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Lee Maynard's 1988 semi-autobiographical novel Crum is set in the small, poor West Virginia town where he grew up. The people of Crum who know the book tend to love it or hate it. It was even banned for several years in a state-run store. The sequel, Screaming With the Cannibals, which came out five years later, got his protagonist Jesse Stone out of West Virginia, across the Tug River into Kentucky.
In his new novel, The Scummers — the final installment of the Crum trilogy — Jesse still has the urge to wander. He hitches rides out West, where, after a drinking and fighting binge in San Francisco, he trades jail for a stint as an Army MP — which locks him down at a desolate military compound in upstate New York. Like his protagonist, Maynard was also in the military in upstate New York, where he was a criminal investigator.
Crum and Screaming With the Cannibals have just been re-released in new paperback editions. In an introduction to Crum, writer Meredith Sue Willis says: "Each time I read Lee Maynard's Crum, I ask myself why this foul-mouthed, sexist, scatological, hillbilly-stereotyping novel is one of my all-time favorites." She finally answers that by saying the book "explores and explodes its stereotypes ... it might also be called a love letter from a native son to his home place."
Lee Maynard now lives in New Mexico where he heads The Storehouse, a non-profit food pantry in Albuquerque. We'll listen back to a conversation he had with Fresh Air's Terry Gross in 2003.