When I asked John Ed Bradley about the late Harry Crews recently, he told me he first read Crews in Esquire in the late 70s where he wrote features and had a column called “Grits.” Then, Bradley said, he read the novels—southern gothic gone gonzo. Crews published seven in as many years beginning in 1968 and had a dedicated following that would only grow. When John Ed’s first novel—the sterling debut Tupelo Nights—was published in 1988, Crews reviewed it for The Washington Post and gave it a rave and you better believe John Ed has never forgotten it because it really was a dream review.
When I saw that Ted Geltner’s new biography, Blood, Bone, and Marrow—the first proper Crews biography—was reviewed by Dwight Garner in the The New York Times, my sense of excitement was interrupted by the fear that he wouldn’t like it. Or worse, that he’d trash it. But that’s not really Garner’s way—his instinct is to find the good in things; he’s a natural enthusiast who enjoys sharing his enthusiasms. He wants to hip you to what he’s into.
So it comes as no surprise that he’s a Harry Crews fan or that he gave Geltner the kind of dream review Crews once gave John Ed. I read Geltner’s book, enjoyed it a good deal, and it got me to thinking about nothing but Harry Crews for a few days. Turns out, Stacks alum Steve Oney—whose seminal piece on the lynching of Leo Frank previously appeared in this space—wrote a feature on Crews for the Atlanta Journal & Constitution Magazine in the late ’70s entitled, “Harry Crews is a stomp-down hard-core moralist.” It is reprinted here with the author’s permission. Please enjoy a rip-roaring glimpse into the cracked beauty that was Harry Crews.