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'The Ginger Man' defied ban to sell 45 million copies


The Ginger Man

The Ginger Man

The Ginger Man

JP Donleavy's reputation as an author largely rests on the success of his 1955 debut novel, 'The Ginger Man'.

The book tells the story of American expat, Sebastian Dangerfield, who is studying law at Trinity College and is set on a course of idling away his time until his wealthy father dies.

As one critic put it, "Dangerfield drinks, fornicates and blasphemes his way through the novel while managing to elude all responsibility and work of any kind".

Donleavy based the character largely on Gainor Stephen Crist, a fellow American expat and Trinity student, described as "charismatic, debonair, and a formidable drinker".

Brendan Behan appears in the novel as a wild character called Barney Berry.

According to Donleavy, the book was rejected by up to 50 publishers. The American publishing house Scribner's acknowledged it was one of the best manuscripts it had ever received, but rejected it as a result of "unremitting obscenity".

Behan recommended the Olympia Press, renowned for some of its risqué titles, and it accepted it. But Donleavy was shocked to discover that it was part of a series of porn titles, and at the start he received just £250 for the book. The novel was banned by the censorship board in Ireland until 1968.

Donleavy was involved in a marathon legal battle, but the book went on to sell 45 million copies.

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