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'I had a lack of ambition and drive and a low mood' - author Gerry Mullins reveals how his own experience of low testosterone fuelled plot of crime novel

Author Gerry Mullins has crafted a crime novel around Dublin drugs gangs - plus testosterone. And he tells Donal Lynch, that the hormone can in many ways benefit the average man... and woman

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Testosterone, Dublin 8 is the new book by author Gerry Mullins. Photo: Mark Condren

Testosterone, Dublin 8 is the new book by author Gerry Mullins. Photo: Mark Condren

Testosterone, Dublin 8 by Gerry Mullins is published by Liberties Press, priced €14.99

Testosterone, Dublin 8 by Gerry Mullins is published by Liberties Press, priced €14.99

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Testosterone, Dublin 8 is the new book by author Gerry Mullins. Photo: Mark Condren

It was, Gerry Mullins recalls, "a little like getting a ticket aboard the Titanic". As an advisor to the Green Party he had helped them, for the first time in their 40-year history, to get into government.

The only problem was that the economic crash was imminent, and the Greens, along with their coalition partners Fianna Fail, would be left holding the baby. By the time the coalition was turfed out at the next election Mullins had already moved on to a PR firm. When he lost this job, with his wife expecting a baby, it was devastating.

"I felt like everything came down on me. I'd a kid on the way and a mortgage to pay. All the ways of getting back into the workplace seemed to be shut off because everyone was suffering."

Mullins bounced back - he headed up the Press Office at the Central Bank of Ireland and worked as a lobbyist for several private travel companies but his passion was always for writing. Now the Skerries man has written a novel, about a man who is drawn into into a criminal underworld. Its central character is a TV producer who starts taking anabolic steroids to restore the 'manliness' he has lost in a high-pressure career and unhappy marriage.

His plan works - a little too well. Soon he is a cocaine dealer, carving out a market in Dublin's more affluent suburbs. This draws him into conflict with two established drugs gangs.

Inspiration came from Gerry's own journey toward what he calls 'a kind of male HRT' - hormone replacement therapy.

"I wasn't feeling great, I was at a bit of a low ebb", he recalls. "I had a lack of ambition and drive and a low mood. There had also been a falloff in my libido though I wasn't especially worried about that. But I knew I had to do something."

A consultant he saw wanted to send him to a psychiatrist but his GP went a different route and prescribed him testosterone; his was found to be low.

"A man doesn't want to be told he has low testosterone - that goes to the very core of his being. At the same time, I could never remember anyone talking about this. I brought it up with friends to flush out if anyone had the same problem, but nobody had heard of it.

"I started researching the hormone and found it a very interesting area. Testosterone governs far more than muscular development: it gives us focus, ambition, competitiveness, drive, courage and spatial awareness. But there is another side to many of its positive attributes: it can cause ruthlessness, arrogance, anger, recklessness and of course aggression."

Mullins illustrates the two sides of testosterone with a graphic analogy:

"If you see a person reverse a 12-wheel articulated truck around a corner and into a space barely wide enough for a family car, you can be sure the driver is a high-testosterone male. But if you are in the countryside and you come across a car that has smashed through a wall and landed in a field, killing the occupants, you can also be sure the driver is a high-testosterone male."

A lot of the problems Mullins was having might have also been solved in other ways. "Feeling that drive and ambition are worn out - those are also symptoms of depression and, partly, of anxiety. But taking the testosterone made sense to me. I was afraid that if I went on depression medication it would have an even more detrimental effect."

He began to notice an improvement in his mental health and an extra spring in his step - but cautions against putting this all down to testosterone.

"A short time after, I was in a triathlon and after a while I thought 'this is far easier than it would have been before', I was flying along but I felt there was an extra 10pc in the tank. If you do a hard session in the gym it helps to rebound better after. I think it's helped with motivation in terms of my work. I think it's 20pc testosterone and 80pc the wake-up call taking the testosterone gave me."

His wife, he says, was ambivalent:

"She felt it was all a bit strange. She was neither in favour of it nor against it; it was just there."

The drug served as a powerful inspiration for his just-published novel, Testosterone, Dublin 8, which has a Breaking Bad-like arc of a man who is feeling unmanly after a difficult period in his career and his marriage.

After taking testosterone the protagonist starts dealing in cocaine, setting off a feud between two Dublin gangs. The novel, Mullins's fourth book, is also a brilliant portrait of a changing Dublin. The central character, "a Blackrock-educated blow-in", feels superior to his Dublin 8 surroundings.

"In the book I say that he had expected to end up in one of the three Rs of the southside: Ranelagh, Rathmines or Rathgar. He hadn't contemplated the fourth R, Rialto," Mullins explains.

It's a beautifully written novel that deserves to do well, but Mullins acknowledges that the title, and the theme, makes it a hard sell for some.

"The majority of readers of crime novels are women. And by having a male name on the cover as well calling it after the male hormone, well that might be off-putting to someone. But testosterone is not all about men. It is something that gives men and women focus and drive. The baby girl born today in Holles Street will have testosterone in her body; it's in all of us."

Testosterone, Dublin 8 by Gerry Mullins is published by Liberties Press, priced €14.99

Sunday Independent