Freedom Fighters and Hell Raisers

Freedom Fighters and Hell Raisers

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By Hal Crowther

“Crowther’s astute and affecting portraits make me think that there might be something in The South worth preserving after all. What he’s so masterful at—and no easy trick—is describing goodness itself and making it plausible.” —Richard Ford

“This is a book we need right now. Not only because it is beautifully written, entrancing, and funny, but perhaps even more so because it is a book of complexity and truth. Very often it is about people fighting the good fight, whether that be through activism, prayer, or—most often—the arts.” —Silas House, author of Southernmost and Eli the Good

Freedom Fighters and Hell Raisers is aptly named, as it is a kaleidoscope of Southern trailblazers, ranging from poets and musicians to politicians and nuns.” —Michael Farris Smith, author of The Fighter and Desperation Road

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"I don't have any children, so I've decided to claim all the future freedom-fighters and hell-raisers as my kin," wrote journalist Molly Ivins. Ivins is one of the biggest hell-raisers profiled in this collection of essays by Hal Crowther, but there is plenty hell-raising and freedom-fighting go around. Crowther is a writer whose own career is marked by sharp political and social commentary in the pages of national and regional outlets, from Time to the Atlanta Constitution to The Oxford American. In this collection, he turns his attention to the best and the brightest of the recently departed generation in the South.

These essays commemorate the passing of iconic Southern figures such as John Hope Franklin, Doc Watson, Judy Bonds, and James Dickey. Crowther has known most of the folks he profiles and has lived in their particular landscape for decades; he has some stories to tell, and he does so with a particular appreciation for his subjects’ accomplishments, their surroundings, and even, in the case of politicos Jesse Helms and George Wallace, their particular brand of notoriousness. Novelist and commentator Silas House, author of Southernmost and A Parchment of Leaves, introduces the collection.


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Hal Crowther is a journalist and essayist whose work has appeared in Time, Newsweek, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, The Oxford American, Granta, the Independent, the Progressive Populist, and other independent weeklies around the country. He is the author of four books of essays: An Infuriating American: The Incendiary Arts of H.L. Mencken; Gather at the River; Cathedrals of Kudzu; and Unarmed but Dangerous: A Withering Attack on All Things Phony, Foolish, and Fundamentally Wrong with America Today. Crowther is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, the Lillian Smith Book Award, and the Book of the Year award for essays from Foreward Reviews. He has been named a finalist for the Magazine Award and for the National Book Critics Circle prize for criticism and for nonfiction. He lives in Hillsborough, NC, with his wife, novelist Lee Smith.