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Black Flamingo

Novel (192 pages, 61,550 words)

This was the last of Canning's books to be published by Hodder and Stoughton, issued in 1962 at 15/- with an initial print run of 9,000. The diminishing size of the first edition print runs (14,000, 11,000, now 9,000) may have been a factor in Canning's move to Heinemann, though the official history of Hodder and Stoughton ruefully regrets his going and implies that he was being greedy and disloyal. A note on the Heinemann files suggests that Canning felt out of touch with the senior management at Hodder and had been cajoled into the Heinemann fold by the personal attention of Charles Pick, a senior figure at Heinemann. The book was included in the Heinemann Uniform edition. In 2001 there was a hardback reprint in the Black Dagger Crime series of the Bath-based publisher Chivers Press, best known for large print and audio books, although this was printed in a standard font.

The very striking cover design for the first edition is by the magnificent Val Biro, designer of 3,000 book covers.

This is one of the shortest of Canning's books apart from the novella His Bones are Coral and the very late Birds of a Feather. The plot calls on Buchan's Prester John and Rider Haggard's Allan Quartermain books. The setting is East and Central Africa. It concerns an adventurer who takes over the identity of a dying pilot, but finds his new identity leads him into danger. Canning rightly sees Central Africa as ripe territory for conflict and chaos. What he does not foresee is that those involved will not conduct the conflict in a gentlemanly way. Refugees, rapes and massacres are not part of this scene. There is no evidence that Canning ever visited Central Africa, but he had obviously done extensive research on witch-doctoring practices and on the geography of the region. This mitigates some of the racial stereotyping that is inevitable when an outsider tries to describe tribal and colonial conflicts.

 

First edition 1962
First edition 1962
Pan paperback
Pan paperback
Later Pan paperback
Later Pan paperback
Uniform edition
Uniform edition
Chivers 2001
Chivers 2001
Index of characters, locations and themes
(in preparation)