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...A Call To Harry Crews...

Posted: Jul 27, 2007


One of my heroes remains the Georgia writer Harry Crews. Some of Crews' books such as Feast of Snakes, Florida Frenzy, The Gospel Singer, Scar Lover, Body, The Gypsy's Curse, Blood and Grits, and Childhood: Biography of a Place rank as indelible southern literature.

I've been trying to contact Crews for over a year concerning an interview. This morning I decided to call him at home--lo and behold, he picked up the phone. I must say that 25-minute call was one of the most interesting conversations I've ever had over the phone. When he asked my name and I told him he said, "That's a good name. I'll remember that name." Let me give you an excerpt from one of Crews' hardboiled stories called "Poaching Gators for Fun and Profit":

"Being raised alongside the Okefenokee Swamp, I had early on developed a healthy respect for gators. When I was a boy I saw Willard Stucky and Leonard Miller--both of them in their early twenties and about half drunk at the time--go in a little pond with the intention of catching a gator that wasn't even five feet long. God knows why they wanted to take him alive, but they did, so they backed their truck right up to the bank and went in the water. They finally did get him alive in the bed of the pickup, but not before he beat the clothes off both of them with his tail and he chewed one of Willard's hands until it was crooked forever..."

Harry informed me of several projects he's working on. He told me my Alma Mater, The University of Georgia, bought a lot of his work for display.  We discussed fitting an interview into his schedule. He expressed interviews over the phone were out of the question. "I'm 73 years old, and at this point my time is very valuable. Maybe you can come down and see me in a couple of months." We agreed on his plan. So, a Swampland interview with Harry Crews looks like a reality.

I informed him writer Paul Hemphill (another Swampland project in process) was recovering from throat cancer and I plan on completing our interview when he regains his strength. "That's terrible," said Crews, "we're all gettin' old and dying off."

Stanley Booth, Paul Hemphill and Harry Crews serve as my holy trinity of living southern writers I intend to highlight. Harry Crews may never pick up the phone again...but the day Harry Crews answered the telephone is almost like The Day The Earth Stood Still...but Lord willin' and the creek don't rise, the interview will happen.

This weekend, I'll blog again to introduce a story written by Stanley Booth in the late 70s about Elvis Presley and his famous Doctor, George Nichopoulos, called "The King Is Dead! Hang the Doctor!" on the cusp of 30 years since Presley's death. A Stanley Booth interview will soon follow...so stay tuned.

James Calemine

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