XPrize Space Race Story Gets Book Deal (Exclusive)

The author of a book about Larry Ellison's pursuit of the America's Cup will next tackle the competition to build a civilian rocket
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First she went to sea, now she’s going to space.

Journalist Julian Guthrie, who wrote The Billionaire and the Mechanic, the best-selling account of Larry Ellison’s unlikely partnership with a car mechanic during his pursuit of the America’s Cup, is tackling the XPrize for her next book.

Penguin Press has acquired Beyond: Peter Diamandis and the Adventure of Space in a preemptive bid. Publication is expected in fall 2016.

Diamandis, a medical doctor and space entrepreneur who was inspired by Charles Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic, founded the $10 million XPrize in 1994 to encourage civilian space travel. It was won in 2004 by a team headed by Microsoft founder Paul Allen and aviation legend Burt Rutan. SpaceShipOne sits in the Smithsonian. Diamandis and the XPrize Foundation have since funded a number of other $10 million prizes to encourage engineering innovation.

Beyond will tell Diamandis’ story — from space-obsessed kid to space-travel visionary — as well as those of the “misfit band of innovators, hackers, geniuses, billionaires (Paul Allen, Richard Branson, among others), chemists, and aviation legends" who joined him. Guthrie is also positioning it as a story “about taking risks in a risk-averse society, and the education of a great American innovator.”

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The book is being written with Diamandis’ cooperation. In a statement announcing the project, he said, "It is the story of men and machines and the dreams that entwine their lives. It is, perhaps, our oldest fable: the attempt to touch the heavens."

To promote the book, a six-figure prize will be given to the individual or team who sells the most copies of Beyond (a la the original XPrize).

The deal comes on the eve of the Frankfurt Book Fair — which runs Oct. 8-12 — one of the most important events on the publishing calendar for selling movie and international rights to upcoming books.

In addition to writing The Billionaire and the Mechanic, Guthrie has been a reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle for 15 years, where she has won numerous awards. She is represented by Joseph Veltre of The Gersh Agency.