The reason Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, decided to write his first, soon-to-be-released novel was simply that he wanted to communicate the thrill and beauty of space travel.
But the dream almost went sour when the co-author assigned by his publisher wrote a first draft full of steamy sex and foul language, Garn told the Deseret News Friday."I told them that if that's the way the book will be, then the project ends right now. I told them all that had to come out," Garn said.
"It wasn't just that I am a Mormon senator from Utah and may be prudish. It just was not accurate. Astronauts do not talk that way. They are good people and professionals, not guttersnipes."
Garn is happy with the final version of "Night Launch," which will be released on April 28. He said it gives a realistic, technically accurate feel of the space program - instead of pandering like a romance novel.
"It still has one affair in it, but nothing explicit. The most explicit thing is two French kisses, but that's nothing compared to what's on soap operas every day," Garn said.
Garn's venture into the book world began after his return from his space shuttle flight as a "congressional observer" in 1985.
He dreamed of writing a non-fiction book to more or less trace aviation advancements through the career of his father - who flew in World War I - and Garn's own aviation career, culminating in the space shuttle flight.
He met an agent and talked to an interested publisher, but realized such a project would take too much time. "No one could really help me, because only I know a lot of the information. I still hope to do it someday, but it won't happen until I leave the Senate."
So the publisher suggested writing a novel, which wouldn't take so much research and would allow another writer to help. It would still allow Garn to share his feelings about space.
Garn said he and co-author Stephen Paul Cohen worked out the plot together. Cohen developed the characters introduced at the beginning of the book, and Garn supplied the descriptions of the space program and life in space found thereafter.
The basic plot is that a four-nation space shuttle flight is being launched to help foster world peace. But one of the astronauts turns out to be a terrorist and hijacks the shuttle, threatening to destroy it unless prisoners are released.
NASA tries various ways to trick him into landing by claiming emergencies. Finally, it has to send a second shuttle to attempt a rescue by approaching through the other shuttle's blind spot.
"When the old astronaut flying the rescue shuttle looks out the window at the beauty of space, that's my experience he describes," he said.
Garn even is able to accurately describe what blood floating around in weightlessness would look like. "I saw water, and all liquids act the same."
He said that the publisher became a little frustrated at times about the high level of accuracy that Garn demanded.
"She asked, `Does it really matter?' Maybe it wouldn't matter to the general public, but it would to my astronaut friends. I want them to read it and think, `Boy, Jake really did his homework. He really paid attention during his training.' "
Because of such demands, Garn said the novel took more work than he thought it would. But most of it was done during the eight hours a week he spends flying between Salt Lake City and Washington.
He said he wrote the book more for love of space travel than love of money, and the most that contracts will allow him to personally receive from sales is 5 percent.
During Congress's recess in late April, Garn will make a five-city tour to promote the book, ending in Salt Lake City on the book's release date on April 28.
Will more novels follow? "It depends on how this one does. If a lot of people buy it, I have a lot more ideas for sequels," he said.