J.P. Donleavy, the Irish American author of "The Ginger Man," was born in New York on April 23, 1926. He spent most of his adult decades in Co Westmeath, where he passed away on September 11, 2017. 

Donleavy's famous portrayal of the adulterous, bed-hopping exploits of a student in post-war Dublin earned him fame and notoriety in equal measure when his debut novel "The Ginger Man" was published in 1955.

Born James Patrick Donleavy Jr. in Brooklyn on April 23, 1926, the author grew up in the Bronx before serving in the Navy during World War II.

Taking advantage of the G.I. Bill, he studied microbiology at Trinity College Dublin, where he met with Gainor Stephen Cris, a fellow student who would inspire the title character of "The Ginger Man," Sebastian Dangerfield. 

Having lived in London and the Isle of Man, Donleavy returned to Ireland to live permanently in 1969 once the country had removed income tax for creative artists, including writers. He moved into his mid-18th-century estate in Co Westmeath in 1972, remaining in Levington until his death. 

Donleavy's other works include "The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B," "A Singular Man," and "A Fairy Tale of New York," but none ever reached the same notoriety as "The Ginger Man" which the author had struggled to publish.

While he happily courted controversy through the sexually charged pages of his books, an extraordinary story of infidelity in his own life has remained a closely guarded secret for more than 30 years.

Neither of the children born during his second marriage, to the actress Mary Wilson Price, was fathered by him.

She had affairs with Kieran Guinness and his brother Finn, scions of the brewing dynasty, and had a child by each of them while she was still married to Donleavy. Kieran Guinness is the father of Rebecca, while Finn Guinness is the father of Rory.

Donleavy also had two children, Phillip and Karen, from his first marriage to Valeria Heron. 

"The Ginger Man" has sold 45 million copies and has long been considered semi-biographical.

* Originally published in 2017. Last updated in April 2024.