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Monday: The Moon Rock Heist at NASA Comes to the MJCCA

Author Ben Mezrich will be at the MJCCA Monday night talking about his book 'Sex on the Moon'

It’s a story of theft, sex and moon rocks.

Thad Roberts set out to steal some of the most valuable artifacts in the world.

The young, brilliant fellow at NASA recruited two of his colleagues to execute one of the oddest heists in history – stealing moon rock samples collected on every Apollo moon mission.

The true story is compellingly told in Ben Mezrich’s newest book ‘Sex on the Moon The Amazing Story Behind the Most Audacious Heist in History.’

Mezrich will be at the Monday night as part of the ‘A Page from the Book Festival’ series.

The book follows Roberts through the heist. He and his two accomplices broke into a highly secure NASA facility, loaded a nearly 600-pound safe into his Jeep and drove away in a slow, drawn out escape. Roberts was eventually caught in a similarly odd fashion when he tried to sell the moon rocks.

“It’s a cool heist story,” Mezrich said. “It’s kind of Ocean’s Eleven meets The Right Stuff.”

Mezrich has made a career out of telling the stories of eccentric geniuses.

He wrote Bringing Down the House about a group of MIT students who devised a Blackjack system that made them millions of dollars in Las Vegas – until the casinos caught on. He also wrote The Accidental Billionaires, about the founding of Facebook.

Both books were made into movies – ‘21’ and ‘The Social Network.’  

A mutual friend introduced Mezrich to Roberts. Roberts had read Mezrich’s other books while he was serving an 8-year prison sentence for the crime and the two met when Roberts got out.

“I get crazy stories all the time, but when I heard what he had done I was blown away,” the New York Times bestselling author said. “He was this charismatic, brilliant kid who had done something crazy.”

Mezrich has made a career out of the stories of young, brilliant eccentrics.

“It’s a vicarious thrill I get,” he said. “I was a geeky guy…seeing these guys that go from geek to rock star; those are the kinds of stories I like.”

Mezrich said his Harvard background helps him to make a connection to these people when he asks them to open up and tell their stories.

With the blackjack book, he said he basically became part of the team that devised the system.

“It was easy to become part of that because of my background,” he said.

He could also relate to the players involved in the Facebook story

“I certainly knew what it was like to be Mark Zuckerberg,” he said.

“I think it is all about getting them to like you,” he said. “You have to get your sources to want to hangout with you and then it goes from there.”

Sex on the Moon has been sold to the same production team that made The Social Network. According to IMDB, the target date for the movie release is 2013.

Mezrich said he’ll work with the screenwriter, as he did with The Social Network.

Mezrich grew up wanting to be a writer. His parents had a rule that he had to read two books each week before he was allowed to watch television.

After college, he began his career.

“I locked myself in a room and I wrote and I wrote and I wrote,” he said.

He began writing novels, mostly medical thrillers, but said he had 190 rejections before his first book was accepted.

He wrote six books before he met some of the Blackjack-scheming MIT students at a bar.

“That was a life changing moment for me,” he said. “That kind of led to everything else in my career.”

He said he’d like to continue to write stories on the smart and eccentric.

“It’s fun for me, as long as people keep bringing me stories,” he said.

With his growing list of novels, the stories are beginning to find him.

“I just sit at home and people keep calling me,” he said. “Every now and then it’s just something incredible.”

He’ll be on tour over the next six months and is looking for his next story.

“I don’t have my next book yet,” he said. “My eyes are open. I’m waiting for my next call.”

 

Mezrich will be at the MJCCA Monday night at 7:30 p.m. He’ll be interviewed by Jimmy Baron, a morning show host on 92.9 Dave FM. Tickets are $11 for members and $16 for non-members.

Seating is limited; reservations are recommended. For information, visit www.atlantajcc.org or call 678.812.4002.

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