Publicity for Wonderment has stressed my career as a science writer, though this was only a fraction of the story! See http://tinyurl.com/9ndyzs9 and http://www.absw.org.uk/reading-room/books-written-by-our-members. My university ran a mention at http://tinyurl.com/8pj7vj8
Wow! A potential readership of 135,000 engineers and scientists have a chance to read my biography thanks to Physics Today! But again it emphasizes my less-than-complete life as a science writer.
Wonderment won these words in the U.S. National Association of Writers: "WONDERMENT is the life story of a science writer and his adventures
around the world. It’s also the story of a kid who sold his first story
to the BBC at the age of 11, then grew up to be a print shop helper,
wire service overnight manager, and print journalist at the /Kentish
Gazette, Bermuda Mid-Ocean News/ and Albuquerque /News/ (and a few
writing jobs in between) before joining Sandia National Laboratories as
a science writer and manager. Then I started my own consultancy while
writing my fourth and fifth science-related nonfiction books, on
planetary exploration and the Strategic Defense Initiative.
"This book, my sixth, includes many memoirs of exciting, humorous, or
dangerous happenings. Examples include interviewing top-level scientists
in Russia alone and without an interpreter, driving a leaky tunnel in
Greece, and experiencing a near-death (but interesting!) brush with
brain fever, meningoencephalitis.
"Everywhere I looked, I found wonder, which itself is a wonderful thing
and an essential source of creativity. I believe that young or aspiring
science writers will find the book of interest.
"By the time I had edited the first draft, I was preparing to find an
agent and publisher. This was not a celebrity‘s autobiography, the
traditional book publishing industry was experiencing a difficult time,
and my agent had retired, so I decided to go it alone. After many
e-mails with the top U.S. self-publishers, I found Matador, an imprint
of Troubador Publishing in England, and decided I liked them.
"Matador is publishing the book as a paperback and as an ebook. I’m my
own agent and publicist."
I plan to visit the association's annual general meeting in October, with a pile of books in my suitcase.
Hackney public library in London is considering purchase copies of my book for its branches.
Wonderment was published on October 1, 2012. ISBN is 13:9781780882864. Price: £14.99 (UK), $22.99 (US)
"Wonderment is a tremendous story about a man's search and struggles for love, family, truth, spirituality, and never losing the eternal quest for the mysteries of the universe and life itself. A true intellectual's search for "what is it all about?" The author's honesty about the struggles of health, living on two continents, and maintaining relationships while searching and exploring meaningful career choices is indeed refreshing. A rare combination of travel adventures, journalism, acting, and scientific research is indeed refreshing." -- J. Willard Williams, Director of Adult Education, US Army (Ret.) and a member of the International Hall of Fame for Adult and Distance Education
* * *
Nigel Hey’s autobiography Wonderment is the work of a journalist and thinker who has led a varied and active life on two continents, a work which takes in an impressive range of intellectual and lived experience. It is the book of a restless seeker of knowledge who will travel anywhere, meet anyone, and read anything that promises to deliver the gift of further enlightenment. An alternative title for the book might well have been The Quest for Certainty, though one of Hey’s qualities is a sceptical and canny attitude to the possibility of finding certainty in either science or philosophy -- both areas of knowledge that are fruitfully quarried in his book. What results for the reader are the ruminations of a restless mind which regards the cosmos and all life within it as its stamping ground. Yet that alone does not give an adequate idea of Hey’s achievement, which is also a record of his personal experience as a man, ranging over three marriages, the variety of people he has met, and the places in which he has lived both in England and America.
For readers whose interests centre on the purely personal, Hey provides rich pickings, beginning with his moving childhood memories of Lancashire and Yorkshire and later education and work in America as a young man. From the start his ambition was to earn a living from writing, and he saw journalism as a means of achieving that objective. His commitment to the battle with words is evident in every paragraph of his book, not least in vignettes of family and friends and passages describing his response to nature in her many manifestations.
For me, what gives this book its special flavour, however, is the sheer range of the author’s interests, his humorous but scrupulous account of events, and his willingness to explore possibilities beyond the purely cognitive, and reflect on the sense of mystery at the heart of things. It is a book that can be enjoyed by all who value life’s unending variety, in both its serious and humorous aspects, and above all by those who are interested in the reflections of a journalist who has devoted his career to giving wider currency to scientific thinking about the cosmos, and to new discoveries and their importance in our everyday lives.
-- Patrick McGinley, publisher and novelist
* * *
I enjoyed this book immensely. How Nigel Hey has crammed so many life experiences into a life fraught with occasional dread illnesses and difficult living conditions I’ll never understand, though the book offers insightful clues. For those of a philosophical bent, Hey shows that he has given a lot of thought to the meaning and conduct of life, and his relationships with family and friends. Though he may not have acquired the goal of serenity, it’s obvious that he is determined to continue on that path. If you go with him on this journey you’re in for an enlightening experience, embodying a great deal of triumph and some occasional tragedy. – John Gardner, Communications Consultant
* * *
Nigel Hey’s Wonderment: A love affair with adventure, travel, writing, philosophy, and family life is a memoir of a life both ordinary and extraordinary. Against the backdrop of Nigel’s relationships and family dramas are tales of his travels and, most interesting to me as a fellow journalist, an eclectic and successful career as a science writer. Along the way he detours into spirituality and the key events of the past century.
Nigel’s story begins in England and returns there often, but takes place mostly in New Mexico. He also visits such places as Russia, Bermuda, Greece, China, and Costa Rica.
He began writing during air raids, and years later, notably turned down a job as a copyboy for the New York Times to finish his education. Yet Nigel paid his dues writing for a variety of newspapers – still the best possible training a journalist can get. He covered the minutiae of everyday life -- school board elections, deaths, rodeos – working his way up to editor-in-chief of New Mexico’s first tabloid newspapers. He veered into science writing in 1967, at Sandia labs, where he would stay for many years. It was here that he recognized his talent for visualizing complex concepts.
The author of five earlier books, Nigel encountered a familiar nightmare for a writer when he submitted a book on the planets, which sat in a black hole on an editor’s desk for nearly a year, only to be told he had to add a dozen essays by famous people with a six-week deadline. But he pulled it off. And he tells of the common writer’s lament of holding a signing to which only one person shows up. Finally, he despairs over what has happened to journalism, with which I wholeheartedly agree, but couldn’t state as well: “Will the Internet eventually bring an end to the evolution of humankind and condemn us to a timeless recirculation of hackneyed ideas?”
Wonderment is an absorbing read about a fascinating person. The writing is a mix of description and dialogue that flows beautifully.
-- Ricki Lewis, author, The Forever Fix: Gene Therapy and the Boy Who Saved It and other science books
* * *
One might argue that it takes a certain presumption to write an autobiography in 21st century America without being a celebrity to begin with. Why would anyone care?
But British-born, American-schooled author Nigel Hey describes the passage of his seventy-six years with a clarity and insight, a love of words and a unique sensibility that makes the book hard to put down.
Take a look at his language. He describes being fascinated by “the beauty of fallen leaves that had transformed into delicate skeletal designs, and by seeing brilliant autumn leaves against a backdrop of smoky clouds.” He breathed -- “especially if no one was looking” -- directly onto plants, where he “imagined the geraniums invigorated by that gentle gift of carbon dioxide, and reflected that very likely the geraniums reciprocated with an unthinking, microscopic, quid-pro-quo gift of oxygen.
“Call it madness,” he writes, “but I could afford the whim, I enjoyed the eccentric moment, and it harmed no one.”
As for his take on modern life, what he says has been said by others, but has anyone said it better? “I suspect that the products of information technologies that range from TV natural-history documentaries to computer modelling of natural events are coaxing people away from the existential delight of knowing nature in 5-D: by literally being there, and enchanted in the collusion of our full suite of senses.”
He carries this kind of gentle insight into his life as a writer and publicist, working in Salt Lake City, Bermuda, London, and the American Southwest, where his adventures among the Indians and as a science writer and publicist at a nuclear weapons laboratory succeed each other like the pretty, unexpected changes of a kaleidoscope. Into the mix, Hey is unafraid to introduce descriptions of two failed marriages and a happy third, and he does it on an introspective level that, if emulated, could improve the drab spitefulness of most writings about marital breakups.
“It is a tragedy,” he wrote about one of his divorced wives, an actor, drama teacher and playwright, “that this talent did not attract the recognition it deserved.”
Also in the mix are his successful struggles to write his previous book (his fifth) about the Reagan “Star Wars” years. The writing led him to Russia without an interpreter to interview key Russian scientists for their “take” on the U.S. effort to develop a shield against nuclear attack.
Last but not least, Hey details his love for each of his three children.
That’s a lot of ground to cover in one book. Hey does it well.
-- Neal Singer, author and science writer
* * *
Nigel Hey is exactly the person you hope and expect would write an autobiography. He combines the essential components of an excellent memory, an eye for important details that are often missed, a sense of humor, and the writing ability one would expect from a professional. Wonderment is a different and fascinated look at the world and the people he's known. In addition to producing an excellent and insightful story, Hey shines a new, thoughtful and entertaining light on a life well lived. – Francis Roe, author
* * *
Though coined as an autobiography, Nigel Hey’s new book is much more. For those wanting to find out how a world-class thinker comes to terms with problems that impact most people, for those with an appreciation for humor and adventure, or for those simply looking for an interesting and a stimulating escape, this book is a must read. -- R. Samuel Baty, author, Footsteps to Forever and Darkness into Light
* * *
The Star Wars Enigma, Potomac Books, 2006
In The Star Wars Enigma, Nigel Hey . . . provides the clearest, most complete history ever published of the Soviet Union’s own missile-defence programs. And he traces the origins of the idea of strategic defence within our own country’s tightly-knit – but rarely united – community of Cold War scientists including such luminaries as Edward Teller and Gerold Yonas. . . . The real history of Star Wars is just beginning to unfold, and Nigel Hey’s book ought to be required reading for all the world’s leaders. -- Herbert E. Meyer, Reagan-era Special Assistant to the Director of Central Intelligence and Vice Chairman of the CIA’s National Intelligence Council, in The American Thinker.
Solar System, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2002
Solar System is a bookshelf-sized book produced with gorgeous coffee-table quality, written for everyone who has ever gazed at the sky with wonder. It is not a technical tome. Rather, it is something you can curl up with on a winter’s night. Or, as a reviewer in Popular Mechanics put it, “if you have a niece or nephew who has a telescope on their holiday gift list, give them a copy. You will be instantly promoted to favourite relative, and just might point them onto a fascinating career path.”
Young-Adult Science Books (Out of print)
How We Will Explore the Outer Planets, Messner
The Mysterious Sun, Putnam
How Will We Feed the Hungry Billions? Putnam
Goodreads, 9 October 2012
Telegraph and Argus, 14 August
Albuquerque Genealogical Society
Los Ranchos Village Vision
Telegraph and Argus
Morgan Bailey Review
9781780882864 Albuquerque magazine
Sandia Lab News
Indie Author Land Blob
Assoc of American Science writers
I enjoyed this book immensely. How Nigel Hey has crammed so many life experiences into a life fraught with occasional dread illnesses and difficult living conditions I’ll never understand, though the book offers insightful clues. For those of a philosophical bent, Hey shows that he has given a lot of thought to the meaning and conduct of life, and his relationships with family and friends. Though he may not have acquired the goal of serenity, it’s obvious that he is determined to continue on that path. If you go with him on this journey you’re in for a enlightening experience, embodying a great deal of triumph and some occasional tragedy. – John Gardner, Communications Consultant, Santa Fe
by John Gardner
“Wonderment is a tremendous story about a man's search and struggles for love, family, truth, spirituality, and never losing the eternal quest for the mysteries of the universe and life itself. A true intellectual's search for "what is it all about?" The author's honesty about the struggles of health, living on two continents, and maintaining relationships while searching and exploring meaningful career choices is indeed refreshing. A rare combination of travel adventures, journalism, acting, and scientific research is indeed refreshing."
by J. Willard Williams, retired Director of Adult Education Us Army
How Wonderment happened
My sixth book is a trip around the world, around the mind, and, where I think there is a possibility of achieving it, beyond both. It is a true story and I believe you will enjoy it.
For years I wanted to record my personal story, and the family history behind it, for my children and grandchildren. Dull stuff? No all all. About half-way through the process of sketching out the book I realized that others would enjoy reading the it, too. Some may even find it inspiring. Besides, there was too much fun and adventure to keep it locked within the family. I started again, and changed its name to reflect what I experienced while reading all my carefully preserved diary notes: Wonderment.
The eventual length of the book surprised me, yet the storyline does not linger in one place for long. It’s a collection of memoirs about a lot of places and things – for example the American mountain states, amateur theatre, print and electronic media, Native Americans, living (successfully) with asthma, travelling the world, and of course writing. Here and there I have sneaked in philosophical thoughts and observations about the state of humankind as well as the trials and triumphs of a family life shared between London and New Mexico.
In this book as in the five previous titles, I exercise a writer’s prerogative and implore my readers to treasure and cultivate the sense of wonder -- about all things accessible to the five senses. That has been a personal goal, and my life has been both rewarded and sometimes endangered by a hard-to-control curiosity that enriched my world with adventures of mind and body.
After wrestling with the idea for a while, I decided to start Wonderment by explaining how my life spun off from an asthmatic childhood in which I missed much of my schoolwork and was unable to participate in sports with my friends. Early on, this hindrance to "normal" life challenged me to understand and rise beyond such obstacles. I decided I could do this by becoming a writer and journalist, and was determined enough that I sold a children’s story to the BBC at the age of 11.
This book is a success story, though admittedly with bumps in the road.
When I was even younger, my parents took me to a new home, searching for a healthier climate than that of the Lancashire coast. This touched off a semi-nomadic five years that eventually took us to the American West, where I was torn between a love of my early life experiences and the unknowns of future life.
Small-town realities in an all-Mormon community taught me the lessons of being an outsider and awoke a spirit of independent thought and action. With my university years complete, I headed joyfully for my first full-time newspaper job, in Bermuda, then a second in England. These marked the start of an exhilarating adulthood in which I can claim some professional success while fulfilling the responsibilities of parenthood and enduring the heartaches of two failed marriages. I am sure it helped to be a genuinely, resolutely curious man. I loved my weekends working in the garden, which often involved upsetting the woodpile to see what new creatures were sheltering there. At the other end of the curiosity spectrum I found great pleasure in an assortment of adventures that included exploring the vestiges of colonial Spain that survive in the mountains of the American Southwest, driving a tunnel in the remote mountains of Greece, dancing with native Americans, uncovering the history of high-tech Soviet weapon science, exploring my family homelands, travelling the world.
Such anecdotes naturally come forward to take the spotlight in Wonderment. Perhaps more importantly it is also here that I tell the stories of my small, treasured family, explore the core of my personal philosophy, and explain how I tackled the biggest question of all - where did I really belong?