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“You couldn’t have made up this mule farmer,” writer Margaret Eby says over drinks at King Tai, a Crown Heights bar that serves piña coladas on the rocks. She’s talking about the cousin of Harry Crews, the cult-favorite Georgia novelist whose 1978 memoir, A Childhood: The Biography of a Place, Eby had set out to trace through his home of Bacon County, Georgia. “I actually sketched out a map,” she says. “I knew about...