Wolfe's roots in New Journalism were intertwined with the nonfiction novel that Truman Capote had pioneered with In Cold Blood. As Capote did, Wolfe tells his story from a limited omniscient perspective, dropping into the lives of his "characters" as each in turn becomes a major player in the space program. After an opening chapter on the terror of being a test pilot's wife, the story cuts back to the late 1940s, when Americans were first attempting to break the sound barrier. Test pilots, we discover, are people who live fast lives with dangerous machines, not all of them airborne.
Wolfe traces Alan Shepard's suborbital flight and Gus Grissom's embarrassing panic on the high seas (making the controversial claim that Grissom flooded his Liberty capsule by blowing the escape hatch too soon). The author also produces an admiring portrait of John Glenn's apple-pie heroism and selfless dedication. By the time Wolfe concludes with a return to Yeager and his late-career exploits, the narrative's epic proportions and literary merits are secure. Certainly The Right Stuff is the best, the funniest, and the most vivid book ever written about America's manned space program. --Patrick O'Kelley
"It is Tom Wolfe at his very best...technically accurate, learned, cheeky, risky, touching, tough, compassionate, nostalgic, worshipful, jingoistic... The Right Stuff is superb" (New York Times Book Review)
"An exhilarating flight into fear, love, beauty and fiery death... magnificent" (People)
"Absolutely first class... Improbable as some of Tom's tales seem, I know he's telling it like it was" (Michael Collins, former astronaut)
"Tom Wolfe’, article: ‘You only had to look at him… or read such books as The Bonfire of the Vanities and The Right Stuff to know that Tom Wolfe was like no other" (John Pye The Scotsman)