One of the fun things about reading astronaut biographies is discovering the different individual personalities making up this group of elite men and women; well at least within the limitations of what the biographer is able to fathom or the autobiographer is prepared to share. In the 279 pages of this work, I'm not sure how much of the real Gordon 'Gordo' Cooper we get, although to be fair, the quite minimal coverage of his adult private domestic life probably says something positive about his reluctance to air the washing (clean or dirty)in public, when many readers revel in digging the dirt in any celebrity story.
What does strike me is the professionalism and gravitas of the man who has always had(in the public mind anyway)the reputation of one of the more happy go lucky astronauts, not helped, in my view by his almost buffoon-like portrayal by Dennis Quaid in Philip Kaufman's film version of Tom Wolfe's 'The Right Stuff'
Other reviewers have really covered much of the ground of this very readable work. Beyond the usual history of Cooper's flying days with the USAF, subsequent astronaut career with NASA and fragmentary details post-NASA, the most controversial area of his life, ie interest and experience of UFOs etc has drawn the most comment, and indeed criticism. Some 25% of the book is concerned with not only UFOs and extra-terrestrial life, but with what we might generally call the paranormal. His interest in the work of inventor Nikola Tesla and association with the controversial Valerie Ransone seems to have inspired scorn and shudders, but littte admiration. He comes across as disarmingly honest about his explorations and beliefs in these rather difficult areas, and whilst some allege he has spiced things up to sell more books, and others consider him gullible, it should perhaps be taken at face value. Spicing things up to sell books doesn't make sense;at his age and with the celebrity attached to his name, he would have no need to compromise his credibility. As to credulity, if he has been led up the garden path by what seem outlandish ideas about alien encounters then that is as much a part of his story as anything else. It's certainly different.
Perhaps his judgement isn't all it could be as he paints a rosy picture of rocket pioneer Wernher von Braun as a nonparticipant in the appalling treatment of slave labour at the Nazi rocket research establishment at Peenemunde, flying in the face of many other opinions. We'll never know the whole truth, of course, but at least Gordon Cooper's loyalty as a friend can't be faulted.
All in all, this is yet another fascinating account of one whose life encompassed those heady days of early manned space exploration, when, in hindsight at least, it appears there were those who believed we could reach beyond the pettiness of an earthbound existence.
An easy read for fans of the genre. The book seems to be out of print, but as usual, patient searching should find a copy at a reasonable price. Well worth a look.