Title: The New Zealand Novel 1860-1965

Author: Joan Stevens

Publication details: Reed Publishing (NZ) Ltd, 1966

Digital publication kindly authorised by: Sylvia Johnston

Part of: New Zealand Texts Collection

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The New Zealand Novel 1860-1965


Boys. Also straddling the dividing line with a pair of novels is R. H. Morrieson. The Scarecrow, 1963, has the vividness conferred by the casual boy-lingo of the narrator Neddy, of a "no-good family" in a small town. The opening sentence indicates the tone and the shock tactics, "The same week our fowls were stolen, Daphne Moran had her throat cut." Neddy's narrative whizzes on from there, a jerky and unpredictable mixture between a comedy of errors and a sexual melodrama. In his discussion of it in Islands of Innocence, Holcroft dismisses the rapist "scarecrow" of the title as less terrifying than the "shadow" of the teenage gang, whose underground power is felt to be disturbingly real. Morrieson's second novel, Came a Hot Friday, 1964, is, however, only a fantastic concoction with a nasty taste.

Holcroft notes the connection between The Scarecrow and another novel about the delinquent fringe of boyhood, Norman Harvey's Any Old Dollars, Mister?, 1964. This, also presented through a boy narrator, is a breathless record of amoral enterprise. It appeals, perhaps, because it offers adults the juvenile wickednesses they wish they could have indulged in. It's certainly a hilarious holiday from the pressures of suburban respectability, but in it, too, there are disturbing undercurrents of evil.