Billy Craddock and his wife Teresa moved to Santa Cruz in 1977. Photo by Dan Pulcrano.
Fans have called Be Not Content “the best ’60s memoir ever.” And cyberpunk author Rudy Rucker says, “Nobody ever wrote about the psychedelic revolution as well as William Craddock.” Broader examination will now determine whether popular acclaim rises to those enthusiastic appraisals, now that author Rucker has reissued the longtime Santa Cruzan’s novel, 42 years after its initial publication.
Be Not Content is certainly one of the genre’s most authentic examples, more an autobiographical, insider’s journey than Tom Wolfe’s playful, entertaining 1968 new journalistic masterpiece, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Craddock’s was less a curious spectacle than self-discovery laced with conflict, pathos and style characteristic of psychedelic inward exploration and alienation.
I got to know Craddock a bit when he ran a classic motorcycle shop on the west side of Santa Cruz in 1981 with Pat Simmons of the Doobie Brothers. Craddock and his wife Teresa moved from Los Gatos to Simmons’ Vine Hill Road ranch in 1977. Tall and Zen-like, Craddock at 34 wore a skull earring and didn’t mind a recent college grad badgering him with silly questions about a writer’s life. “Turning 30 was a trip,” he told me. “I thought it was ludicrous. It’s just ridiculous to be alive at that old age.”
He told me he grew up middle class in Los Gatos and rode with a San Jose outlaw club, the Night Riders. “Good lads. Misunderstood was all,” he deadpanned.
There was little to suggest that the relaxed and easygoing guy behind the cash register at the motorcycle shop would be rediscovered 30 years later by a major author and hailed as one of the most important voices of a pivotal era.
Simmons closed the shop and moved away from Santa Cruz a few years later. The Craddocks bought a home in Soquel and lived in the Santa Cruz area until his death in 2004, at 57. Teresa works weekends at an art glass store on the coast and gave Rucker the green light to publish the new edition, which has a photograph she took of him in the early 1980s in Oaxaca on the cover. (A colorized version appears on this week’s cover.) “He got better looking as he got older,” she says.
“I’m so happy that Bill’s getting the recognition he certainly deserves,” Simmons wrote in an email this week, when he heard of Be Not Content’s release. “A great guy, and a talented, creative writer.” Simmons says he’s read another unpublished Craddock manuscript and thinks it’s even stronger than his published works.
BE NOT CONTENT: A SUBTERRANEAN JOURNEY is available in electronic editions for the Kindle and Nook for $6 from Rucker's Transreal Books, and the new paperback edition can be purchased for $16 at Amazon.
Read an excerpt of the book here.
Read the introduction by Rudy Rucker here.