Terrence Crimmins grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania the youngest of nine children, eight boys, and one girl. He says the one thing his family lived by was Irish Catholic sarcasm, in a family that always found a joke to circumvent any upcoming tension. A student at Catholic schools just after they stopped corporal punishment, Terrence learned in the old fashioned methods that did not involve group work or student centered classrooms. He considers his greatest achievement in grade school was writing the class play in sixth grade, based on Around the World in Eighty Days, by Jules Verne. He enjoyed high school, though he was kicked out of the honors classes as a result of spending too much time campaigning for George McGovern to beat Richard Nixon.
The other change made in his life during this time was quitting sports: football, diving, and baseball. He gave up these activities so that it allowed him to be in school plays, which he says was a fortunate decision, as it allowed him to meet more girls. He rounded out his high school career by actually skipping his senior year to attend Boston College, a fine Jesuit school.
While at BC, Terrence recalls that his college life taught him to play rugby, see Boston and read 600 page history books with small print. He enjoyed the rigors of academia while in college and feels his professors inspired him greatly. In his opinion ‘They seemed to be on another level of consciousness, and I really enjoyed history and philosophy classes, which were my double major’. He wrote his senior thesis about the legacy of Walt Whitman, based on two semesters of independent study with his mentor, Alan Lawson. As Terrence’s graduation loomed, Lawson cautioned him on the tale of the sorcerer’s apprentice wherein the image of the Disney cartoon with Mickey Mouse flying around the sorcerer’s chamber screwing things up came to haunt him.
As time would tell, Terrence realized he had more of an outgoing, artistic spirit than the neatly organized academic with the blue blazer, grey slacks, oxford shirt and red and grey striped tie he’d considered himself to be. It was around this time that Terrence took a class in Soviet Philosophy and wrote a paper wherein he decided to put a unique twist on the way he viewed things. In as such, he was able to poke a little fun at the class through the protagonist, a man who’d been kicked out of the Federal Writer’s Project for not cracking down on the Communists and sent to England to attend a seminar on Soviet Philosophy led by Nikolai Nastuschen. Interestingly, the Nastuschen character was a modeled on a professor, the late Peter Blakely. Based on Terrence’s astute use of words to convey what was an insightful story, the aforementioned Professor Blakely, who was one of the editors of Studies in Soviet Thought, published Terrence Crimmins’ paper.
Shortly after his graduation from BC, Terrence wanted to immediately jump back into the world of academia but instead took some well doled out advice from his professors to step away from the books so he could experience life the way life was meant to be lived. Living the unconventional life embraced by the idealists of the time, Terrence embraced their advice and became somewhat of a bohemian. It was a risky venture; one that Terrence admits was often not well received by others because to ‘give up all that one has become accustomed to just so you could ‘find yourself’ sounded like utter lunacy.
During his break from the norm of what he had known, Terrence spent nearly ten years working in restaurants, waiting on tables and tending bar. It was his interaction with the various people he met from all around the world that eventually inspired him to write. And as it so happens, elements of the various and sundry people he met during this time, inspired many of the characters in his novels.
Not many people can say they worked at a restaurant that was managed by a man who was a veteran of the Special Forces of the Israeli Army. Nor can they lay claim to also having worked a Middle Eastern restaurant down the block owned by people from Lebanon. Likewise, few people can also say they worked in a restaurant with waiters who were natives of Chile. In the end, Terrence is proud to admit that he learned a lot from each of these groups of people in a way that most people can’t really imagine. But life as a waiter was not Terrence Crimmins’s dream job.
In time, he eventually took up another profession that allowed time for reading … and it was, of all things, driving a cab. Terrence says it was a great job, if you liked to read, which he did when he wasn’t shuttling people around. It allowed him enough time to read all sorts of fiction and biographies. And when he wasn’t reading, Terrence was able to meet many interesting, average people as he says…
The majority of people who take cabs are the very poor and the moderately wealthy. The very rich have limos, and the rest of us drive cars. I drove lots of people who rode at government expense, and it was interesting getting a take on that. Most of these were medical fares, or from an emergency medical center where people were taken when they were found in the dark of night with delirium tremens (DTs, the shakes), etc. I also drove a lot of veterans, mostly from World War II, on medical fares, and they were very interesting to talk to. Eventually, I was doing a lot of Kosher Food deliveries, and made enough money that I didn’t have to lease a cab anymore and did well using my own car. But I had to get a real job, so I went back to Boston College to get a Masters degree to become a teacher.
Terrence found it interesting to return to his alma mater and see the changes that had taken place in the history department while he was on his ‘Bohemian Sabbatical’. Most of the majordomos under whom he had studied had been put out to pasture. During Terrence’s time back at BC, he revisited his thesis about Whitman, and did two more semesters of independent study with a group of new professors. He studied pedagogical movements that started to answer the challenge that Whitman put to America in his essay Democratic Vistas, where he posited that American might be a materialistic bonanza but a cultural disaster if there were not a democratic cultural revolution to accompany the political one.
As it turns out, Terrence’s return to the world of academia as a slightly older, wiser man allowed him to focus more solidly on his future. And instead of going to keg parties and playing hard games of rugby, Terrence opted to go on camping and fly-fishing trips in New Hampshire and Vermont. Eventually, he graduated with his Master of Arts Degree in Teaching (History) and was ready to tackle the world ahead of him in a positive way.
With his years as a ‘student’ behind him, Terrence has, himself, become the teacher, mentor, and academic guide as a Secondary Education teacher in Baltimore for ten years, which he professes has been,
…a bit of a trip, to say the least. It has been quite interesting to see this unique American sub-culture, where there are many interesting characters.
While he enjoys teaching, there’s a bit of Terrence Crimmins that will always be artistic and imaginative which is why he has taken to writing in a much more serious manner. His first major novel, Hostages, contains inklings of his youth and the people he’s met along his life’s journey who will be scattered throughout the thrilling, dramatic story. His second novel, entitled Who was Joseph Pulitzer?, is based upon several biographies of the newspaper titans of the late 19th century. In telling the life story of Pulitzer, the novel gives the reader a box seat in the life of a man who entered America as a Hungarian immigrant who overcame poverty and Antisemitism to radically change the newspaper industry and confront the powers that be.