Monday 26 February 2018

Acclaimed author JP Donleavy dies at 91

JP Donleavy
JP Donleavy Newsdesk Newsdesk

Acclaimed author JP Donleavy has died at 91.

The author is reported to have died at his home in Mullingar, Westmeath.

His sister Mary Rita Donleavy told the New York Times that the cause of death was a stroke.

Anthony Farrell of Lilliput Press paid tribute to his friend, telling RTE Radio One's Morning Ireland; "He was a wonderful character, very warm and very witty."

Donleavy's 1955 debut and most famous novel, The Ginger Man, was banned in Ireland until 1968.

Set in Dublin in post-war 1947, The Ginger Man follows the often racy misadventures of Sebastian Dangerfield, a young American living in Dublin with his English wife and infant daughter and studying law at Trinity College.

Brendan Behan was the first to read the original manuscript of The Ginger Man and exclaimed: "This book is going to go around the world and beat the bejaysus out of the Bible."

Since its first publication, the novel has sold close to 50 million copies and has been translated into two dozen languages including Hebrew, Korean and Vietnamese.

It was adapted into a stage production in London and the Gaiety in Dublin in 1959, with Richard Harris starring as Dangerfield and a TV movie starring Ian Hendry was broadcast in 1962. Patrick O'Neal starred in an Off Broadway version of the play in New York.

In 2005 there were discussions with Johnny Depp about starring in a film based on the novel, with rumours that Shane McGowan had been lined up for a role.

In 2013, it was reported that Depp would produce a film version starring Cillian Murphy although it has yet to happen.

Donleavy wrote more than a dozen novels , as well as plays and nonfiction books.

He was born in Brooklyn on April 23, 1926, the son of Irish immigrants. After serving in WW2, he studied microbiology at Trinity College in Dublin on the GI Bill.

He lived in London and the Isle of Man throughout the 1950s and 1960s and moved to Ireland in 1969, settling in a Westmeath farm.

The Irish American novelist was honoured with the Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award at the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards in 2015.

He joined a distinguished list of winners which includes Paul Durcan, John Banville, Maeve Binchy, John McGahern, Edna O' Brien, and Nobel Prize-winning poet Séamus Heaney.

He was married twice; his first marriage to Valerie Heron ended in 1969 and the marriage to his second wife, actress Mary Wilson Price, ended in 1988. He is survived by his sister, Mary, his son Philip and daughter Karen from his first marriage and several grandchildren.

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