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97 Speaks

Lessons from the Decades
By Babette Hughes

Age, kindness and wisdom aren’t always walking hand in hand with each other as we pass along life’s way. Sometimes older people are bitter or cranky or just plain difficult. Who knows why? Maybe they feel that life has passed them by in some way. Or, perhaps there’s even an arrogance that comes with age that says “I’ve earned every gray hair and I think you should earn yours instead of me sharing what I have learned with you to maybe make it easier.”

Thankfully, author Babette Hughes is none of these. At 97, she is doing her best work and sharing it with the world with the ageless joy that comes with creativity.

She begins her latest book, 97 Speaks, with a riveting recap of her earliest memories of her father, a rumrunner in the Jewish mafia. He was a handsome and captivating man, neither of which were able to save him when the Mafia put out a hit on him for having the temerity to compete with them in the bootlegging business. They gunned him and his brother in law down in cold blood in the driveway of his home.


Babette was only 2 at the time, and her mother told her for much of her young life that her father had died of pneumonia. She learned otherwise at the tender age of ten by going down to the Cleveland Public Library and finding the newspapers for that fateful day. Her father’s bullet riddled body was on page 1.

She would later write a series of crime novels that began during prohibition and follows the character all the way to the 1980’s. When asked in a radio interview if the main character in the first book was based on her father she said “No, it is actually based on my musings about what my father’s killer might have been like.”

Babette continues 97 Speaks with tales of love and loss, of great success and heartbreaking defeat. Through it all she has continued to live a creative and positive life.

Over the past decade or so she has done her best literary work, penning a memoir, a novel, a gritty crime novel trilogy, and two other acclaimed books, including this one. As we speak she is hard at work on a WWII spy thriller.

"Leave your comfort zone because the comfort zone is reserved for the old. Go forward and take a few risks because if you don’t grow, your life narrows and old age beckons.”

With each book, she finds her voice. She continues to improve and look forward to the next improvement.

“Toxic thoughts are poisonous to your potential. The power of the mind is that no thought can be planted without your permission. Therefore, your mind is the product of what you have permitted yourself to focus on.”

97 Speaks will speak to a generation of readers and offer wisdom, hope and encouragement--- and an entertaining ride to boot.

To learn more about Babette and her work go to:

About Babette Hughes

Born in Cleveland Ohio, Babette Hughes grew up in the time of Prohibition and bootleggers. Her father was one of the first rum runners in the country, and was murdered by the Mafia in a turf war at the age of 29. Babette was just two at the time.

Writing has allowed her to draw from her unusual life experiences to create her characters and tell their stories (and sometimes cautionary tales) in vivid detail.

Now 97, she still writes every day with a fluidity and grace of a woman half her age. “The truth is liberating, but sometimes elusive.” She explains. “I’m always looking for it and how to best write about it, and I probably always will.” 



“Aging provides us with time, wisdom, and the kind of freedom that no other phase of life can offer. It is an opportunity to try new ideas and choices, discovering ourselves anew.”

Babette Hughes

Discovering that I was born into a family of murders and secrets, I believed that my father was up in heaven watching over me with his gun, keeping me safe because he loved me. I’d wander home from the library alone in the dark night, or hang out in the drugstore, looking at magazines until the manager turned out the lights, opened the door, and told me to go home. But I liked the library the best. The books on the shelves were my friends, their stories waiting to take me out of my life. I loved the long shiny tables. I loved pulling down one of the lined-up encyclopedias and the way its weighty pages transformed my confusing, baffling world into the wonder of an orderly alphabetized universe. The walls of soft colored volumes were windows of stained glass, and the reverent hush of the people around me were worshipers in the church I never got into. I’d daydream that Miss Allen, the librarian, was my mother as she handed me a book she thought I’d like, or told me to lower my voice or that my books were overdue or to go home because the library was closing. I liked Miss Allen. I loved Miss Allen. When she put on her coat and turned out the lights I wanted to go home with her.

I remember sitting on our apartment’s cold stoop at night looking at the stars and daydreaming, waiting for my mother to come home. It’s hard to believe how attached I was to her during my childhood, with how desperate I was to get away from her at eighteen—desperate enough to even marry the wrong man. When she left me with relatives when I was three or four, I was afraid she wouldn’t come back for me and imagined she was pushed on the subway tracks by a crazy person. Or she was mugged and shot. Her office building was on fire. She stumbled and fell down. Someone called an ambulance to take her to the hospital. But which one? Which hospital? If she had been unusually late, I sat myself cross-legged at the front door and waited in an eerie silence.

(Among other effects that I have worked through in therapy, is a lifetime of associating a person’s unexpected absence with death. I know that the person is simply late, of course, I know that. But on another level I think he or she died.)

An Excerpt from 97 speaks

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