Chris Crutcher was raised in Cascade, Idaho, a lumber and cattle ranch town located in the central Idaho Rockies, a two hour drive over treacherous two-lane from the nearest movie theater and a good forty minutes from the nearest bowling alley. In high school he played football, basketball and ran track, not because he was a stellar athlete, but because in a place so isolated, every able bodied male was heavily recruited. “If you didn’t show up on the first day of football practice your freshman year,” he says, “they just came to your house and got you. And your parents let them in.”
His early interest in stories came principally from reading Jean Shepherd and other fine authors in the Playboy Magazine delivered monthly to his house because, as he overheard his father saying to his mother, “Some of the very finest contemporary American literature graces the pages of that magazine.” Full disclosure, there is justified suspicion that he may have perused some of the photography before settling down to serious reading.
Crutcher’s years as teacher, then director, of a K-12 alternative school in Oakland, California through the nineteen-seventies, and his subsequent twenty-odd years as a therapist specializing in child abuse and neglect, inform his thirteen novels and two collections of short stories. “I have forever been intrigued by the extremes of the human condition,” he says, “the remarkable juxtaposition of the ghastly and the glorious. As Eric ‘Moby’ Calhoun tells us at the conclusion of Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, ‘Ain’t it a trip where heroes come from’.”
He has also written what he calls an ill-advised autobiography titled King of the Mild Frontier, which was designated by “Publisher’s Weekly” as “the YA book most adults would have read if they knew it existed.”
Chris has received a number of coveted awards, from his high school designation as “Most Likely to Plagiarize” to the American Library Association’s Margaret A. Edwards Lifetime Achievement Award. His favorites are his two Intellectual Freedom awards, one from the National Council for Teachers of English and the other from the National Coalition Against Censorship.
Five of Crutcher’s books appeared on an American Library Association list of the 100 Best Books for Teens of the Twentieth Century (1999 to 2000). A recent NPR list of the Best 100 YA and Children’s books included none of those titles. Time flies.
Crutcher no longer listens to, nor contributes to, NPR.
By the time Chris Crutcher was born in Dayton, Ohio on July 17, 1946, his father John (also known as “Crutch”) had decided to leave his career in the United States Air Force behind. After piloting more than 30 successful B-17 bombing missions in World War II, Crutch was ready to settle down with his family in his wife Jewel’s hometown of Cascade, Idaho.