Babcock, Richard (Felt, Jr.) 1947-
BABCOCK, Richard (Felt, Jr.) 1947-
Born February 26, 1947, in Chicago, IL; son of Richard Felt and Elizabeth (Burlingham) Babcock; married Gioia Diliberto, September 13, 1980; children: Joseph. Education: Dartmouth College, B.A., 1969; University of Michigan, J.D., 1974.
Office—Chicago magazine, 500 N. Dearborn, Ste. 1200, Chicago, IL 60610-4901. E-mail—[email protected].
Writer, editor, attorney. Admitted to the Bar of the State of Illinois; Record, Hackensack, NJ, reporter, 1975-78; National Law Journal, New York, NY, managing editor, 1978-80; New York (magazine), New York, NY, managing editor, 1980-91; Chicago (magazine), Chicago, IL, editor-in-chief, 1991—.
Martha Calhoun, Random House (New York, NY), 1988.
Bow's Boy, Scribner (New York, NY), 2002.
Richard Babcock is an attorney who turned to journalism, first as a reporter, then as an editor of the National Law Journal and two city-specific publications, New York and Chicago—sister magazines owned by Primedia, Inc. Babcock led the redesign and focus of Chicago, concentrating on the people, events, and places of the Windy City.
In addition, Babcock is the author of two novels; his first is Martha Calhoun. The story set, in the 1950s in Katydid, Illinois, is narrated by Martha Calhoun, a sixteen-year-old who, in a momentary lapse of judgment, allows the nine-year-old boy she is babysitting to peek inside her blouse. Martha is basically a stable, solid girl, but her waitress-mother, Bunny, is the town embarrassment, a beautiful, single blonde with a succession of suitors, and whose other child, a son, is behind bars. Judy Druse reviewed Martha Calhoun in Voice of Youth Advocates, saying that young adults "who have been pigeonholed because of an older sibling's reputation will sympathize with Martha's plight" and felt that Babcock's "humor and insight" will keep them "turning the pages."
When the charge against Martha is made, the court takes her away from Bunny, lest she further corrupt Martha. Martha sometimes feels that she could use some time away from the mother she mostly adores, but foster care isn't what she had in mind. She is sent to live with the Vernons, and she is given the bedroom of their deceased daughter, Sissy, a religious fanatic who had been in Martha's class. She inherits Sissy's religious items and a boyfriend who may have been responsible for the girl's death. Bunny's heart is broken, and she must prove to the court that she can change before her daughter will be returned to her.
Washington Post Book World's Phyllis Theroux called the book a "stunning and complex first novel" and wrote that "Babcock's eye for the chilling detail is faultless." "Babcock surrounds us with people so real that at the novel's close we want to track them down and give them a piece of our minds," said Theroux. "But, finally, what Babcock does is to give us a piece of everybody's mind, including our own, and he does it brilliantly."
Bow's Boy is also about a teen and the two men who become part of his life. The story is set in Laroque, Wisconsin, during the Vietnam War era. Library Journal reviewer Thomas L. Kilpatrick felt that Babcock "has crafted beautifully intricate characters to produce a wonderful snapshot of 1960s America."
Bowman Epps is a prominent appeals attorney whose physical imperfections have contributed to his loneliness. He has befriended the narrator, Charlie Stuart, a thirty-five-year-old alcoholic who serves as his investigator, driver, and friend. Bowman is impressed by the obvious talents of Ginger Piper, a star high school basketball player from a poor family who delivers a powerful eulogy for a former teammate killed in battle. Bowman hires the young man to be an office assistant and hopefully a surrogate son, but when Ginger is suspected of aiding the escape of one of Bowman's former clients and then becomes a protestor of the conflict Bowman feels he must support, their relationship is put in jeopardy. Ginger eventually escapes the conservative town by enlisting in the army and is shipped off to Vietnam.
In a Booklist review, Marta Segal Block said that "the story of these tortured men is well-written and compelling." A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote, "Far more than the sum of its parts, Babcock's story poignantly evokes the loss of innocence in the Vietnam era." A Publishers Weekly writer called the conclusion "quiet and powerful.… Babcock accurately and sensitively captures a fraught historical moment and its devastating impact on all of the people who lived it."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, December 15, 2002, Marta Segal Block, review of Bow's Boy, p. 730.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2002, review of Bow's Boy, p. 1330.
Library Journal, December, 2002, Thomas L. Kilpatrick, review of Bow's Boy, p. 174.
New York Times Book Review, April 24, 1988, Maxine Chernoff, review of Martha Calhoun, p. 20.
Publishers Weekly, October 21, 2002, review of Bow's Boy, p. 55.
Voice of Youth Advocates, August, 1988, Judy Druse, review of Martha Calhoun, p. 128.
Washington Post Book World, March 6, 1988, Phyllis Theroux, review of Martha Calhoun, p. 3.*