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Harry Crews died on March 28, 2012, aged 76. Hopefully you've already read some of his stuff. If not, THE GOSPEL SINGER is an excellent place to start.

Crews hailed from Bacon Country, Georgia and grew up on an isolated and rough 'n' tough farm. His work feeds from that harsh upbringing, but also his obsession with reading books. Crews is another good lesson that some people need... you don't judge someone's intelligence by their accent.

A self-confessed drunk for 30 years and an ex-heroin user (complete with a handy tattoo on his right arm to find the vein) Crews has certainly been around the block. This feeds in hugely to the content of many of his novels (GOSPEL SINGER, CAR, FEAST OF SNAKES etc.), which often deal with characters with destructive compulsions. As they quote in SURVIVAL IS TRIUMPH ENOUGH, Crews once said: "My compulsive need to look for the edge and live on it has marked me in more ways than I would want to know or try to explain."

Crews broaches the subject of his son's death thoroughly in SURVIVAL IS TRIUMPH ENOUGH. Patrick Crews died aged four from drowning in a neighbour's pool. The aging Crews is philosophical about it, but you can tell the event still hurts like hell. Crews seemingly chalks this up to that old cliche "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger"... or least the filmmaker does because he prefaces it with the Crews' quote:
"The little I have learned about the world and, more important, that I've learned about myself has been absurdly expensive, but I have always thought it more than worth the price."

Crews is a great writer and whether you like him or not - and he's done plenty of unsavoury stuff... including a love of dog fighting - you can't deny the guy is smart and fascinating. He has survived a hell of a lot... starting from almost day one with his near-death as a baby due to getting hold of three pieces of lye.

GUILTY AS CHARGED remains the best Crews' documentary because the Crews in 1993 is more cogent and fluid. It also goes into much more detail of the idea process behind his books, and that pivotal importance of pushing a book through action and events. As Crews says: "Keep me up tonight with that story!" He also makes some savvy points on how respectable, "well-rounded" people haven't contributed to the world nearly as much as "jagged people" and their stubborn-mindedness pushing society forward. In an analogy about this, Crews talks about the difference between a saw with teeth as to those without. Those with teeth can cut through pretty much anything. As a pep rally for those on the outside GUILTY AS CHARGED is very uplifting. And you can start watching the best bits straight away using the clip below:

That said, give SURVIVAL IS TRIUMPH ENOUGH a chance too. You can see Crews with another 15 years of wisdom and reflection, and even more of a no bullshit attitude. It can be watched via Indyflix for a very reasonable 2 bucks. Go and support the nice people who made it and feel that glowing sense of self-worth.

Review by Steve Hussy