Open main menu

Harry Eugene Crews (June 7, 1935 – March 28, 2012) was an American novelist, short story writer, and essayist.

Harry Eugene Crews
Born(1935-06-07)June 7, 1935
Alma, Georgia
DiedMarch 28, 2012(2012-03-28) (aged 76)
Gainesville, Florida
GenreNovel, short story, essay


Life and workEdit

Crews was born in Bacon County, Georgia, in 1935[1] and served in the Marines during the Korean War.[2] He attended the University of Florida on the GI Bill, but dropped out to travel. Eventually returning to the university, Crews finally graduated and moved his wife, Sally, and son, Patrick Scott, to Jacksonville where he taught English at Lakeshore Junior High School for a year.

Crews returned to Gainesville and the university to work on his master's in English Education. It was during this period that he and Sally divorced for the first time. Crews continued his studies, graduated, and – denied entrance into UF's Creative Writing program – took a teaching position at Broward Community College in the subject of English. It was here in south Florida that Crews convinced Sally to return to him, and they were remarried. A second son, Byron, was born to them in 1963. Crews returned to University of Florida in 1968 not as a student, but as a member of the faculty in Creative Writing. Crews formerly taught in the creative writing program at the University of Florida.[3] In 1964, Patrick Scott drowned in a neighbor's pool. This proved to be too heavy a burden on the family, and Crews and Sally were once again divorced.[4]

Crews' first published novel, The Gospel Singer, appeared in 1968.[2] His novels include: A Feast of Snakes, The Hawk Is Dying, Body, Scar Lover, The Knockout Artist, Karate Is a Thing of the Spirit, All We Need of Hell, The Mulching of America, Car, and Celebration. Crews published a memoir in 1978 titled A Childhood: The Biography of a Place. Crews wrote essays for Esquire, Playboy, and Fame. He had a column in Esquire called "Grits" for fourteen months in the 1970s, where he covered such topics as cockfighting and dog fighting.[2] Crews had a tattoo on his right arm which said: "How do you like your blue eyed boy Mr. Death" (from the poem Buffalo Bill's by E. E. Cummings) beneath a skull.[4]

The University of Georgia acquired Harry Crews's papers in August 2006. The archive includes manuscripts and typescripts of his fiction, correspondence, and notes made by Crews while on assignment. Guides to his collections are available at[5]

Crews died March 28, 2012, from complications of neuropathy.[6] His sole surviving son and executor of the Harry Crews Literary Estate [7], Byron J. Crews, is professor of English and Dramatic Writing at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.[8]

In popular cultureEdit

  • Crews scripted the original draft of 1985 thriller The New Kids, but was not pleased with the finished film; his name does not appear in the credits, which attribute the story and screenplay to Stephen Gyllenhaal and Brian Taggert.[9]
  • Kim Gordon (of Sonic Youth), Lydia Lunch, and Sadie Mae named their band Harry Crews after him. They released one album, Naked in Garden Hills, in 1989.
  • Canadian pop band Men Without Hats has a song called "Harry Crews" on their 1991 album Sideways.
  • "Scarlover" is the first track on Maria McKee's 1996 album Life Is Sweet. She thanks Crews in her acknowledgments.
  • Colorado band Drag the River has a song called "Mr. Crews" on their 2006 album It's Crazy.
  • Crews was the subject of the first installment of the Rough South documentary series written and directed by Gary Hawkins. The film, entitled The Rough South of Harry Crews, won a regional Emmy Award and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's Gold Award in 1992.
  • In the documentary, Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus (2004),[10] Crews tells his grisly homespun Southern stories while walking down a rural dirt track.
  • Crews played a brief role in Sean Penn's The Indian Runner and dedicated his book Scar Lover to Penn.
  • In 2007, another documentary was released: Harry Crews – Survival Is Triumph Enough. The personal format is loosely based on an interview with artist and filmmaker Tyler Turkle, and the themes explored include hardship, tragedy and loss throughout the Crews' life.[11]
  • Kansas City band Season to Risk wrote and recorded a song on their eponymous first album in 1993, entitled "Snakes", which is inspired by the Crews novel A Feast of Snakes.
  • Florida Trend magazine released an interview with Harry Crews posthumously in April 2012. The interview is in Crews' own words, with quotes such as, "I've never begun a novel that I knew how it ended. I just start and try to find out what it is I think about whatever it is I am writing about." Another quote: "Listen, if you want to write about all sweetness and light and that stuff, go get a job at Hallmark."[12]

See alsoEdit



  • The Gospel Singer, 1968
  • Naked in Garden Hills, 1969
  • This Thing Don't Lead to Heaven, 1970
  • Karate Is a Thing of the Spirit, 1971
  • Car, 1972
  • The Hawk Is Dying, 1973
  • The Gypsy's Curse, 1974
  • A Feast of Snakes, 1976
  • All We Need of Hell, 1987
  • The Knockout Artist, 1988
  • Body, 1990
  • Scar Lover, 1992
  • The Mulching of America, 1995
  • Celebration, 1998
  • An American Family: The Baby with the Curious Markings, 2006


  • Blood and Grits, 1979 [A collection of essays.]
  • Florida Frenzy, 1982 [A collection of essays.]
  • Classic Crews: A Harry Crews Reader, 1993 [Includes: Car (1972), The Gypsy's Curse (1974), A Childhood: The Biography of a Place (1978), and the essays, "The Car" (1975), "Climbing the Tower" (1977), and "Fathers, Sons, Blood" (1985).]

Limited EditionsEdit

  • The Enthusiast, 1981 [The first chapter of All We Need of Hell, limited edition of 200 signed copies.]
  • Two By Crews, 1984 [Two essays, limited edition of 200 signed copies.]
  • Madonna at Ringside, 1991 [Limited edition of 275 numbered copies and 26 lettered copies, all signed by Harry Crews.]
  • Where Does One Go When There's No Place Left to Go?, 1995/1998 [Published in 1995, along with The Gospel Singer. Reissued separately, in 1998, as a limited edition of 400 signed copies.]


  • A Childhood: The Biography of a Place, 1978
  • — (Winter 2011). "We are all of us passing through" (PDF). The Georgia Review. 65 (4): 723–735. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 1, 2014. Retrieved February 16, 2015.
    • Reprinted in Henderson, Bill, ed. (2013). The Pushcart Prize XXXVII : best of the small presses 2013. Pushcart Press. pp. 37–49.

Unpublished WorksEdit

  • Bone Grinder (novel)
  • The Wrong Affair
  • Assault of Memory

There are a number of unpublished works in the author's archive at the University of Georgia, Athens. The whereabouts of The Wrong Affair is not known. Assault of Memory is the follow-up to A Childhood: the Biography of a Place and certain parts were published in literary journals whereas some parts required a signed permission from the author to view in the archive.


  1. ^ Elaine Woo "Harry Crews dies at 76; Southern writer with darkly comic vision", Los Angeles Times, April 1, 2012
  2. ^ a b c Walt Harrington, ed. (2005). "Contributors". The Beholder's Eye: A Collection of America's Finest Personal Journalism. New York: Grove Press. p. x. ISBN 0-8021-4224-9.
  3. ^ "Department of English". University of Florida. Retrieved August 10, 2011.
  4. ^ a b Michael Carlson Obituary: Harry Crews, The Guardian, April 10, 2012
  5. ^ "Harry Crews: Biographical Sketch". Archived from the original on July 31, 2011. Retrieved October 24, 2011.
  6. ^ Margalit Fox "Harry Crews, Writer of Dark Fiction, Is Dead at 76", New York Times, March 30, 2012
  7. ^
  8. ^ Byron J. Crews
  9. ^
  10. ^ Felperin, Leslie (December 17, 2003). "Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus". Variety. Reed Business Information. Retrieved October 6, 2009.
  11. ^ "Harry Crews: Survival Is Triumph Enough". IMDb. Retrieved August 10, 2011.
  12. ^

Further readingEdit

  • Perspectives on Harry Crews. Erik Bledsoe (ed.). University Press of Mississippi, 2001. (available on google books).
  • Geltner, T (2016). Blood, Bone, and Marrow: A Biography of Harry Crews. Athens: University of Georgia Press.

External linksEdit