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Canning in the OED

The second edition of the Oxford English Dictionary was published in 1992 on a CD-ROM, which allows one to search for any word or words occurring anywhere in the text. This lets one find all the instances of a particular author being cited as an example of the usage of a word or phrase.

Victor Canning is cited 130 times. This compares with 170 for Eric Ambler, 128 for Ian Fleming, 46 for Hammond Innes and just 6 for Alistair Maclean. None of these score as high as Shakespeare with over 33,000, P.G.Wodehouse with 1,631, Len Deighton with 503, or John Buchan with 464. A high score is not necessarily a measure of literary merit, but it does suggest that a writer is using the language adventurously, and it does show which books were being read by the sort of people the OED employed to collect citations. It seems likely that one or more of the people assigned to the O, P, R, S and W sections of the alphabet must have been keen Canning readers.

I have also searched the 1997 edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary which has fewer citations but has some which are extra to those in the main OED.

Total citations for each book are:

The Great Affair 20 Firecrest 7 The Satan Sampler 3
The Whip Hand 15 The Melting Man 6 The Doomsday Carrier 3
The Python Project 12 The Painted Tent 6 Fall from Grace 2
Queen's Pawn 9 The Kingsford Mark 5 The Mask of Memory 2
The House of the Seven Flies 9 The Finger of Saturn 5 A Forest of Eyes 2
The Rainbird Pattern 8 The Limbo Line 4 The Scorpio Letters 1
The Flight of the Grey Goose 8 The Boy on Platform One 4 The Dragon Tree 1

Altogether 21 of Canning's 54 books (those written under his own name) are cited, and none of the seven pseudonymous books. Surprisingly there are no citations for The Runaways though over a dozen for its sequels, and none for Doubled in Diamonds, though the other Rex Carver books are well represented.. The bulk of the citations are from work published between 1963 and 1975, with The House of Seven Flies being the only one of his earlier books to be heavily cited.

Here are the words and citations from Canning novels which appear in the dictionary. Words in bold face are those where Canning's is the earliest citation for the word or for the sense, i.e. where he has probably coined the term or the usage.

alarmed, a.
Queen's Pawn vi. 83 Windows in the far wall overlooking a small yard and garden, each window alarmed and burglar proof.
brass v. (sense 3)
Scorpio Lett. iv. 75 After I'd brassed you off for pinching my parking space.
cheese n. (sense 7)
Limbo Line xiv. 191 They ... asked the girl to bring the cheese board, saying they wanted to try some local cheeses.
Queen's Pawn vi. 83 A Chippendale period mahogany desk with cock-beaded drawers and carved gilt handles.
Limbo Line xiv. 189 They used a deux-chevaux with the top rolled back.
do v. (sense 16b)
Python Project viii. 157 Some service-man..did your mother in Cyprus..and then..made an honest woman of her.
("did" changed to "seduced" for the book-club and subsequent paperback editions).
driving vbl. n. (sense 3a)
Queen's Pawn ii. 8 There was a pair of comfortable women's driving shoes down by the control pedals.
fish n.
Python Project ix. 175 Bags of hound meal, fish and bird food were stacked on the floor.
float n. (sense 24a)
Python Project ii. 18 ‘That's a lot of money to keep around the flat.' ‘My husband always said one should have a substantial cash float, just in case.'
get-out (sense 1)
Python Project vii. 146 They looked as comfortable as all get-out.
Python Project viii. 157 Blowing a cloud of Gitane smoke, he went on, ‘Your Prime Minister is not a wealthy man, is he?'
greeting vbl. n.1
Python Project vi. 110 The British Post Office ... would deliver it as a greetings telegram with a border of fluffy rabbits, song birds and nosegays.
have v. )(sense 7d)
Queen's Pawn ii. 8 The car had a Kent number plate MKE 800F. The woman had to be a stranger.
holy a. (sense 4c)
Python Project vii. 135, I said, 'Holy Moses!'
home adv. (sense 7d)
Python Project ii. 25 He has a small place in the country... Don't run away with the idea of anything worth writing home about when I say ‘place'. It's a crumby little cottage.
house n. (sense 19)
Whip Hand iv. 43 You mean your little story ... wasn't true? ... You went a hell of a way round the houses about this.
hundred n. and a. (sense 2d)
Whip Hand xi. 131 How's the arm?' ‘It wasn't broken... It's almost a hundred per cent now.'
ice n. (sense 8)
Melting Man v. 134 Now stop doing an ice-maiden act on me. Write it off to experience.
Great Affair iv. 50 He took the heavy Passavant carpet from the floor..added a smaller Ispahan rug.
jar n.2 (sense 2c)
Queen's Pawn iii. 41 Hot morning. Care for a jar? They keep good beer.
kiss n. (sense 6)
Painted Tent ix. 194 You can give me a kiss. It's all right---don't fret---the stuff's kiss-proof.
kiss v. (sense 7)
Flight of Grey Goose v. 92 You might be on to a bit of all right here. Yes... Sweet and easy as kiss your hand.
knead v. (sense 3b)
Melting Man vi. 144 The cat woke me by kneading determinedly on my chest. (also cited in the Shorter OED)
knight n. (sense 4e)
Whip Hand xv. 188 A man ... didn't have to be a knight in shining armour.
lap n. (sense 6b)
Rainbird Pattern ii. 33 Quite simply---and this is for you, Bush, because I'm dropping it in your lap---Trader has got to be scotched.
Queen's Pawn xiii. 231 He went..out on to the One Deck Lido.
Finger of Saturn i. 10 The people from the limousine got out... The limousine driver watched them go.
lippy a.
Melting Man v. 128 You're a lippy bastard.
little a., adv., and n.
Python Project ix. 186 Having that little-boy-lost feeling and knowing that all the world is against you.
liver n.1 (sense 7)
Firecrest i. 7 Everything about him was contained, precise and impeccable..the fingernails of his liver-spotted hands immaculate.
loose a. and adv. (sense 1d)
Great Affair xvii. 319 There was a little mistiming at Sokota so your friend King Alfy is on the loose.
Great Affair vi. 104 My aunt ... favoured Edwardian dress, ... feathered hats, lorgnettes, etc..
magnum a.
Firecrest xiii. 188 Guards who carried twelve-bore shotguns and .375 Magnum rifles.
mess n. (sense 6)
Great Affair xii. 216 Ex-pilot officer Robinson, cashiered for fiddling the mess funds.
Whip Hand v. 48, I bought six pairs of pants at a Monoprix.
Mask of Memory ii. 23 His thin, drawn face a moonscape of chalky white.
motor n. and a. (sense 5)
Great Affair xii. 211 A chorus of motor horns began to blow in anger at some road block.
navigation (sense 8)
Great Affair vii. 117 A helicopter ... came low over the villa ... It wasn't showing any navigation lights.
non-smoking, a.
Kingsford Mark v. 74 Are you still non-smoking and non-drinking?
not adv. and n.2 (sense 4)
Great Affair xiv. 269 He gave me a big grin and said, ‘Not to be overcome, son.'
oil n.1 (sense 6)
Great Affair v. 74 Aga oil-fired stoves in the kitchen.
Flight of Grey Goose iv. 67 Two great black-headed gulls that were recovering from the effects of oil pollution.
old a. (sense 11d)
Python Project iii. 46 He ... straightened his Old Etonian tie.
Olympic a. and n.
Whip Hand xii. 134 He's also first class with foils and sabre, Wimbledon standard tennis, Olympic standard swimming, and a double-first Oxford.
ombre chevalier
Melting Man iii. 58 Tonight I shall be in France, eating omble chevalier, straight from the lake.
onion n.
Great Affair xvi. 300 Troops ... strung with hand grenades ... like French onion sellers.
optic a. and n.
Great Affair xii. 215 A row of shining optics under the whisky and gin bottles.
overlay n. (sense 3b)
House of Seven Flies viii. 128 He put the overlay on the chart so that the cross..fell on the position of the house.
overseas a.
Great Affair xii. 205 That ... was in the overseas edition of The Times.
pt (sense 1b)
Python Project ii. 31 He was not English. The French accent was as thick and meaty as pt de campagne.
Paul (sense 5)
Rainbird Pattern iv. 66 Harriet..was seduced in the back of the officer's car while Grace was dancing a Paul Jones.
peace n. (sense 17)
Great Affair xii. 207 Basically I am a simple, peace-loving, even a dull person.
Pharaoh (sense 4)
Queen's Pawn xiii. 240 Raikes sat ... reading an article about the revival of interest in Pharaoh hounds from Malta.
picnic n. (sense 3b)
Flight of Grey Goose i. 9 A large picnic area on the edge of a wood.
picture n. (sense 6d)
Flight of Grey Goose v. 90 You're like all summer tourists. All you see is a nice picture-postcard sort of place.
piddling, ppl. a. (sense 1)
Rainbird Pattern i. 2 Use other people's piddling fears about their own status, and the world is at your feet.
Whip Hand i. 10, I had a pint with him.
pivo, piva
Forest of Eyes vi. 119 In the room were two army officers, their faces flushed with pivo and brandy.
play v. (sense 12
Whip Hand iii. 33, I like a girl who doesn't play with her food or drink. (Also cited in the Shorter oED)
Limbo Line xvi. 218 Who wanted money? Amadeo to playboy around?
pock-mark n.
House of Seven Flies xi. 155 The oars pock-marking the dark current with white eddies.
Satan Sampler ix. 183 A fierce spring shower was pock-marking the surface of the lake. (Also cited in the Shorter oED)
porpoise n. (sense 1b)
Flight of Grey Goose vii. 138 He took a deep breath, and porpoise-dived down, swimming strongly.
House of Seven Flies iii. 53 Charlie had ventured too far in search of black market vino, prosciutto and anything else he could lay his hands on.
psychedelic a. and n.
Great Affair xvi. 300 Troops wearing combat helmets---some psychedelically painted.
pull v. (sense 20g)
Dragon Tree 90 He disliked pulling his rank to claim any personal privileges.
pull-off n. and a.
Queen's Pawn iv. 63 Gilpin was waiting in a pull-off down the road with the Land-Rover.
Kingsford Mark x. 163 He parked the car on a turfed pulloff.
question n. (sense 6d)
Great Affair xii. 221 'What has happened to Sarah?' 'Ask no questions hear no lies.'
radio n. (sense 5a)
Great Affair x. 167 He probably had a secret radio transmitter and receiver somewhere.
Forest of Eyes iii. 62 He took the rakia bottle from his desk drawer and set two glasses.
Ramon Allones
Whip Hand xv. 173 He pulled out a cigar. It was certainly Havana, and probably Ramon Allones.
raw a. (n.2)
Great Affair iv. 68 As Xavier's pyjamas were much too small for me I slept in the raw.
rear n.3 (and a.1) (sense 7b)
House of Seven Flies 5 A second sailor opened the rear door of the car for him.
red a. and n. (sense 19)
Satan Sampler ix. 197 A colour gravure of a red Devon heifer.
reed n.1 (sense 13c)
House of Seven Flies viii. 124 Flat, reed-fringed islands.
House of Seven Flies viii. 125 The narrow, reed-choked mouth of an old cut.
rent n.1 (sense 4c)
Finger of Saturn i. 4 He set his briefcase on the round rent table.
Whip Hand xiii. 148 The blond Siegfried type--and Katerina and Lottie, a couple of hand-picked Rhine-maidens.
Kingsford Mark viii. 140 Carlo found the rifle. Unseen, he would have a ringside seat.
roof n. (sense 1d)
Firecrest x. 149 The P.M. and his cabinet would hit the roof if they knew half of the things that went on.
rosin n. (sense 2)
Painted Tent iii. 51 There were a few horses in the stable, a couple of rosin backs and a small black pony.
rumba v.
Great Affair vii. 111 You once taught two boys to rhumba.
run v.
Finger of Saturn i. 8 I'll run them [sc. films] straight through.
Finger of Saturn i. 8 The film began to run. I just watched.
Sacred Heart
Mask of Memory i. 19 Gave the sweets to the Sacred Heart children on the beach.
safari n.
Rainbird Pattern ii. 39 The inner room, smaller, contained a safari camp bed with the appropriate bedclothes.
safe n. (sense 5)
Python Project ii. 31, I hope you've got that damned thing on 'safe'?
saint; unstressed a. and n.
Melting Man v. 120 He came back with a concoction that made me feel I would never want to eat again. "It is a Saint-Honor. He was, you know, once Bishop of Amiens and is the patron saint of pastry-cooks."
Scotch a. and n.3
Whip Hand xii. 143 We had Scotch salmon with a cucumber salad.
Limbo Line xvii. 227 Amadeo hit a screamer, dead straight and slightly left of the middle of the fairway.
Boy on Platform One ii. 30 She felt a rare mood of self-dissatisfaction.
Doomsday Carrier i. 6 The door swung back to self-lock.
shake v. (sense 13c)
Whip Hand v. 51 If anyone was following you must have shaken them.
sharply adv. (sense 8)
Whip Hand ii. 15, I was sharply dressed for the part, young man on holiday, well-heeled.
Finger of Saturn v. 97 The boat was moving into the small quay now. Its speed slackened and the skier dropped low into the water.
sleeping vbl. n.
Doomsday Carrier iv. 68 A sleeping-out pass until six tomorrow.
snail-slow a. (and adv.)
Painted Tent x. 203 The time of waiting had passed snail-slow for Smiler.
sod n.3 (sense 2b)
Firecrest i. 3 At least he'd seen them come back, though it was a sod he'd missed them going off.
something n. (a.), and adv. (sense 4g)
Firecrest iii. 32 It didn't need any semaphore signals to tell her that there was something going between Mrs. Pilch and Major Cranston.
sortes n. pl.
Kingsford Mark vi. 105 He acknowledged the encouragement of the sortes. All the omens were right.
spark plug, n.
Flight of Grey Goose ix. 171 He can't use ours [sc. a boat]. I got the spark plug in me pocket.
spine n.1 (sense 9b)
House of Seven Flies i. 24 He stared at the coloured spines of the books in the rack.
starter (sense 3b)
Satan Sampler ii. 30 There was avocado pear for what some people disgustingly called 'starters'.
stomach n. (sense 10)
Rainbird Pattern vi. 115 He was restless himself from a substantial dinner and lay awake for hours wishing he had brought some stomach powder.
suede Fr.
Melting Man viii. 237 The only spare shoes were a pair of ginger sudes.
summer n.1
Fall from Grace vii. 118 They summer pruned the wistaria.
Painted Tent ix. 189 Nearly killed myself on the tower ladder today. Saved by a Tarzan act.
Firecrest iii. 35 Henry Martin Dilling, born 1927, the same age as himself; though Dilling was a Leo and he Taurus.
tell v. (sense 17d)
Flight of Grey Goose ii. 28 Tell Albert hello and love to you both.
Painted Tent ix. 182 Trevor Green wished Smiler in Timbuctoo, but since that couldn't be arranged, he just wished him ill.
toad n. (sense 3b)
Boy on Platform One vii. 108 I'll show you. Never seen a salmon! You poor little toad.
toby n.1 (sense 9)
Queen's Pawn i. 2 The river would be high. No use for a fly. He wanted a few small Tobies for spinning.
Ibid. 3 He bought some four-gram golden Tobies, and the rod.
Doomsday Carrier vii. 117 A few men could fly tourist to any country and plague would fly in with them.
tray n.2
Great Affair iv. 58 The steward served our tray lunches.
trout n.1 (sense 4b)
Rainbird Pattern iii. 50 She wasn't such a bad old trout. For all her money and position, life hadn't been all good to her.
try v. (sense 7e)
Great Affair xi. 193 'You'll not like it.' 'Try me.'
visiting vbl. n.
Rainbird Pattern vi. 116 He should have brought Albert [sc. the dog] in from the car, he at least could have left a visiting card in self-defence.
vive int.
Whip Hand viii. 89 We all want to know where Mrs Vadarci is going, and you have---vive l'amour---a special contact there.
House of Seven Flies xi. 155 A long stretch of sand, the long ridges of wave marks from the last tide shadowed across the rising whaleback.
white n.1
Rainbird Pattern xi. 227 The diamonds were genuine, blue whites, fine whites and whites.
whorish a.
Boy on Platform One iv. 60 Whorish, the word swam gently into his mind. Whore, too, she was.
wild life
Flight of Grey Goose iv. 57 The whole of that area was kept as a wild life sanctuary.
willow n. (sense 6)
Fall from Grace ix. 155 A carpet of silvery Cineraria maritima spread under a group of willow-leaved pears.
Whip Hand xii. 134 He's Wimbledon standard tennis, Olympic standard swimming.
woman n. (sense 6a)
Firecrest vi. 83 He put his arm round her shoulder and felt through silk the warmth and firmness of woman flesh.
zeroing vbl. n.
Kingsford Mark v. 83 On the rifle were telescopic sights. He would fire a few rounds and check the zeroing.
zinc n.
Whip Hand xii. 138, I tottered to the nearest zinc, and called for a triple cognac.
Some additional citations occur only in the Shorter OED:
The Great Affair, Ch. 8: a happy crocodile down a near-by path with their charge nurse, waved back at her, legs in irons, armpits moist with crutch-pad sweat
The Painted Tent, Ch. 9: Nearly killed myself on the tower ladder today.
House of the Seven Flies, Prologue, p. 1: The car moved off, the wheels skidding a little in the mud of the yard.
Boy on Platform One, Ch. 5: Joan sat at the uncleared breakfast table in the kitchen in her dressing gown and slippers


John Higgins, Shaftesbury, October 2018