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[i]Think of it as "Mad Men" meets "The Right Stuff" or "The Real Housewives of Cape Canaveral."
"The Astronaut Wives Club," Lily Koppel's second book (after "The Red Leather Diary"), has all of the above plus a dash of publishing excitement. After an extended auction, the book sold recently to Grand Central Publishing for a high-six-figure sum. "An imprint at every house in town" was interested in the book, said a source familiar with the deal.
Tentatively slated for release in spring 2013, "The Astronaut Wives Club" will follow the spouses of men in the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs, who lived in a Houston neighborhood they called "Togethersville."
The wives "drank together, popped pills together, consoled each other," Koppel, who's written for The Times, told Gatecrasher. While their husbands traveled in space - and cavorted with groupies known as "Cape Cookies" in Cape Canaveral, a no-wives zone - the women were left to maintain what Koppel calls the "facade of the perfect American family" for the fleet of cameras that invaded their homes.
The wives were proto-reality-stars. Life magazine purchased the exclusive rights to their stories for $500,000, divided among all the families. The deal also granted the astronauts life insurance policies, which no one else would provide. In return, the families lived with reporters camped on their lawns and crawling in through their windows -- essentially embedded in suburbia.
Meanwhile, the husbands returning to Earth had Don Draper-worthy existential angst. Some, like Buzz Aldrin, fell into depression and alcoholism. Most of the marriages split after the space effort. But while the astronauts lost track of one another, the wives stayed in touch. Even now, Koppel found, they gather for cruises and reunions.
Koppel's agent, Larry Weissman of Larry Weissman Literary, tells us there's already interest in the film rights to the book. He added, though, that he sees the story more as "a really smart TV series."[/i]
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