Spanning the underworld haunts of Montreal to Havana and Miami in the early days of the Cold War, Satellite Boy reveals the unlikely connection between an audacious bank heist and the “other Space Race” that gave birth to the modern communication age
On April 6, 1965, Georges Lemay was relaxing on his yacht in a south Florida marina following one of the largest and most daring bank heists in Canadian history. For four years, the roguishly handsome criminal mastermind hid in plain sight, eluding capture and the combined efforts of the FBI, Interpol, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. His future appeared secure.
What Lemay didn’t know was that less than two hundred miles away at Cape Canaveral, a brilliant engineer named Harold Rosen was about to usher in the age of global live television with the launch of the world’s first twenty-four-hour commercial communications satellite. Rosen’s extraordinary accomplishment would not only derail Lemay’s cushy life but change the world forever.
Brimming with criminal panache and technological intrigue, and set against a turbulent and iconic period that includes the moon landing and the civil rights movement, Satellite Boy tells the largely forgotten, high-stakes story of the two equally driven men who inadvertently launched the modern era.
This colorful yet unconvincing dual biography mashes together the lives of Canadian bank robber Georges Lemay and American engineer Harold Rosen. True crime writer Amelinckx (Exquisite Wickedness) is at his sharpest recounting Lemay's brushes with the law (he was suspected in the murders of two criminal associates and the disappearance of his first wife); his masterminding of the 1961 burglary of a branch of the Bank of Nova Scotia in Montreal, which netted $2 million ($19.2 million in today's money); and his life as a fugitive. While Lemay was tearing through the Montreal underworld, Rosen, an employee at Hughes Aircraft in Culver City, Calif., was fighting to overcome technical, business, and regulatory hurdles to build a geostationary commercial communication satellite that would "provide twenty-four-hour global communications, something never before attempted." His vision finally became a reality with the launch of the "Early Bird" satellite in 1965. To showcase its capabilities, the Communications Satellite Corporation produced a "splashy television special" that included a brief segment on Lemay, which led to his arrest in Florida. (He escaped from the Dade County Jail in Miami and was recaptured in Las Vegas). Amelinckx lucidly explains the technical aspects and spotlights the boon communication satellites provided to law enforcement agencies, but the link between Lemay and Rosen feels overly circumstantial. In this case, the sum is not greater than its parts.