A Good Keen Man by Barry Crump

Published 1960 | $10 – $50

The late Barry Crump’s first book, A Good Keen Man, was originally published in 1960 and recently reprinted as a 50th anniversary edition. It has sold in excess of 300,000 copies, making it one of the most popular New Zealand books of all time (not just in the hunting book genre) and puts Crump in rare company among New Zealand’s authors.

The result of Crump’s personal experiences along with a few ‘borrowed’ tales, this novel is best described as a fictional comic Kiwi yarn based on his time working as a government deer-culler during the 1950s.

The book follows Crump starting out as a teenage deer culler and follows his growth into ‘a good keen man’ and experienced hunter. It is set in the bush and back-blocks of the central North Island where the job at hand was to hunt red deer and pigs, cut tracks and build back-country huts as part of the Government’s plan to eradicate introduced big game animals.

Interestingly, the original manuscript was written in the third person however the editor decided it would read better in first person so Crump himself became the main character, and a legend was born.

As for the book’s style, the Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature says, succinctly, that Crump was “a highly skilled practitioner in the genre of the literary yarn, a mode of male writing with a long history from colonial times. Written in a simple, intimate style which captured the feel of the idiom of the ‘ordinary bloke’, and with a lively sense of humour and narrative timing, his stories of abandoning the urban rat race and ‘going bush’, learning to live independently and to develop practical skills of survival, appealed strongly to […] New Zealanders.”

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book which has withstood the test of time. It is a classic book that should be read by every New Zealander, hunter or not.

See below for a complete list of Crump’s books.

The Hunter’s recommendation is: buy it

The Hunter’s ratings are:

  • Overall rating: 9 out of 10
  • Photos and illustrations: N/A
  • Trophy quality: N/A
  • Writing quality and style: 4.5 out of 5
  • Page-turner status: 4.5 out of 5

Publisher’s blurb (from the 50th Anniversary Edition)

For your information the following is the book’s blurb:

A Good Keen Man first fired the imaginations of New Zealanders when it hit the bookshelves back in 1960. It went on to become one of this country’s biggest selling books.
Now, 50 years on and with more than 300,00 copies sold, Crumpy’s classic Kiwi yarn has been brought to life again in this celebratory hardback edition.
A Good Keen Man is the tale of a young joker’s introduction to the art of deer culling and is as rich and compelling now as when it was first published. 
Set against the rugged beauty of the New Zealand backcountry, it follows the exploits of a good keen man as he learns the skills necessary to become a good bushman. Unlike most authors on outdoor life, Barry Crump’s interest was fixed on people — able and cloddish, balanced and eccentric, mad, sad, funny and altogether marvelous people.
While the humorous and vivid story is from an era far removed from today’s hurly-burly world, its appeal remains strong through Crump’s timeless ability to capture the essence of the Kiwi character.
Barry Crump was the author of over 20 books of usually humorous Kiwi yarns featuring hard-bitten, self-sufficient characters who invariably led a restless existence, much as the author himself was to lead. Crump was born in 1935 in Papotoetoe, Auckland, grew up on dairy farms, suffered at the hands of an abusive father, and attended several South Auckland schools before leaving at age 15. During the 1950s he was an itinerant farmhand and bush worker and from 1952 spent several seasons as a government deer-culler in the Urewera and Kaimanawa regions. 
Crump later became a well-known television identity, featuring as both a presenter and iconic figure in acclaimed TV commercials for Toyota four-wheel drives. He continued writing, including an autobiographical trilogy, with his last book, Crumpy’s Campfire Companion, appearing in 1996, the year he died. In 1994 he was awarded the MBE for services to literature. Crump married five times and had six sons. 
Taken together his novels, which capture the spirit and idiom of the rugged Kiwi bloke, have sold over a million copies domestically and more than 280,000 overseas. 

Bibliographic information

Title: A Good Keen Man
Author: Barry Crump (1935–1996), Illustrated by Dennis Turner
Editions: 1960, 1965, 1982, 1995, 2009
Publisher: Reed, Wellington , New Zealand
ISBN: 186971170X, 9781869711702
Format: Hardcover, 224 pages, illustrations (black & white sketches), 24 cm

Complete list of Crump’s books

  • Hang On A Minute Mate (1961)
  • One Of Us (1962)
  • There And Back (1963)
  • Gulf (1964)
  • Scrapwagon (1965)
  • The Odd Spot of Bother (1967)
  • No Reference Intended (1968)
  • Warm Beer (1969)
  • A Good Keen Girl (1970)
  • Bastards I Have Met (1971)
  • Fred (1972)
  • Shorty (1980)
  • Puha Road (1982)
  • The Adventures of Sam Cash (1985)
  • Wild Pork and Watercress (1986)
  • Bedtime Yarns (1988)
  • Bullock Creek (1989)
  • The Life and Times of a Good Keen Man (1992)
  • Gold and Greenstone (1993)
  • Arty and the Fox (1994)
  • Forty Yarns and a Song (1995)
  • Mrs Windyflax and the Pungapeople (1995)
  • Crumpy’s Campfire Companion (1996)

Book review of A Good Keen Man by Barry Crump book review