Crutcher was born to a World War II bomber pilot and a homemaker on July 17, 1946, in Dayton, Ohio. They later moved to Cascade, Idaho, where Crutcher grew up.
He graduated from Eastern Washington State College (now called Eastern Washington University) with a BA in psychology and sociology. He taught primary and secondary school in California and Washington before beginning his writing career. More detailed information is included in his autobiography, King of the Mild Frontier: An Ill-Advised Autobiography.
Chris Crutcher's biography Presenting Chris Crutcher (1997, Twayne Publishers) was penned by fellow Spokane born author Terry Davis, another respected young-adult author.
Crutcher's debut novel was Running Loose in 1983 about a senior in high school who has it all until life throws him for a few loops. Many of his novels concern teenaged athletes who have personal problems. Most of his protagonists are male, teenage athletes, often swimmers, and recurring supporting characters include a wise Asian-American teacher or coach and a caring journalism teacher.
Chris Crutcher's writing is controversial, and has been frequently challenged and even banned by individuals who want to censor his books by removing them from libraries and classrooms. Running Loose and Six Short Stories were on the ALA's top 100 list of most frequently challenged books for 1990-2000. His books generally feature teens coping with serious problems, including abusive parents, racial and religious prejudice, mental and physical disability, and poverty; these themes are viewed as too mature for children. Other cited reasons for censorship include strong language and depictions of homosexuality. Despite this controversy, Crutcher's writing has received many awards.
Crutcher has also written an autobiography called King of the Mild Frontier (2003), an adult novel titled The Deep End (1991), and Six Short Stories (1991), an anthology of six YA short stories, some of which further explore characters from his previous novels. One of the stories from that compilation, "A Brief Moment in the Life of Angus Bethune", was made into a film called Angus.
The American Library Association has named eight of his books, “Best Books for Young Adults.”
Crutcher's writing is noted for its wit and humor, and as a result of his propensity towards ribaldy (i.e. bawdy humor), is often considered to be the truest replication of adolencent thought patterns produced by someone over the age of 20. According to a close friend, Crutcher is quite proud of the fact that he has "grossed out three generations."
"O" Foods - Guys Write for Guys Read, edited by Jon Scieszka, published in 2005 by Viking. (Autobiographic)
Guns for Geeks - On the Fringe, edited by Donald R. Gallo, published in 2001 by Dial Books.
Fourth and Too Long - Time Capsule: Short Stories About Teenagers Throughout the Twentieth Century, edited by Donald R. Gallo, published in 1999 by Laurel Leaf.
Popeye the Sailor - Dirty Laundry: Stories About Family Secrets, edited by Lisa Rowe Fraustino, published in 1998 Viking Juvenile.
Superboy - Ultimate Sports: Short Stories by Outstanding Writers for Young Adults, edited by Donald R. Gallo, published in 1995 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers.
A Brief Moment in the Life of Angus Bethune - First appeared in Connections, edited by Donald R. Gallo, published in 1989 by Delacorte Press. Also published in in Crutcher's collection Six Short Stories.