The Literary Legacy of Max Cryer

Max Cryer was many things in his life: a television personality, a musician, and a notable author. Some of his favourite topics to write about were cats and the history of words and phrases, especially New Zealand words. In honour of Cryer’s recent passing at the age of 86, here is a round-up of some of his most notable books:

The Godzone dictionary of favourite New Zealand words and phrases / Cryer, Max
“The Godzone Dictionary is a concise A – Z of the words and phrases that make our New Zealand language and speech patterns so different. Language expert Max Cryer examines a wide range of words and phrases, shedding light on their origin and offering helpful definitions. Slang words and expressions feature heavily, while one of the unique features of this book is the large number of Māori words that have become part of our common language in recent years.”–Publisher information.” (adapted from catalogue)

 

Curious English words and phrases : the truth behind the expressions we use / Cryer, Max
“‘Cloud nine’, ‘at the drop of a hat’, ‘spitting image’, ‘mollycoddle’, ‘rigmarole’, ’round robin’, ‘spill the beans’, ‘kick the bucket’, ‘balderdash’ and ‘touch wood’. There are so many curious words and phrases that we often use and yet haven’t you ever wondered why we say them, where they come from and what they mean? Written by language expert Max Cryer, Curious Words and Phrases has all the answers behind some of the most interesting and perplexing words and expressions in the English language.” (adapted from catalogue)

 

The cat’s out of the bag : truth and lies about cats / Cryer, Max
“In this book Max Cryer celebrates cats and all they have given to us. He describes the many words and expressions they have inspired, from ‘catnip’ and ‘catwalk’ to ‘the cat’s whiskers’ and ‘raining cats and dogs’, as well as famous cat characters like Garfield, Felix the Cat, The Cat in the Hat and Puss in Boots, songs as varied as ‘What’s New Pussycat?’ and ‘The Cats’ Duet’, and poems like ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ and ‘Hey Diddle Diddle’. In other chapters he explores cats’ attributes, the strength of their night vision and sense of smell, their sleep requirements, life expectancy and much more.”–Publisher information”. (adapted from catalogue)

 

Is it true? : the facts behind the things we have been told / Cryer, Max
“In this revealing book, Max Cryer explores the truth or otherwise of facts and beliefs we may have always been told are true, but which on closer examination may not be. In a wide-ranging book encompassing social history, language, music, politics, food, sport, the natural world and much more, we discover the truth behind some of our most cherished beliefs. For example: Do St Bernard dogs really carry brandy? Does Santa Claus come from the North Pole? Did Winston Churchill coin the term ‘Iron Curtain’? ‘OK’ is an American expression, right? Tulips come from Holland, don’t they?” (adapted from catalogue)

 

Every dog has its day : a thousand things you didn’t know about man’s best friend / Cryer, Max
“Every Dog Has Its Day’ is a unique collection of extraordinary stories, feats and facts that will both inform and entertain. Written with a delightfully light touch, Max Cryer dispels some myths about dogs and confirms why they occupy such a special place in our lives.” (Catalogue)

 

 

Curious English words and phrases : the truth behind the expressions we use / Cryer, Max
“Have you ever wondered where terms like ‘Angostura bitters’ and the ‘green room’ come from? Or why we call some people ‘lounge lizards’ and others ‘sugar daddies’? These are just a few of the words and phrases that language expert Max Cryer examines in this fact-filled new book. He explains where such colourful expressions come from, what they mean and how they are used. Along the way he tells a host of colourful anecdotes and dispels quite a few myths too.” (adapted from catalogue)

 

Preposterous proverbs : why fine words butter no parsnips / Cryer, Max
“Max Cryer looks at a vast array of proverbs from around the world. He has chosen some of the most interesting and perplexing, and with his characteristic wry wit he analyses their meaning and truth. A great book to dip into, Preposterous Proverbs will take you from Greece (‘A thousand men cannot undress a naked man’) and China (‘A dry finger cannot pick up salt’) to Japan (‘Fools and scissors must be carefully handled’) and India (‘A fat spouse is a quilt for the winter’)”–Publisher information.” (adapted from catalogue)

 

Who said that first? : the curious origins of common words and phrases / Cryer, Max
“We might think we know who first said ‘famous for fifteen minutes’, ‘annus horribilis’, ‘the cold war’ and ‘let them eat cake’, but Max Cryer has a surprise or two in store for you. In this very readable book, Max Cryer explores the origins of hundreds of expressions we use and hear every day – and comes up with some surprising findings.” (Catalogue)

 

In praise of cats / Cryer, Max
“Did you know that the Bible does not mention cats at all? Do you know where the word caterpillar comes from? Why do we think cats have nine lives? How much of our great literature refers to cats–and what do authors say? These are the questions that many cat owners have pondered at one time or another. At last, all the cat references in our language have been gathered in one place to provide a informative, fun, and comprehensive resource on the feline species–it’s the cat’s pyjamas.” (Catalogue)

Dogged Detectives and Feline Fatales

Lawyer for the Cat book cover

They say people are either dog people or cat people and the same definitely goes for animal detective stories. You might not be aware of the cat and dog sub-genre of detective novels, but they are usually (although not exclusively) fun, light-hearted and a perfect pick me up read.

These novels come in many different forms. In some the cats or dogs are companions to the sleuths, in others they are the sleuths themselves, and occasionally our furry friends are the source of the mystery. So here for your edification and entertainment are some of the finest feline and Fido crime-solving capers. (And for some reason we couldn’t find a cat and dog detective duo but surely there’s one out there somewhere.)


Syndetics book coverThe purrfect murder / Rita Mae Brown & Sneaky Pie Brown ; illustrations by Michael Gellatly.
Rita Mae Brown has a huge, loyal following with Sneaky Pie Brown being her feline companion. She is best known for her fun, light-hearted detective novels such as The Purrfect Murder which will keep you both laughing and reading. Rita Mae Brown has also written for the screen, particularly horror movies, and published numerous non-fiction works on feminism and the civil rights movement in America – both movements she plays an active part in.

Syndetics book coverCat in a leopard spot : a Midnight Louie mystery / Carole Nelson Douglas.
A big game hunter is found dead and once again the feisty feline sleuth Midnight Louie leaps into action to solve the crime. This is the thirteenth instalment of this hugely popular series (currently twenty eight and still counting). Carole Nelson Douglas also writes several other series including the Irene Adler series and the Delilah Street, Paranormal Investigator series of novels.

Syndetics book coverLawyer for the cat : a novel / Lee Robinson.
Ace lawyer Sally Baynard is asked to represent Beatrice, the beneficiary of a multi-million dollar estate. It’s an everyday, commonplace case – only Beatrice is a black cat and other people have their eye on the money. As you would expect, Lawyer for the Cat features lots of good natured characters, many of them of a furry variety.

Syndetics book coverPaw and order : a Chet and Bernie mystery / Spencer Quinn.
Spencer Quinn’s seventh title in his New York Times bestselling series. Once again private eye Bernie and his canine companion and series narrator Chet set out to right wrongs and sniff out baddies. This time the detective duo is out to uncover a devilish plot in Washington D.C.

Syndetics book coverNew tricks / David Rosenfelt.
Another light-hearted canine detective series is David Rosenfelt’s Andy Carpenters series. New Tricks is a good example of his work: it revolves around the murder of a Bernese puppy-owner, and it’s up to irreverent defence attorney Andy Carpenter and his trusty golden retriever Tara to solve the case. Rosenfelt’s book is all very good natured and contains lots of laughs – perfect night cap book material.

Syndetics book coverSuspect / Robert Crais.
The final choice in this small selection of cat and dog detective books is an altogether more serious work: Robert Crais’s Suspect. Suspect deals with bereavement and the journey towards rebuilding one’s life and healing. LAPD cop Scott James is having to deal with the murder of his partner Stephanie whilst his new canine partner Maggie the German shepherd is back from three tours of Iraq and Afghanistan, where she lost her handler. It’s about how man’s best friend can form deep friendships that can help one to get over trauma.

Book about a world-famous street cat

Amazon cover linkA street cat named Bob / James Bowen.
Whenever the world gets you down it’s very heartening to read a real feel-good book with a happy ending – boy comes right, cat comes right. James Bowen was a recovering heroin addict living in a rundown housing project in London when he nursed an injured cat back to health. This was no ordinary cat but a very handsome ginger tom with a geat deal of character and intelligence. When James tried to release him back onto the streets he resisted firmly and insisted on accompanying him wherever he went, riding on his shoulder on the Tube, on the buses and in the street. James is a busker and the cat, wearing a variety of knitted scarves and bandanas, became a real attraction. He has been constantly photographed and videoed and his YouTube presentations have gone viral around the world. Both James and Bob have appeared on BBC and the Richard and Judy show,and hosted many book launches at prestigious shops, Bob often being requested to add his paw-mark to James’s signature. It is easy to get sentimental about animals but Bob does seem to be an extraordinary cat and James credits him with saving his life, His story is direct, simple and very appealing.

Update: Busking cat is heading to Hollywood