Title: King of the Mild Frontier: An Ill-Advised Autobiography
Author: Chris Crutcher
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Audiobook from the public library
Audiobook reader: Chris Crutcher
First line: I grew up riding a rocket.
Last summer, when I embarked on the project that is the Literary Road Trip, I had the privilege of interviewing (via e-mail) Chris Crutcher, YA author of Deadline and Whale Talk, among others. He was the first author I approached out of the blue for an interview – and he was wonderfully approachable and accommodating, also helping me find some other Washington authors, like Terry Davis. I knew after the interview that I wanted to read one of his books, and the library just happened to have his autobiography on audiobook, read by Mr. Crutcher himself.
I have to admit I was a bit hesitant to listen – my experience with authors reading their own audiobooks has been hit and miss. Some, like Neil Gaiman, are brilliant. Others, to remain nameless, are terrible. I shouldn’t have worried, though – Crutcher reads very well, and knowing that the person who lived through these experiences was the person whose voice I was hearing made it a rich listening experience.
Crutcher grew up in the little town of Cascade, Idaho. This memoir is a mixture of his memories of growing up and his experiences as a therapist and author. It is about 75% hysterically funny and 25% moving and honest about the damage people inflict on each other.
Author, teacher, and therapist, yes, but Crutcher’s natural gift is clearly as a storyteller. I was immensely entertained as he told stories about being less than talented in sports, inclined to pull pranks, and in love with the very idea of pretty girls. Think part David Sedaris, part Pat McManus.
For those of you who like to read about the journey of a writer, what gives them inspiration, and what their path to publication was like, there is also treasure here for you. I have yet to read any of Crutcher’s fiction, but his titles have all made themselves onto my to-read list. His talent with words and character is evident in this memoir – I can’t wait to see what he does with YA fiction.