Delacorte subsequently released a mass-market paperback of the book, re-titled October Sky. It reached the New York Times No. 1 position on their best-seller list.
The author's first fiction novel was Back to the Moon (1999). The Coalwood Way (2000), a memoir of Homer's hometown he calls "not a sequel but an equal," was published by Delacorte Press and is available in abridged audio, eBook, large print and Japanese. It was an alternate "Book-of-the-Month" selection for Doubleday book club. His third Coalwood memoir, a true sequel, was published in October 2001. It is titled Sky of Stone (2001). It is presently under development as a television movie. His final book about Coalwood was published in 2002, a self help/inspirational tome titled We Are Not Afraid: Strength and Courage from the Town That Inspired the No. 1 Bestseller and Award-Winning Movie October Sky.
His latest work is The Ambassador's Son (2005), published by St. Martin's Press. It is the second of his series of popular novels about Josh Thurlow, a Coast Guard officer during World War II. The series began with The Keeper's Son (2003), and will continue with The Far Reaches in 2007.
While working on his writing career, Hickam was employed as an engineer for the U.S. Army Missile Command from 1971 to 1981 assigned to Huntsville, Alabama, and Germany. He began employment with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration at Marshall Space Flight Center in 1981 as an aerospace engineer. During his NASA career, Hickam worked in spacecraft design and crew training. His specialties at NASA included training astronauts on science payloads, and extravehicular activities. Prior to his retirement in 1998, Hickam was the payload training manager for the International Space Station Program.
For recreation, he still loves to scuba dive. He also jogs nearly every day. A new avocation is amateur paleontology. He works with Dr. Jack Horner in Montana every summer. Most of all, however, he loves to write.
Mr. Hickam is married to Linda Terry Hickam, an artist and his first editor and assistant. They love their cats and share their time between homes in Alabama and the Virgin Islands.

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