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Rocket Man Paperback – July 26, 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 88 customer reviews

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Paperback, July 26, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


Rocket Man is a hilarious, well written novel about one man's search for the New American Dream." James Frey, author A Million Little Pieces and Bright Shiny Morning 

"The funniest serious novel since Richard Russo's Straight Man, rich with the epic levity of John Irving and salted with the perversion of Updike." Chicago Sun Times

"The rollicking story of a writer whose piece of the American Dream falls apart." Chicago Tribune

"William Hazelgrove's Rocket Man is a first rate voice driven black comedy. It's very funny and engaging, one of those books I was happy to plough through in a couple of settings."  David Liss

From the Author

In Rocket Man I put forth the idea we were sold a bill of goods. We really didn't want all of this, we just wanted the middle class childhood that slipped through our fingers like the contentment that eludes us now. And you really have to wonder when it will come back. Nobody even talks about housing anymore. It just is. But the reason there is no demand is there is no backbone to the middle class anymore. There is no nest egg. It all vanished in the crash. And now you have people who don't want to spend a nickel and worse they are losing their home or walking from their home or thinking of walking. And no one in either party even talks about the problem anymore. As Dale Hammer says in Rocket Man. This is what I always imagined my childhood should be, a car parked by a modest home on a snow covered street with everyone safe and warm in middle class slumber. I realize now that is what eluded us in our drive to have it all....our contentment, our happiness."  And the way things are going I think it's going to be a long long time until we see that again.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Sterling & Ross Publishers (July 26, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0982139241
  • ISBN-13: 978-0982139240
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #16,565,164 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

William Elliott Hazelgrove is the best-selling author of ten novels, Ripples, Tobacco Sticks, Mica Highways, Rocket Man, The Pitcher, Real Santa and the forthcoming Jackpine and The Pitcher 2. His books have received starred reviews in Publisher Weekly, Book of the Month Selections, Junior Library Guild Selections, ALA Editors Choice Awards and optioned for the movies. He was the Ernest Hemingway Writer in Residence where he wrote in the attic of Ernest Hemingway's birthplace. He has written articles and reviews for USA Today and other publications. He has been the subject of interviews in NPR's All Things Considered along with features in The New York Times, LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times, Richmond Times Dispatch, USA Today, People, Channel 11, NBC, WBEZ, WGN. His most recent novel, The Pitcher is a Junior Library Guild Selection and was chosen Book of the Year by Books and Authors. net. His next book Jackpine will be out Spring 2014 with Koehler Books. A follow up novel Real Santa will be out fall of 2014.
He runs a political cultural blog, The View From Hemingway's Attic.


Authors Own words
Born in Richmond, Virginia, and carted back and forth between Virginia and Baltimore, I blame my rootless, restless personality on my father. He was and is a traveling salesman with a keen gift of gab, great wit, a ready joke, and could sell white tennis shoes to coal miners.

It was during these sojourns up and down the east coast I soaked up the stories that would later be Tobacco Sticks and Mica Highways. I think authors should exploit their family history before raping the rest of the culture for material.

Dad finally got tired of the east and moved to the Midwest when I was fourteen. We settled outside of Chicago. It is here I came of age and went off to college for seven years -- two degrees and one novel later I returned to Chicago and lived in many different apartments, trying to get a little two hundred page manuscript called Ripples published.

When a local printer said he would take a chance on my book, I jumped and had my first novel published by a man who had never published anything. Great reviews and moderate sales put me back to my jobs as a janitor, baker, waiter, construction worker, teacher, real estate tycoon, mortgage broker, professor, security guard, salesman -- anything to make a buck and keep writing. The printer lost his mind and published my second novel, too. That landed me with Bantam after some rave reviews and a paperback auction for my second novel, Tobacco Sticks.

A third novel, Mica Highways, was sold on less than one hundred and fifty pages to Bantam and then I did a strange thing -- I settled down to writing in Ernest Hemingway's birthplace in Oak Park, Illinois. I have since been looking for the Great American Novel up in the old red oak rafters and I think I might have finally found one.... My new novel, Rocket Man, is an exploration of what the American Dream means today. A man moves to the suburbs and his life falls apart in one week. It is a satire but with events now, it seems very timely.

A fifth novel, The Pitcher will be out in September 2013. The story of a boy with an incredible arm but no way to make the highschool team. When an old World Series pitcher agrees to coach him, he finds that a dream is sometimes all you have.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I had a lot of trouble with this book. I'm not sure it's bad, I just know that the protagonist was so irritating that I couldn't really get beyond him. Dale, a middle aged, struggling author has moved his family to the suburbs to escape the cramped, increasingly violent, bohemian neighborhood he loved before getting married and starting a family. He hates the conservative, cookie-cutter existence he's living and acts out (unconsciously?) against his perceived oppressors - his kids, his wife, and his neighbors. To me Dale is one of those self-absorbed, juvenile, non-communicators who has brought on all of his troubles himself. If he'd just effectively communicate his frustrations and needs to his family (and if they'd do the same) this whole book could have been avoided. I get that there are probably people like this, but I have absolutely no sympathy for them, no do I enjoy reading about them. I wanted to reach through the pages and shake some sense in to Dale. Extremely frustrating. This is the same reason I hated The Dive from Clausen's Pier. For a more satisfying suburban angst read, try Revolutionary Road.
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Format: Paperback
Boy;what a read! This novel has a bit of everything from just trying to survive in life, where everything is changing and seemingly nothing for the better.This book is really for readers who have seen a little life and are no longer waltzing along believing that life owes you something and all you have to do is "wait for your ship to come in". Then, one day,it suddenly seems that somewhere there was a fork in the road that was missed.
Hazelgrove is an excellent writer who is easy to read.His storytelling ,observations of life and character development are seen from the beginning all the way through to the end.
One little thing leaves me somewhat confused.There are two books listed here.One has a publication date of Jan 2012 and has 428 pages.There are 62 reviews posted for it and some are as old as Sep 30,2008.The one I read ,has a publication date of 2013,has 290 pages,and only 3 Reviews.I suspect they are the same;but the difference in numbers of pages is confusing.
I have always enjoyed reading books where the writer is talking about his observations on life,people and situations.My favorites are Mark Twain,John Steinbeck and Erskine Caldwell.In the early 70's ,I worked in New York,and for 2 hours every night, I listened to Jean Shepherd on WOR New York.He even wrote a couple of books.In my opinion he was one of the best when it came to storytelling and observations on life.Memories of "Shep" haunted me all through this book,so it was not a surprise to read about Ralph and "A Christmas Story" at the end of the book.
So, if you have not read anything by Hazelgrove,and you enjoy writers such as I have mentioned;I highly recommend this book and others by him.
Read more ›
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Format: Kindle Edition
This author's work has been compared to Richard Russo's which always strikes a chord with me and I found that although I do not live in suburbia or have any desire to, I found a real connection with these characters as I do with Russo's small town inhabitants. Nothing can be more challenging than being a "formerly " successful person. It takes time and much self awareness to make the adjustment in self esteem and it is still crushing. Yet, this book is filled with humor and family members many of us will recognize as perhaps our own. Do your in laws consider themselves perfect pillars of the community? Yeah, they are here. Confused children who worry that their parents may divorce? A divorced grandpa who moves in and attracts the attention of a wealthy, randy unattached neighbor! Before our hero gets written off as the neighborhood crazy, he is put in charge of the rocket project that that boys in his son's circle have looked forward to all year. The rocket project is the least explosive of his problems!
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Format: Paperback
If only being duped by The American Dream was this amusing! Our hero, Dale Hammer, is an Everyman, knocking himself out to create a better life for his family. His musings on the simplest things are genuine and from the heart.

There's really not a plot; rather, Dale's first person narrative explains how he got into the mess he's in, and hasn't a clue how to get out of it. Nothing is sugar-coated, though his spot-on metaphors are quite amusing. He has to figure his outcome by himself; his father has been a poor role model, his brother is an over-reactive liberal, his wife is tired of his ambivalence, and he's surrounded by impossibly clueless suburbanites, with few exceptions.

I don't want to give away the story, but I'm a slow reader and finished this one in record time. I was taken in completely, and enjoyed the ride. Recommended.
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Format: Paperback
William Hazelgrove's novel, "Rocket Man", is reminiscent of Richard Russo's writing. Both portray the plight of the average man with irony and wit. Implicit in this shared motif, are the vagaries found within the American Dream. Broken men with disintegrating marriages, questionable parenting skills and diminishing incomes flavor their novels. How they depict this is unique to their individual and refined styles. Hazelgrove handles the subject eloquently. His adages are not a burden nor redundant. He depicts a "happy" ending without becoming trite or sugary. Where there is a deeper context that flows through Russo's writing, Hazelgrove's comes in a close second. Rocket Man is a thoughtful and entertaining read.
-Star rating is 3 1/2, which Amazon
does not have as an option.

-Received book through LibraryThing.com,
Early Reviewers program.
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