The novel eventually won critical acclaim and public acceptance, so much so that it is now considered a contemporary classic, selling more than 45 million copies worldwide. Mr. Donleavy was compared to James Joyce and hailed as a forerunner of both the black humor movement and the London playwrights known as the Angry Young Men.
âWhat really makes âThe Ginger Manâ a vital work,â Norman Podhoretz, the longtime editor of Commentary, wrote, âis the fact that it both reflects and comments dramatically on the absurdities of an age clinging to values in which it simply cannot believe and unable to summon up the courage to find out what its moral convictions really are.â
In a strange twist, after Mr. Donleavy had been pursuing legal action against Olympia for years to regain the bookâs copyright, he ended up owning the Paris company, having sent his wife to slip into an auction and buy it for a relatively small sum in 1970 after it went bankrupt.
A stage version of âThe Ginger Manâ opened in London in 1959, with Richard Harris as Dangerfield, and a British television movie starring Ian Hendry was broadcast in 1962. Patrick OâNeal starred in an Off Broadway production in 1963 (and opened a restaurant named for the play across from Lincoln Center that same year), but there has yet to be a feature film version.
âEveryone who has ever been in Hollywood has had a go at making a picture from the book,â Mr. Donleavy told the London newspaper The Independent in 2010.
Mike Nichols, John Huston and Robert Redford all pursued the idea. At one point in the 1990s, Mr. Donleavyâs son Philip was set to produce a film version. Johnny Depp was the most recent movie figure to announce plans to develop it.
Mr. Donleavy wrote more…