The collection consists of the literary papers of American writer Harry Crews. These papers document his writing career up through the publication of his twentieth book, An American Family: The Child With the Curious Marking (2006). Typed and holograph manuscripts, correspondence, clippings, conference material, awards, literary and film contracts, financial statements, and photographs make up the bulk of materials, which generally date from the mid-1960s onward.
Chronology of Harry Crews' Life and Career to 2006
Born Harry Eugene Crews on June 7, 1935, on a farm near Alma, Bacon County, Georgia.
Father, Ray Crews, dies of a heart attack at age 33 on April 17,1937. Eight months later Harry's mother, Myrtice Haseldon Crews, marries Ray's brother, Pascal, who Harry is led to assume is his natural father.
Stricken by a mysterious polio-like illness in August that leaves him crippled for months.
Barely recovered from leg paralysis, he is thrown into a hog-scalding pot while playing "pop-the-whip" and suffers severe burns over more than two-thirds of his body. Later the same year Myrtice leaves Pascal (after he fires a shotgun over her head in a drunken rage) and she moves with Harry and his brother Hoyett to Jacksonville, Florida, where they stay for five months. Myrtice and Pascal divorce, and Harry learns Pascal is his stepfather and uncle, not his natural father.
Upon graduating from Andrew Jackson High School (Jacksonville, FLA), enlists in the Marine Corps.
Discharged from Marines, he returns briefly to Bacon County, Georgia,before enrolling in the University of Florida, Gainesville, on the GI Bill.
Leaves college for a motorcycle trip across the U.S. and Mexico. "Purified and holy," he returns to Gainesville and reenters UF. Encouraged by roommates at "Twelve Oaks Bath and Tennis Club" he sits in on a writing class taught by Andrew Lytle.
Marries Sally Ellis, a UF sophomore who had tutored him through a difficult semester in Spanish, and earns Bachelor of Arts degree in English from UF. Begins teaching English at Lake Shore Junior High in Jacksonville in August. First son, Patrick Scott, is born in September.
Leaves high school teaching after one year and enrolls in UF Masters of Education program. Divorced from Sally Crews, who moves to her family home in Dayton, Ohio with their son Patrick Scott.
Earns MA (English) and becomes instructor of English at Junior College of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale. Reunites with Sally and is remarried.
The Surplus Record
The Gospel Singer
The Gospel Singer
This Thing Don't Lead to Heaven
The Hawk is Dying
A Childhood: The Biography of a Place
Blood and Grits
Little Deaths: An Anthology of Erotic Horror
Nulle Part Ailleurs
Retires from teaching, University of Florida. Participates in Etonnants Voyageurs Festival International du Livre in Saint Malo, France.
Honored by Georgia Writers Hall of Fame for "enduring contribution to the study and understanding of the state of Georgia-its history, its culture, its people."
The literary papers of American writer Harry Crews (1953-2006) document his writing career up through the publication of his twentieth book,
An American Family: The Child With the Curious Marking (2006). Typed and holograph manuscripts, correspondence, clippings, conference material, awards, literary and film contracts, financial statements, and photographs make up the bulk of materials, which generally date from the mid-1960s onward.
The Correspondence series (1962-2005) begins with correspondence between Crews and his mentor Andrew Lytle (who first published Crews in
The Sewanee Review), letters from college friends/apprentice writers with whom Crews struggled to generate novels for publication, and rejection slips and correspondences from prospective literary agents and publishers.
Letters in the middle and late 1960s document the period when Crews published his first two novels --
The Gospel Singer,
Naked in Garden Hills - and include correspondence with his first literary agent, Bert Cochran, of American Authors, Inc., with John Hawkins of Paul Reynolds, Inc., who succeeded Cochran, and with Crews' editor at William Morrow, Jim Landis.
The letters between Crews and Landis, who would edit Crews' first five novels between 1967 and 1972, are particularly rich in material on the writer's composition process and concerning his ideas about characterization and theme. At this time, also, correspondence appears from other American writers - John Ciardi, Seymour Epstein, Maxine Kumin, William Meredith, Henry Van Dyke and others -- with whom Crews became acquainted through the Bread Loaf Writers Conference and the University of Florida Writers Conference, the latter which he co-directed between 1970-1974 with fellow UF writer and professor Smith Kirkpatrick. (Other writers represented in the Correspondence include Malcolm Braly, Robert Olen Butler, Erskine Caldwell, Daniel Mark Epstein, Barry Hannah, Jim Harrison, Joseph Heller, James Leo Herlihy, William Hjortsberg, Maxine Kumin, Norman Mailer, Tom McGuane, Tim McLaurin, Donn Pearce, James Tiptree, Dan Wakefield, Charles Willeford and Miller Williams.)
In the 1970s there is also correspondence between Crews and his friend and fellow Florida writer/screenwriter Donn Pearce describing the screenwriting business, and an increasing flow of letters from anxious would-be producers seeking options on his novels. This period also is marked by the appearance of correspondence with editors at
Esquire, with whom Crews contracted to write magazine articles and (at
Esquire) a monthly column, and with subsequent publishers and editors at Atheneum, Harper & Row, and Alfred A. Knopf in the United States and at Martin Secker & Warburg in England.
In the late 1970s and into the late 1980s, the volume of correspondence drops off noticeably, coinciding with a "dry" period of Crews' output following
A Feast of Snakes (1976), at a time when his difficulties in composing his acclaimed memoir
A Childhood (1978), increased efforts to lecture and generate screenplays for money, and disruptive periods of alcohol abuse, resulted in Crews' not publishing a major work again until the appearance in 1987 of
All We Need of Hell. The amount of correspondence in the files increases with this reappearance in print, which coincides with his first work for theatrical production, a two-act play (
Blood Issue) commissioned for the Humana Festival of New Plays in Louisville, Kentucky.
In the 1990s correspondence files begin to include writers like Jay Atkinson, former student of Crews', and Mississippi novelist Larry Brown, who first approached Crews as a fan in 1990 and with whom he would remain friends until Brown's death in 2004. Letters from bibliographers and scholars in the years from 1990 onward into the 21
st century reflect a growing acknowledgment of Crews' importance by academia. Contacts with editors and publishers are now complemented by correspondence from European translators and publishers, who are facilitating the appearance of editions in French and Italian. This latter period also includes a bit of correspondence from Crews' fan, friend, and interview subject Sean Penn, and with his then-wife, celebrity singer/actress Madonna, as well as letters from small-press publishers Herb Yellin (Lord John Press) and Craig Graham (Vagabond Press) who issue editions of unpublished Crews fiction and nonfiction, and letters from persons associated with film projects having to do with Crews' life, his novels, and Southern culture.
A complete list of correspondents can be found at the end of this inventory.
Manuscripts of Harry Crews writings and related compositional or publication-related materials - i.e. notes, research materials, publisher galleys, promotional materials or cover design -- dominate the Works series of the Harry Crews Papers.
The Extended Works subseries includes manuscripts of Crews' twenty novels, his memoir
A Childhood: The Biography of a Place, six screenplays, a two-act play, early poetry, several short stories, and most of his essays, book reviews, and journalism. In this series thre are are four full-length unpublished manuscripts--three novels and one book of previously uncollected nonfiction.
Items in Box 15 relating to unpublished chapters of the memoir Assault of Memory are closed until the work is published or Harry Crews elects to open the files.)
For convenience, Crews' copies of the adapted screenplays of
The Gospel Singer,
The Gypsy's Curse, and
The Hawk is Dying by other authors are included in the Works series, and are filed following Crews' work in each title.
(NOTE: Many of the Works manuscript files contain drafts that show Crews' revising and rewriting. In some cases, whole abandoned or rejected scenes of novels resurface in files for new works. For example: Parts of Crews' 1998 novel
Where Does One Go When There's No Place Left to Go? first appear in an unpublished manuscript of
The Enthusiast, composed circa 1972 and in drafts of his 1987 novel
All We Need of Hell. Similarly, parts of a screenplay for
All We Need of Hell are found on the reverse of discarded draft sections of
A Feast of Snakes. In another instance, segments of Crews' two early attempts at a memoir-
Take 38-later emerge as a single unpublished essay, "Of Elephants, Heroes, and LSD," which he eventually cannibalized, revised, and published as separate
The Short Works subseries provide a view of Crews' earliest writing, including early undated poems and drafts of his first published works, the short stories "The Unattached Smile," "It Reminds One of the Opera," and "A Long Wail."
The "Articles, Essays, Reviews" subseries is a comprehensive file Crews' nonfiction and critical writing. Files of his journalism for magazines like Playboy, Esquire, Southern magazine, and FAME include not only manuscripts but also notes and research materials accumulated by Crews in the course of journalistic assignments. The extensive files of Crews' book reviews for national media like
The New York Times Book Review,
Los Angeles Times' book section, and
Washington Post BookWorld include several reviews that are absent from bibliographies of his work.
(NOTE: Audio cassette tapes from some assignments and dictabelts used by Crews in the composition of his autobiographical
Childhood were included in the Harry Crews Papers, but they may be unavailable while in the process of preservation reformatting, for eventual placement in the University Libraries' Media Archives. An inventory of these audiotapes and dictabelts--"Media formats included in Harry Crews Papers, transferred to Media Archives"--is attached at the end of this finding aid.)
Chief among the Business and Legal series (1967-2005) are contracts for many of the original issues, paperback editions, or foreign translations of most of Crews' books. A number of contracts for movie production option rights to his novels are also to be found in this series, as are contracts for Crews' 1989 play,
Blood Issue, and two screenplays (
Boomtown and Clown). The remaining contracts comprise mostly republication or reprint permissions for articles, and a handful of magazine contracts for the original articles. The balance of Business and Legal Papers consists of earnings and royalty statements from Crews' publishers and literary agents, scattered files of travel receipts, honoraria, and contracts for lectures, mostly from the period 1970-1975.
Subject files (1953-2006) comprise the remaining document files, and these include a voluminous archive of articles about Harry Crews and his writings and the few biographical materials included in the collection - yearbooks, awards, vitae, college transcripts and Marine Corps service file. A transcript of a "family history" interview Crews did with an aunt, and scattered personal notes are also filed here. This series includes files on Crews' awards and fellowships, some University of Florida teaching files, information files on the Bread Loaf Writers Conference (1968-1973) and the Florida Writers Conference (1970-1974), notes for his Bread Loaf lectures, appointment planners, addresses, and phone numbers.
The majority of the Subject series' files, however, are secondary source materials: Reviews of Crews' books (1967-2003), writings about him (1963-2003, n.d.), and writings by others (1974-1993, n.d.). The last subcategory includes works by Byron Crews, Daniel Mark Epstein, Jim Harrison, and Maxine Kumin, and a screenplay of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
Cross Creek. However, most "Writing by Others" are unpublished papers and scholarly offprints about Crews' work, including bibliographies by Damon Sauve and Michael Hargraves and a folder of binder's gatherings of the entire text of David Jeffrey's 1993 compilation
A Grit's Triumph.
The "Writings about HC" files are a separate category from reviews of Crews' books, and consist of original clippings and photocopies of published newspaper and periodical articles, from U.S., English, and French publications. Researchers seeking articles about Crews should inspect both "Articles about HC" and "Writing by Others" subcategories.
The "Reviews" folders include reviews of all Crews' works up through
Celebration (1998). Reviews of Erik Bledsoe's 1999 compilation of interviews with Harry Crews,
Getting Naked With Harry Crews, are also included in these files.
Videotapes and audio cassettes of Harry Crews' interviews or TV/movie appearances were transferred to the University Libraries' Media Archive, and a list ("Media formats included in Harry Crews Papers, transferred to Media Archives") of those is attached to this finding aid.
The Photographs series is the last and smallest series, consisting mostly of a few scattered, recent portraits of Harry Crews alone or photographed with friends, and in Marine Corps unit class photos from 1953-1954. There are also photos of Sally Crews, Maggie Powell, and James Dickey in this file.
Omitted: Fan mail pictures from which Harry Crews is absent have been left out of this series, and instead can be found attached to their respective letters in Correspondence. Photos of Crews and Charles Bronson from Crews' 1975
Playboy assignment on Bronson are located in the "The Knuckles of Saint Bronson" file in the "Articles, Essays, Reviews" subseries of Works.
A much more extensive collection of photographs of Harry Crews, his family and friends remain in Crews' personal photo collection. Selections from this collection are on deposit in the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and available for viewing only with the written permission of Harry Crews.
No photocopying without written permission of Harry Crews or his designated literary executor. Also, "Assault of Memory, unpublished chapters" files (WORKS-EXTENDED WORKS series) are restricted until publication or the death of the author, unless a waiver of this restriction is obtained from Harry Crews.
Persons seeking photocopy permission, or permission to view "Assault of Memory, unpublished chapters," should address a request, stating briefly what their research purpose is (possible publication; classroom instruction; etc.) to:
Harry Crews, 2820 NW 34
th St., Gainesville, FL 32605
Once provided with an original, signed permission from the author, the Hargrett Library will waive restrictions.
Copyright is retained by author. The Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library has rights to manage and provide access to the Collection, with exceptions as noted in Restrictions.
*NOTE: Researchers interested in using the following should contact Media Archives in advance, as original audio recordings and films are unavailable for use until preservation copies are made.
Consists of: 1. Eighty-six 30-minute Dictabelts of poor to average audio quality, roughly half of them labeled "Bacon County" and apparently dictated by Crews during research and composition (circa 1974-1976) of his memoir
A Childhood: The Biography of A Place. Other Dictabelt subjects include: (1) "Overdrive" interview(s) for 1977
Esquire article, (2) "The Trucker Militant"; (3) "Polo Lounge" [Beverly Hills]; and (4)
Southern Express (unproduced screenplay).
2. Twenty-three videotapes, mostly multiple copies of two documentary films --
The Rough South of Harry Crews (1993) and
Harry Crews: Guilty as Charged (1992). Also includes multiple NTSC copies of Crews' 1996 appearance on French TV station Canal+ program "Nulle Part Ailleurs," and original SECAM format dub; copies of Crews' acceptance remarks for Georgia Writers Hall of Fame award (December 2002) and a copy of feature film
The Indian Runner, with Crews' cameo appearance.
3. Forty-three audiotape cassettes, chiefly from Crews' magazine assignments in 1970s and 1980s; also interviews with him 1979-1999 from various sources, and one partial recording of creative writing lecture/class.
Box 1: 16 Dictabelts - 10 are labeled [by H.C.] "Overdrive" and marked numerically: 1-8, 10-11; 6 are unmarked.
Box 2: 5 VHS tapes - "Guilty as Charged" (5)
Box 3: 2 VHS tapes - "Personal Belongings" (With TLS from Byron Crews to Harry Crews; original letter filed in "undated" correspondence, 11:16); "The Rough South: Stories of Tim McLaurin"
Box 4: 6 VHS tapes - "Harry Crews: The Rough South." 4 copies; "Rough South/ Crews Rough Cut"; "The Rough South" [on tape containing three recorded films]
Box 5: 7 VHS tapes - "Harry Crews: Nulle Part Ailleurs, Jeudi, 3 Octobre 1996" [1 orig SECAM + 6 NTSC copies]
Box 7: 20 Dictabelts - Belts marked numerically 1-12 (nos. 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 11, 12 appear twice). Nos. 7, 11, 12 also marked "Bacon" or "Bacon County."; Signed note by HC: "These are tapes I did while I was doing research for the book
Box 10: 3 VHS tapes - "Harry Crews: Georgia Writers Hall of Fame" (2 copies); "The Indian Runner," MGM Home Video
Box 11: 17 Audio cassettes - "Bronson- 1st day" [Bronson assignment, Idaho, for
Playboy 1975 ; "side 2 empty"]; "Bronson- Jill Ireland"; "Bronson- Jill Ireland (con't.)"; "Place- Names" [Bronson assignment, 1975]; "Phil Rhodes" [Bronson assignment, 1975]; "Roy Jenson" [Bronson assignment, 1975]; "Billy Chappell" [Valdez assignment, 1974]; "Pipe Storage Yard, 'Alaska'" [Valdez assignment, 1974]; [Sean Penn] 2 cassettes: marked (1a) "1
st tape with Penn," (1b) "2
nd tape," (2a) "3
rd tape Penn," (2b) "4
th tape Penn" [1990
FAME profile of Penn]; [unmarked tape - blank?]; "Robert Blake of Baretta" [
Esquire profile, 1976]; "Preacher;" ["'Thou Art Snared' by Calvin Simmons, Tape # 33." Came with note attached to Michelle Green (interviewed Harry) and enclosed note to Harry, from S.M. Reavis, Stone Mountain, Ga., no date. Preservation copy attached; original moved to "undated correspondence" folder. On verso Harry has written "Curious preacher's taped sermon to help me with my troubles"; "Jimbo Smith- Esq. article, Ashburn- Side one" ["Reminiscences of a Blind Muleman"]; "Gene St. Leon" ["Tip on Live Jockey" for
SPORT magazine]; "St. Leon 12/16/75"; "St. Leon"
Box 12: 12 Audio cassettes - "Words at beginning & middle of tape" [Apparently consists only of a few seconds of audio--HC saying test, while trying out new cassette recorder @ counter reading 000 and 220 on side A]; "Tom Jones, Engelbert Humperdinck"; "Tom Jones - The Golden Hits"; "Tape #1 Gordon Liddy" [re: article titled "No Whine with Dinner, Thank You."]; "Tape 2- Gordon Liddy"; "Tape 3- Side 1-Waynesboro"; "Shenandoa Valley- Ap. Trail"; "Shenandoa Valley, Waynesboro, Appalachian Trail, Loft Mt.-3 days into Park" [see: "A Walk in the Country,"
Take 38, Halflife, "Of Elephants Heroes and LSD" etc]; "Cross Creek 5/15/82" [?] Mostly blank tape, however incl: Harry singing Ballad of John Henry near end of side A; recorded phone conversation between "[Espy?]" and "John" at beginning of side B]; "Bacon County-blank"; "Gordon Liddy"; "Harry Crews, Gainesville, Florida- 1979" [NPR]
Box 13: 14 Audio cassettes - "Fresh Air- 5/23/88, Terry Gross & Harry Crews"; "Coming home from Tulsa- Hargis" [Billy James Hargis story]; "Cross Creek" [Rip Torn interview, 1983?]; "[Kuhn?], Tom Hall"[tapespeed problem]; "Dog Tape/ Sparks" [dogfighting story, 1979]; "Dog Tape"; "Polo lounge- ½ tape 'Tape 1'"; "2 Polo"; "Crews at Sally Crews' home/Crews drunk at home/Fiction lecture" [date unknown]; "Hargis"; "Blank tape"; "Harry Crews Interview" [60 minute cassette; copy of 1983 American Audio Prose Library tape-- GIL PS3553 .R46 Z687 1983]; "Harry Crews Readings From A
Childhood" [60-min tape; copy of 1983 American Audio Prose Library tape-GIL call # PS3553 .R46 Z463 1983]; - "Harry- trip out West November 28, 1999"