“They call it Crawford County on the maps, and it is Crawford County on our tongues and it is home in our hearts — hearts that have watched over and struggled and grieved and mourned this place and her long shadows and a heart like an empty bowl of grits. Some days there isn’t even that bowl of grits to fall back on and the soul of this place just goes to bed hungry, and a hungry soul is a sad thing — useful only to preachers and used car salesmen and folks who want to strike a deal for something they know they can’t back up. Maybe sometimes those are all the same thing. But then, maybe this place has never been big on wisdom — just on living.”
“Readers of Tom Janikowski’s remarkable The Crawford County Sketchbook will be reminded of other fictional towns and territories—Winesburg, Ohio, and Yoknapatawpha County, to name just two—but his characters are funnier than Sherwood Anderson’s and less anguished than Faulkner’s. Janikowski has created an original world and brought it to life in a rich, perfectly tuned vernacular.”
— Larry Watson, author of Montana 1948, White Crosses, Laura, and Let Him Go.
"Grotesque tales of the struggle between good and evil from a
dark corner of the American heartland."
— Kirkus Reviews
The Switchback family has inhabited Crawford County since before the War Between the States, and it has eked out an existence, and even prospered, by virtue of hard work and honesty. Peter Switchback, Jr. is the current inhabitant of the family estate and caretaker of the farm, and in many ways stands as a symbolic paragon of virtue.
The Morgan family has been in Crawford County at least as long as the Switchback family, and has made its way in the world by means of greed, pride, and dishonesty. Sheriff Cecil Morgan is the third in his line to hold his office, and like his ancestors he is an avowed enemy of the Switchback family and all that they stand for.
The life of Crawford County plays out through the course of short tales told by several of its inhabitants, some tragic, some whimsical. The stories wind their way through the lives of Switchback and Morgan, framed by several ponderings of moral philosophy and existence. We are faced with Peter Switchback’s obituary on the opening page of the story, and the balance of the pages works its way to that eventual outcome.