Synopses & Reviews
A bullet train of a book, fast-paced, hilarious, rich with action. A harbinger of good things to come in mysterious ways.
It all began at a cocktail party at Wallace Stegner's for the Stanford writing class of 1958. Ken Kesey and Ken Babbs became cronies, embarking on a frolicking, rambunctious adventure that lasted over 40 years. Babbs calls the 70 stories of this book "burlesques" because, after 85 years of living, much of it in the wide friendly center of an evolving, at times psychedelic culture, memory no longer can, or even should include an exact retelling, but only a tasty sprinkling of the truth, mixed with an endless enigma, all topped with the best of humor and heart.
The troupe of characters include the Kens Kesey and Babbs, Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso, Timothy Leary, Jerry Garcia, Pigpen, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Mountain Girl, Sonny Barger, Larry McMurtry, Wavy Gravy, Hunter S. Thompson, Kirk Douglas, Paul Newman, Jan Kerouac, Bill Walton, Wendell Berry, a pick-up bed-sized sturgeon, and always the many free-spirited, creative, friendly men and women who made up the Merry Band of Pranksters.
Come along for the ride on the famous bus trip to Manhattan. Join the Hells Angels at their partying best. Drop in for the early Acid Tests. Experience the Berkeley Vietnam anti-war rally. Relish the stories of Kesey's pot busts and "suicide." Climb aboard — "Board!" — for six months on the lam in Mexico. Take the Further tours with the Grateful Dead. Make the ultimate move to Oregon, where Babbs and Kesey grew a magical friendship and collaboration until Kesey passed in 2001.
Irreverent, unencumbered by social norms, literary and poetic, Cronies is a poignant view of the Sixties and beyond from someone who was there, and remembers it well. Kind of...
"A tale from a Prankster, this is a funny, provocative and satiric telling of the long friendship of Ken Kesey and his great friend Ken Babbs." Carolyn Garcia (Mountain Girl), Merry Prankster, author of The Primo Plant
"Ken Babbs is a rollicking genius. Cronies is a perfect extension of his radiant brilliance, supreme intellect, and razor-sharp wit." Bill Walton, NBA Hall of Famer, author of Back from the Dead
"Ken Babbs's... writing reflects his zest for life and spirit of sharing with anybody and everybody, while always keeping it for real. His true-to-life stories are a blessing..." David Amran, composer, conductor, multi-instrumentalist
"Cronies vividly reveals... the spirit of a Prankster to get down to... the kaleidoscope of memory as through a glass lightly..." Alan Trist, archivist for the Grateful Dead, author of The Water of Life
"Ken Babbs not only rode as Kesey's sidekick on the infamous bus Further, [he has now written] a hilarious burlesque of the Merry Pranksters and their antics." William Sullivan, author of Listening for Coyote and the 100 Hikes in Oregon series
Watch the Powell’s virtual event with Ken Babbs and Bill Walton!
About the Author
Ken Babbs, Ohio-bred and Ohio-born, is a graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and a member of two NCAA tournament basketball teams. He was turned on to writing at Miami by Walter Havighurst, a fine scholar and scribe. He attended graduate school at Stanford University, where he met Ken Kesey, Wendell Berry and other luminaries in Wallace Stegner's writing class. Five years in the Marine Corps followed, serving as a helicopter pilot, with his final tour of duty in Vietnam. He got off the chopper and onto the bus, Further, for the famous trip to Madhattan in 1964, chronicled in print by Tom Wolfe and filmed and taped by the Merry Pranksters. He shared forty-three years of collaboration and shenanigans with Kesey — doing shows, speaking engagements and musical catastrophes – plus writing books, magazine articles, and co-editing six issues of Spit in the Ocean. Babbs co-wrote Last Go Round with Kesey, and went on to publish a novel based on his experiences in Vietnam, Who Shot the Water Buffalo? Married to a retired high school English teacher, he lives on a six-acre farm in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains in Oregon.