Still a Good Keen Man

Book coverA Good Keen Man turns 50 next year and there’ll be a commemorative edition of Barry Crump’s celebrated book published to mark the occasion. Barry himself might have preferred ripping the scab off a few tinnies whilst bubbling up a stew on the campfire, but you can’t hunt a pig in deer country, eh?

Crump isn’t the sort of writer who makes it on to book lists for courses about New Zealand literature, but he remains one of our highest-selling authors. The tales of quirky characters and colourful yarns that started Crump’s writing career still have nuggets of Kiwi-ness in them and are well worth revisiting.

I spoke with Martin Crump, Barry’s son, this week. His voice boomed like a car-load of kakapo on a night out, and I could tell he was no stranger to spinning a yarn or two of his own.

Yet he didn’t. We talked about the book,  how he had to “share” his father; meeting one of his brothers for the first time at his dad’s funeral, that kind of thing, as well as how some of the books and tales came about. Keep an eye out for the full interview on the library website.

I found that despite the many things that didn’t work out so well in Barry Crump’s life, what survives for Martin, and for all of us,  is the power of the humble story, the joy of telling and sharing, and the fact even the most Kiwi of blokes could write with a deft touch.

So don’t judge the book by stereotypes of its author. Read A Good Keen Man if you haven’t, or try some of the other 30-odd titles that Crump penned. With the movie version of Wild Pork and Watercress in the wings (Taika Waititi at the helm) you can expect Crump to be a name that lives on for generations to come.

8 thoughts on “Still a Good Keen Man

  1. Robin Lee-Robinson 22 December 2009 / 11:04 am

    ‘Ricky’ from Crumps wild pork and watercress was drawn largely from my friends son, a boy of American and Maori heritage.
    Througout the writing of the novel, we lived in a rough hut across a river, and cooked over an open fire. Daily I bought in the bacon, via possum trapping, our financial staple. Having a wife a gereration younger had its uses. This left Barry free to write and still have enough energy to enertain at the local. Meals were cooked over an open fire in an environment bereft of electricity. After tea I poured over the developing manuscript.
    Barry took great care over ‘Wild Pork and Watercress” He wanted to produce an ‘in depth full novel and was proud of the result.

    Robin Lee-Robinson
    4th wife of Barry Crump ( of 12 years)

    • Tom Vanstone 3 October 2012 / 6:25 am

      Hi Robin
      Thats a great anecdote. Thanks. One of my all time favourites, wild pork and watercress- for me a rural boy from the south west of england it takes me into the urewera. I’m glad Barry was proud of the book – I have read a lot of books in my life and that one is right up there with the best.

      All the best Tom Vanstone, Devon UK

  2. Richard 22 December 2009 / 12:27 pm

    Hi Robin – thanks for sharing some of the behind the scenes info with us. People who live with and support writers and artists are so important! It must be interesting for you to have the story coming back into the public eye after all this time?
    I’m sure with Taika Waititi involved the film will be something we can all be proud of. Merry Christmas!

  3. robinleerobinson 23 December 2009 / 11:10 am

    Dear Richard

    Thank you for your response.

    As a young person living in my husbands shadow over such a long period of time, I was able to observe and also appreciate this unique man and his art.

    There is no other person who spent longer living and working on a day to day basis with Barry than me… so artist that he was, his interpersonal relationships were sparce, so mis-information is naturally rife.
    We self published, worked on Radio with me as producer on his popular Radio Pacific shows. He taught me his unique bushcraft, not to mention all the goldmining and the Toyota advertisment shoots…. I left in the end to ‘have a more normal life’ as he put it. Im glad I spent as long as I did in the marriage but equally pleased I didnt stay one moment longer. I afterwards met people my own age and had children before it was too late..

    My two books ‘In Salting The Gravy’ a tale of a 12 year marriage to Barry Crump, and more recently ‘Talkback Toast’ a reminiscience of Radio Pacific are worth reading for those interested in the topic.

    Robin Lee-Robinson

  4. shiralee 6 June 2013 / 5:04 pm

    My dad has just finished reading the last of Barry Crumps books., which is quite amazing as i dont ever remember seeing him ever reading books. Hes 73. Can anyone recommend another author please? Thank you,. Shiralee

    • Marion 7 June 2013 / 8:42 am

      Hi Shiralee, Robyn has made some good suggestions. I’d also chuck in a newish book called Stag Spooner. Its a wonderful story (true) of a young bloke who was a mad keen hunter and worked as a deer culler. He went to WW11 and also drew little comic strips about his hunting adventures. I think it is a great book which your dad might like.

  5. Robyn 7 June 2013 / 8:32 am

    Barry Crump was a very individual talent so it’s hard to think of authors who write like him Shiralee but your dad might like Peter Hawes, who I haven’t read for a while but I remember finding very funny. Royce, Royce the People’s Choice and The Dream of Nikau Jam are the titles. Also if the hunting aspect of things is what appeals Philip Holden has written some great books of anecdotes and ‘yarns’ – The Best of Philip Holden is a good place to start. From Hoon to Hunter by Vern Wilson also looks to be entertaining.

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