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Who Shot the Water Buffalo?: A Novel Hardcover – April 14, 2011

4.2 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"This book chronicles the onset of the Vietnam War and the end of that good deal. The author lived it; he is well-qualified to tell the tale . . . keeps the reader riveted" — Washington Times

"An impeccable, humorous heirloom, a shock of napalm that smells like . . . victory." — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"A strong individualistic tale of wartime experience from a man who served there." — Historical Novels Review
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: The Overlook Press; First Edition ~1st Printing edition (April 14, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590204441
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590204443
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,239,946 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Nearly 50 years after the infamous Vietnam War, Ken Babbs has written WHO SHOT THE WATER BUFFALO?, his novel about helicopter pilots in that conflict. A writing class contemporary of Ken Kesey, Larry McMurtry and Robert Stone, Babbs is the last of that group to have his book published. According to author Tom Wolfe, Babbs stored the pages in a cardboard box on his garage floor. Himself a USMC helicopter pilot who served in Vietnam, Babbs writes his main character, Major Tom Hucklebee, as "leathery as any Texican come crawling out of the sage." His counterpart, Major Mike Cochran, is a "Loquacious, Ohio gangster." Together they train to become Marine chopper pilots.

Hucklebee narrates the story, beginning each chapter with psychedelic ramblings in conversation to a doctor. In pain, he recalls details from the beginning of flight school as a junior Marine officer, where he trains with Cochran. Hucklebee stems from a long line of Army veterans, while Cochran gets himself booted from a college ROTC program but signs up for Marine Officer Candidate School before his military family can object. Both consider themselves family renegades. Over many a bar drink, the two become friends. Cochran is a self-subscribed word-hound, loudly spelling any lengthy word that will elevate him as an intellectual. Hucklebee seems okay with the designation as "illiterate," but takes comfort in a backseat position to Cochran. In Florida, they lease a beachfront bungalow from a retired Admiral and his southern-belle wife. The Admiral and his wife are closet alcoholics, providing some sideline entertainment. Sharing a hurricane's fury with their landlords, the young pilots declare that they both will become chopper pilots. The admiral declares them "numbnuts.
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Format: Hardcover
Ken Babbs is a fascinating guy, one of the true Pioneers of the Psychedelic Sixties, who has written a surprisingly wonderful book based on his experiences flying big Marine helicopters early in the Vietnam War. Ken brings it all to life in this joyous, frightening, hilarious, hideous, rollicking account. Start reading it and you won't put it down until it's shocking conclusion! Well recommended.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Well that's what a reviewer in the Washington Post called it.....47 years after Ken Babbs, a former marine helicopter pilot in Vietnam in 1962-63 and a founding father of Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters, actually wrote it. Tom Wolfe saw the manuscript strewn on the Pranksters' garage floor in 1964, related in an early chapter of The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test. Much of the book is indeed a kind of southeast Asian Magic Bus ride, a series of hilariously chaotic knockabouts above and around the Mekong Delta, seen through the eyes of the narrator Lt Tomas "Huck" Hucklebee, as foil for his anarchic skipper, Lt Mike "Gorilla" Cochran. But the mood changes when the squadron is moved north to the Demilitarized Zone. The manic rides continue but the war gatecrashes the party, death and horrific injury causing this to become a very bad trip indeed and a foretaste of what was to follow. Many readers of Acid Test have no doubt wondered what was in that old box on the La Honda garage floor. Now we know. A gem of a book.
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Format: Hardcover
Since its first public mention in the pages of Tom Wolfe's "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" (a type-written manuscript in a cardboard box "lying there amid all the general debris and madness" in the garage where the Merry Pranksters and Ken Kesey were working on the Furthur bus), the world has been waiting for Ken Babbs' debut novel.

Set in the early days of the Vietnam War - when the United States was there simply to, uh, "provide support" - "Who Shot The Water Buffalo?" combines humor, drama, and the sort of wordplay you'd expect from the Intrepid Traveler himself. Babbs knows of what he writes - he piloted choppers in Vietnam before he got on the bus - and it shows. The narration morphs and shifts as the weirdness of the situation increases for Majors Mike Huckelbee and Tom Cochran; Babbs navigates sweat-soaked stream-of-consciousness raps as easily as he does passages of gonzo slapstick.

It's been close to 50 years since Babbs starting typing "Who Shot The Water Buffalo?" out in the jungles of Vietnam. It was well worth the wait.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was really looking forward to this book after reading another that Ken Babbs co-wrote with Ken Keasy. However I found the writing style and material a little stale, and it did not catch and hold my interest. Compared to some great novels about the Vietnam war like "The 13th Valley" and "Matterhorn", it seemed lack luster and lacked a single driving story line. The story seemed more like a collection of Mr. Babbs recollections about he and his friends antics in country, than a novel with any real purpose.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Destined to be a classic if enough readers will give this book a chance.
I rate this very high in the genre of Vietnam war "fiction". Clearly autobiographical delivered with power and humor. Laugh out loud funny and heartbreaking as you are brought into the world of Marine Corp Helicopter aviation.
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