The 'GREAT' Kickin' Dog

A Family Tree

Fiction - Drama
495 Pages
Reviewed on 07/06/2021
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Kenneth Allen Crutchfield, Sr. was born on the south side of Chicago into a family of musicians. During his formative years he worked as a professional drummer in Chicago then traveled globally after finishing high school. He received a Bachelors degree from the University of Southern California and a Masters degree from Queens College (CUNY) in New York City, both in music. He has written several plays, The Great Kickin' Dog, Balloon on a String and Lorna's L'Elegant Lounge; two musicals, All God's Saints Go To Heaven-Not and Bones Brothers Brothel. All were produced in New York City as well as nationally. Ken is also a writer of prose and pens poetry as well. The 'Great' Kickin' Dog' is his first novel, loosely based on his family. It was written at the urgency of his wife, Terry who thought it to be an important story to tell. He started writing it as a tribute to his compassionate and resilient father who died two weeks after the book’s completion. Then upon the sudden deaths of his mother and brother soon after, he was quite thankful to have written this fictional story as a memorial to their fascinating lives. And during the writing process, Ken was extremely grateful to be able to fulfill the need to create while at the same time provide a channel for his pent-up emotions.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Vincent Dublado for Readers' Favorite

The 'Great' Kickin' Dog: A Family Tree by Kenneth Allen Crutchfield, Sr. is a novel with its own beauty and dignity in exploring the life of a dysfunctional family. John Coleman is the main protagonist, an ex-musician, assembly line worker, and alcoholic. Don’t call him a loser yet. He tries his best to be a good provider. You might even think that he is the sanest member of his family when you get to know the members of his coop. His wife, Mary, is struggling to overcome her own neurosis. Together, they are raising a large family of four girls and two musically-inclined boys in the low-income housing unit of Chicago in the 1960s. The neighborhood is not exactly a conducive place to raise a family, as it is infested by drug-dealing, gun-toting gangs. But John is determined to make a better life for his family. As he battles with his alcoholism and copes with domestic challenges, a tragedy strikes that will test his mettle to the limits.

The ‘Great’ Kickin’ Dog is a tribute of intense passion to those lives fractured by marginalization and injustice. Its protagonist puts into action his heroism through his resolve to keep his family away from a corrosive society. Richly evocative, Kenneth Allen Crutchfield, Sr.’s characters blend well with the time period that they represent. It is a work of intense moral seriousness with a literary quality that might remind you of the works of James Baldwin. As the story is based on the author’s family, you get a stab of realism in the narrative artistry. It is supercharged with a good balance of humor and drama working together like a Yin and Yang to bring forth a storyline that transcends the consciousness of today’s racist world. This is the type of novel that I will not hesitate to recommend.

Rabia Tanveer

The 'GREAT' Kickin' Dog: A Family Tree by Kenneth Allen Crutchfield Sr. is a family drama with a grand look at the roaring 1960s and 70s. The story follows the life and struggles of John Coleman, Sr. Once upon a time, John was a musician, but now he is a struggling assembly line worker. He battles with his alcoholism and dysfunctional family. The only bright side to his life is his two boys, who are musical prodigies. The boys are winning talent shows and the hearts of audiences, and things could not be better for John. However, the progress of the boys is overshadowed by drama at home. John needs to protect the future of his sons from jealousy, trouble, and a mother who is lost to mental illness. There is chaos and disparity; both are out of his control. Can John protect his family and keep them afloat in the hard times?

John is such a great character. He tries to stay strong for his family and wants to provide for them, and he makes sure the talent of his boys is not wasted. He works hard for them. Kenneth Allen Crutchfield Sr. gives a glimpse into the lives of a quintessential struggling family who must fight harder than most to get basic happiness. Instead of making it clichéd, the author makes it relatable and enjoyable. This is what I love the most about The 'GREAT' Kickin' Dog. The author explains how the black neighborhoods worked in that decade and how the community was destroyed as a collective. The focus is heavy on dreams and hopes, even when the circumstances are truly against John and his family. Instead of curling up into a fetal position, John fights and works harder to bring comfort to his family. I love that!

Ruffina Oserio

What would a man do to survive in a world riddled with poverty? What would a man do to give a future to a struggling family that relies on him? John Coleman, Sr. is an alcoholic, the kind of man who will forget where his three-year-old child is when he gets drunk. His problem is not only dealing with the alcohol but having to sustain a family of eight, including his mentally disturbed wife. But his two boys offer promise and an opportunity he never had: they are musical prodigies, and he will do everything to see them win as they enter competitive musical shows, relishing their success and growing reputation from show to show. But can John win the war against himself? When it is time to take the lead as a crisis hits his family, will he be found uplifting everyone or be found with a bottle in his hand?

The 'GREAT' Kickin' Dog: A Family Tree by Kenneth Allen Crutchfield Sr. presents a protagonist who is flawed, a man readers can follow and wish at every turn that he might change. The story is set in the 1960s against the backdrop of the poverty-stricken south side of Chicago, a community where kids are fatherless and live in very poor conditions. The author creates real situations, elaborately developed characters, and a plot that is as twisty as it is gripping. The strength of Kenneth Allen Crutchfield, Sr.’s novel is in the author’s ability to give life to the characters. The author provides a lot of depth and detail regarding characters and the social conditions in the Chicago of the 1960s. The unpredictability in the plot and the original, compelling premise will have any reader racing through the pages. This is a thoroughly enjoyable read with characters that readers will remember.

Divine Zape

This is a spellbinding story that explores a man’s struggle to support his two sons on their path to becoming musical icons and keep his family together while dealing with alcohol addiction in a context where poverty is common. The 'GREAT' Kickin' Dog: A Family Tree by Kenneth Allen Crutchfield, Sr. is told in a voice that is as passionate as the characters are relatable. The protagonist is John Coleman, Sr., an assembly worker and a man who hasn’t been lucky in life. He has four daughters, two sons, and a wife with mental problems. John encourages his two musically gifted sons to enter competitions, believing that his support can bring them to greatness and, perhaps, pull them out of poverty. Follow him and his sons on this adventure as they grow in fame while their father struggles with alcohol. Can the dream be achieved, even when tragedy strikes?

This is an intelligently plotted and a skillfully written story that captures life in the south side of Chicago in the 1960s, and the author does an incredible job in writing social realities into the story, giving readers an idea of what it was like living in a place where the majority of children were fatherless. The ambiance in John’s home is captured in crisp and enticing prose. Kenneth Allen Crutchfield, Sr. has a unique gift for writing conflict and how it moves the plot forward. John Coleman is a man on a path to redemption by coaching his sons and accompanying them from show to show, and while he struggles with himself, he is also challenged in his relationships with his daughters and wife. The dialogues are fascinating, unveiling character depth, deepening the conflict, and infusing the story with realism. The 'GREAT' Kickin' Dog: A Family Tree is endearing and hugely entertaining, and the author mixes mirth and grit to create a story with characters that will live in the imaginations of readers long after the last page is closed.

Romuald Dzemo

The 'GREAT' Kickin' Dog: A Family Tree by Kenneth Allen Crutchfield Sr. is a rollicking ride for fans of drama and tales with memorable characters. John Coleman, Sr. is an assembly worker, alcoholic, and a man with shattered dreams. It is in the 1960s, and raising a family in the south side of Chicago isn’t easy, especially if that family is composed of a mentally unstable wife, four girls, and two boys. The good news is that the two boys have a great talent for music, which is their only hope. John doesn’t want his boys to end up in the slums of Chicago, so he accompanies them to talent shows, prouder with each performance. He basks in the growing reputation of his two sons while struggling with alcohol. When tragedy strikes, can he hold his family together?

This story brilliantly explores the dynamics of a low-income family and a man’s commitment to making things work for his family. Life in John’s home is so well-written that readers can visualize the drama taking place and get a perfect portrait of each character, whether writing about Mary’s fears when Loti goes missing or the effects of John’s drinking. The descriptions capture this family's life. The characters — John, Lucille, Debra, Loti, Mary, Troy, and others — are well-written. The dialogues are wonderful, and they reflect the accents of the characters and the slang associated with local folk. These are characters who are genuinely flawed. The setting in Chicago explores the hardships and the locales linked to the poor, a place where most children are fatherless and where families live on Aid to Dependent Children. I loved the drama in The 'GREAT' Kickin' Dog: A Family Tree, the balanced writing, and the unforgettable characters.