A blood poet of the highest order, Harry Crews has died of neuropathy at the age of 76.
Crews wrote in a style that was at once brutal and beautiful, baroque and as ordinary as dirt. Within a single sentence he could be both tender and terrifying. His novels were populated by freaks, outlaws, burn-outs and lost souls who wandered through trailer parks, bayous, dive bars, sideshows and the long lonely highways of the deep south. Possessed of a gothic sensibility, dark humor and a hard-edged grittiness that put him in the company of Cormac McCarthy, Charles Bukowski and Flannery O’Connor as well as hardboiled writers like Jim Thompson, Crews was capable of transforming the rot of reality into something so rich with life that even death had to laugh.
Punk rockers gravitated to Crews because he was a badass who managed to find a medium through which to articulate his anger, despair and lust. Lydia Lunch and Kim Gordon created a band called Harry Crews as an homage to the writer. They harnessed the energy of his books and transformed it into the only kind of music that could handle it - blistering hard rock.
Crews was one of the major influences on my writing, right up there with Bukowski and Raymond Chandler. I f you haven’t read him, I recommend starting with The Knockout Artist, All We Need Of Hell or Scar Lover. Once you’ve started up with Harry you won’t stop until you’ve read him all.