Murray Ball, quite famous in New Zealand, and Australia, is best known for his Footrot Flats books. I first came across one of his books in a used book shop in San Diego. I believe it was called, “They’ve put Custard with my Bone.” The cover had ‘The Dog’ on it, looking at his dinner dish with the above mentioned combination. I started reading the book, and half way through understood the relationship between all the animals and humans. Quite a achievement, considering I was not familiar with farming in rural New Zealand. I could not locate my copy, so I posted the cover of the first book of a series. These books are not easy to find at present, and since Murray Ball wants to keep the prices down, publishers are not knocking down the door to republish them. At least at this time.I believe there are 18 books out, with some related publications. Many years ago there was a feature length cartoon. There was a dearth of animators in NZ, so the animation was done in Australia, but as far as the folks in NZ are concerned, it is a New Zealand cartoon. See following links for more information.
http://www.mashpedia.com/Footrot_Flats This is an excellent overview.
The main characters are Wallace (Wal) Footrot, the Dog, whose name is not known, as Aunt Dolly who ran a farm for cats named him, and he hates the name. Wal has a girlfriend, Cheeky Hobson, there is a boar hound, Major, an awesome cat, Horse, and Cooch a neighbor and tree hugger extraordinaire, and also a bunch of non PC Irish neighbors, and many other characters.
I was in NZ in the early 80’s and went to a Footrot Flats Theme park. It had started out as a place for kids to learn how to drive, as it had marked roads and some type of vehicles. That concept morphed into a theme park. The Dog, and other costumed characters would interact with the visitors. There were rides, etc.
The big news when I was there, was that the Auckland TV station was going to go 24 hours a day on weekends, starting that weekend.
When Murray Ball was in England, he drew a strip called, ‘Bruce the Barbarian’ for a left leaning paper. Bruce and Wal are quite a bit alike.
He also had single cartoons featuring a Palaeolithic Hero and his dog. The cartoons appeared in Punch. The Hero was named Stanley. His dog is obviously the inspiration for ‘Dog’ in Footrot Flats.
Keep your eye out for anything by Murray Ball the next time you are browsing in a used book store. If you are lucky enough to find something by him, you are in for a real treat.
Oh, and the town of Gisborne, NZ has proposed, and may already have done so, putting up statues of the Footrot Flats characters, see the Gisborne Herald for news items. Gisborne is near where Murray Ball farms. I seem to remember one story about a person on whom Wal was modeled. Put in “Footrot Flats” in Gisborne Herald search engine and find some interesting stories about Wal and the town.
And sadly, the announcement of his passing: