I'm back into spaceflight books – two read and two more underway or about to start. This is actually a new one – a posthumous publication of a memoir by Apollo 7 command module pilot Donn Eisele published with an afterword by his widow.
What is interesting about this book is that it's the one memoir by the original (by which I mean Mercury/Gemini/Apollo) astronauts that wasn't actually published by its author – meaning that this short bio written with a palpable sense of anger towards NASA and others went into print without its author having cooled down and deciding later that he didn't want to blow the whistle on what was going on. So while we have numerous accounts by non-astronaut writers of the 1960's astronaut culture of womanizing and boozing, and some indirect references to it in film (From the Earth to the Moon specifically references Eisele's affair during the lead-up to his one flight with the woman who later became his second wife and who provided the papers for publication, and a later episode specifically focuses on the effect of the program on astronaut marriages, this is the first to directly acknowledge and describe it.
The writing is subpar when it comes to dialogue, especially during spaceflight where Eisele is relating the conversations generally accurately (according to the in-flight tapes) but using different words that make it sound more stilted than it was, but overall surprisingly good. The story is a familiar one – test pilot gets rejected before being accepted as an astronaut, prepares for flights while competing for a spot on a mission, and drinks and parties as much as you might imagine. The Apollo 7 flight, while overlooked today, was the indispensable checkout of the Apollo CSM after the Apollo 1 fire, and while the flight was a disaster from the personnel standpoint – the astronauts were sick, grumpy, and outright mutinous throughout the flight – from a technical standpoint it was flawless, and completely checked out the new technology. It was so successful, that the next flight – Apollo 8 – skipped a redo of orbital testing and flew straight to the moon on only the second Apollo CSM (and first Saturn V) flight.