cover image Freedom Fighters and Hell Raisers: A Gallery of Memorable Southerners

Freedom Fighters and Hell Raisers: A Gallery of Memorable Southerners

Hal Crowther. Blair, $16.95 trade paper (140p) ISBN 978-0-932112-78-1

Journalist Crowther (Cathedrals of Kudzu) reveals his characteristic razor-sharp wit and forthrightness in this group of profiles, most previously published, of fellow Southerners, including politicians, writers, preachers, and musicians. Crowther celebrates (for the most part) their lives, beginning with Molly Ivins, a journalist whose likes, he posits, will never be seen again—for with her indiscreet and “exuberantly scathing” attitude and writing, she “dispensed home truths your mother never suspected in language your mother never used.” Crowther doesn’t come only to praise, holding nothing back in his criticism of former North Carolina senator Jesse Helms, likened to a “huge old pit bull, useless and vicious, that sits in its own mess at the end of a tow-truck chain and snarls at everything that moves.” The preacher and civil rights activist Will Campbell, meanwhile, was “a Dixie Diogenes navigating by his own light, searching for honesty and virtue in a troubled land.” Poet James Dickey, according to Crowther, was an unruly, unreliable, impossible man who nevertheless produced some beloved poetry. The book also covers, among others, John Hope Franklin, George Wallace, Doc Watson, and Jesse Winchester. Crowther’s inimitable voice either soothes like bourbon or burns like whisky throughout this clear-eyed collection. (Oct.)